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Great news for village chippie after local couple become “sole” traders

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A CEREDIGION couple who were frustrated when their local chippie was closed over a Bank Holiday weekend found the perfect answer – they took over the business.

Aled and Nia Roberts jumped into action when the chip shop in Llanon, between Aberystwyth and Aberaeron, was put on the market just days later and they were able to lease the property.

Eighteen months later they have built up trade based on good, locally sourced food as well as their extensive promotion of the Welsh language and displaying local history and culture prominently in their front windows.

Customers have written glowing reviews of their visit to Sglods (Welsh for chips) on social media and online review websites.

Their fans include European rally champion and friend Chris Ingram who loves their fish and chips and volunteered to help them out one busy evening.

Now Aled and Nia have been shortlisted for an award at the Gwobrau Mwyaf Cymraeg yn y Byd (Most Welsh in the World Awards) organised as part of the Bwrlwm ARFOR scheme that’s run by Anglesey-based consultancy firm Lafan.

The aim of the competition is to celebrate all things Welsh in business across the four counties with the highest percentage of Welsh speakers, Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire, Gwynedd and Anglesey.

The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in Aberystwyth and the couple are thrilled to have been shortlisted in the category for the Most Welsh Brand.

Aled, 50, said: “We found out about being shortlisting when the online voting was launched. We’re delighted and very excited by it.

“Welsh is an important part of our business because Welsh is very much in use in this area. From the signs outside and the menu boards inside to our social media pages we make extensive use of the language and are proud to do so.”

Aled said the opportunity for him and Nia to take over the chip shop was rather unusual.

“It was August 2022 and we had been on holiday with our two children getting back on the Bank Holiday Saturday and we thought we’d get some chips from the chip shop which is opposite our house for supper.

“But it was closed and we tongue in cheek said that if the business was ever to become available we’d give it a try. .

“I thought no more of it but just days later a “Business Opportunity” sign went up. It was as if it was meant to be,” he said.

After their successful bid, the couple re-branded the business, re-named it as Sglods and applied a fresh coat of paint to the exterior.

“Neither of us had any experience in the catering industry and we were quite literally thrown in at the deep end.

“We looked very carefully at what we were offering and have made every effort to source what we sell locally or from Wales.

“Unfortunately we can’t obtain our fish from Wales, the cod comes from Iceland but the potatoes naturally come from Pembrokeshire. We have a very good supplier who also supplies their potatoes to many supermarkets.

“Our special pie of the week is popular and is supplied from a company based in Cross Hands near Llanelli, and our sausages are made in Welshpool” he said.

The couple are just as keen to promote the local area and with the shop having two large windows facing the busy A487 he decided to display artefacts and images explaining the history of the village and events in the surrounding area.

Aled added: “With the help of our close friend Sian, who is the creative one, we try to change the theme every month. When we had the ploughing competition in the village I found an old plough and some photos and put them in the window. At Easter we had a picture of a chicken and I’d hidden some Easter eggs around the village with vouchers for the shop in them.

“We have a picture of the month of local people, buildings or landscape which invariably starts a debate and a Welsh saying of the month.

“The displays have become popular and we have people coming just to see them and some organisations have asked if they can create a display to promote their work or forthcoming events.”

For many years Aled has run Ceir Ardwyn Cars, a motor dealership based in the village while Nia worked for Cyngor Sir Ceredigion Council.

He has a keen interest in motor sports and was a navigator in motor rallying for many years.

“A few weeks ago Chris Ingram and his father John who are friends of the family came to stay and do some testing ahead of a British Rally Championship round.

“Chris was the first British driver to become FIA European Rally Champion in over 50 years and raved about our fish and chips, he even helped us out one busy night and did a shift in the shop.

“We have photos of him working behind the counter on our social media,” he said.

The purpose of the competition is to encourage businesses to use Welsh to boost their bottom line – and put a smile on people’s faces at the same time.

It certainly seems to have succeeded with dozens of entries finally whittled down to 30 finalists in seven different categories.

A spokesperson for ARFOR said: “Our aim is to create a buzz around the use of Welsh in a business or commercial environment and how it can help businesses thrive and provide careers for our young people so they don’t feel they have to move away.

“We have received dozens of nominations from a variety of businesses across the four counties of Ynys Môn, Gwynedd, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire and those shortlisted for an award are those the judges feel are doing their utmost to use and promote the Welsh language on their premises, their marketing and their social media channels.

“We have 30 finalists and we are conducting a public vote on social media.

“We wish all of them the very best of luck at the forthcoming award ceremony and hope the other nominees continue their good work in using and promoting our language.”

The Bwrlwm ARFOR campaign is part of the ARFOR Two scheme that was launched in 2022 in succession to the 2019 ARFOR programme to continue to strengthen and promote the economic resilience of the Welsh language in the four counties.

ARFOR Two is intended to provide economic support to communities that are strongholds of the Welsh language, increase opportunities to see and use the Welsh language on a daily basis and help young people under the age of 35 to stay in or return to their communities.

Business

Another ‘first’ for west Wales brewers Evan Evans

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AWARD-WINNING brewers Evan-Evans will launch the first Welsh zero alcohol cider at the Royal Welsh Show next week.

Blended and bottled in Llandeilo, the zero alcohol drink will be part of the hugely-popular RedHog cider brand.

“We pride ourselves in being an innovative brewery here in Llandeilo and we are delighted to be showcasing the new zero alcohol RedHog at the Royal Welsh in Llanelwedd, Builth Wells,” a company spokesman said today.

“Our RedHog wild cider is already a great hit with consumers. It is a subtle blend of delicious ciders from the Welsh borders. 

“The Buckley family has been brewing since 1767 and there are seven generations of brewing passion and expertise in the heritage of the Evan Evans brewery.

“Down the years, we have earned a reputation for quality beers and ciders. We also boldly go where other brewers fear to tread in developing new products. We get great feedback from our customers and they are hugely influential in telling us what drinks they like.”

The Evan Evans spokesman added: “Our new zero alcohol cider will help appeal to younger drinkers and those who love the taste of a great and refreshing cider.

“We are launching two new zero alcohol flavours – RedHog Medium Dry Zero, and RedHog Summer Fruit Zero.

“There is huge demand for zero alcohol products and we at Evan Evans have spent the last two years perfecting the Reverse Osmosis (RO) process for the dealcoholisation of cider and beers.

“We are the only Welsh company currently using the process. RO gives us the opportunity to retain and build flavours while stripping out the alcohol.

“We have spent a lot of time developing taste profiles, and getting the products right. Too often, the complaint is that zero products lack taste. These ciders are excellent, exciting, and provide a very real alternatives for designated drivers and customers who do not wish to drink alcohol.”

The RedHog zero alcohol drinks will be available from early next week from the brewery Rhosmaen Street, Llandeilo, or Castell Howell Foods in Carmarthen.

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Business

Steel industry faces turning point amid planned blast furnace closures

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THE CLOSURE of the UK’s last remaining blast furnaces has sparked significant debate and concern. As Britain plans to shut down the last blast furnace at Port Talbot and the two still in operation at British Steel in Scunthorpe, many are questioning the implications for the country that invented modern steelmaking.

The transition from traditional blast furnaces, which produce “virgin steel” by melting iron ore with coking coal, to electric arc furnaces (EAFs), which recycle scrap steel using electrical currents, is at the heart of this debate. Virgin steel production is notoriously carbon-intensive, while EAFs offer a more environmentally friendly alternative, aligning with Britain’s net-zero laws.

Critics argue that the UK will become overly dependent on steel imports, which could be problematic in times of international conflict. However, this argument fails to acknowledge that the UK’s virgin steel production is already heavily reliant on imported materials such as iron ore from Sweden, Brazil, and Australia, and coal from various parts of Europe. By shifting to EAFs, the UK would instead use domestic scrap steel, reducing reliance on foreign materials.

It was once true that EAFs could not produce advanced steel grades, but technological advancements have changed this. For instance, the finest grades of steel for aircraft landing gear and nuclear submarines are already produced in UK EAFs. While some argue that certain steel grades still require virgin steel, others in the industry believe EAFs can meet all steel production needs with the right materials.

Tata Steel UK’s plan to replace Port Talbot’s blast furnaces with EAFs could significantly reduce carbon emissions. While there are concerns about the economic and employment implications of this transition, it also presents an opportunity to recycle the 7-8 million tonnes of scrap steel the UK currently exports annually.

Despite these benefits, there is unease about the rapid closure of all UK blast furnaces. This drastic shift may lead to unintended consequences, especially given the high energy costs in the UK. If electric arc steel production proves more expensive, it could drive up the cost of steel, making imports from countries with less environmentally friendly practices more attractive.

Additionally, the UK’s steel strategy appears conservative compared to pioneering efforts in countries like Sweden, where hydrogen DRI plants are being developed, and the US, where electrolysis is being explored for steel production. The UK, once a leader in industrial innovation, risks lagging behind by committing solely to EAFs.

While the closure of the UK’s blast furnaces represents a significant step towards reducing carbon emissions, it also underscores a broader issue: the need for a more ambitious and innovative approach to steelmaking. The country that once spearheaded the Industrial Revolution must now rise to the challenge of leading the next wave of industrial innovation.

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Business

Calls for extra charges for holiday let owners to be relaxed

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A CALL for an update on Pembrokeshire County Council’s position on a potential relaxation of the ‘182-day’ rule, allowing self-catering accommodation to avoid paying a council tax premium is to be heard later this week.

Last year, the rules on holiday lets in Wales changed; Welsh Government criteria saying holiday lets must be filled for 182 days a year – up from a previous 70 – in order to qualify for business rates rather than pay second homes council tax.

In Pembrokeshire, second homes, and self-catering businesses not meeting the criteria, are now paying a 200 per cent council tax premium in the county, effectively a treble rate of council tax.

At the July 18 meeting of full council, a question submitted by leader of the Independent Group, Cllr Huw Murphy will be heard, a follow-up from a previously submitted notice of motion where he had called for a relaxation in the ‘182-day’ rules in the county.

Cllr Murphy will ask: “At full council on October 12, 2023, I submitted a Notice of Motion (NoM) requesting that PCC use its discretionary relief policy regarding the current 182-day occupancy rule for self-catering accommodation and reduce the eligibility criteria to 140 days in support of the tourism industry.

“This NoM was debated by Cabinet on Dec 4, 2023, where it was not adopted but would be reviewed in 12 months following the impact of legislative change where evidence to support potential change to the 182-day occupancy rule will have been gathered.

“Furthermore, Cabinet stated they would write to Welsh Government to highlight concern over the 182-day occupancy rule and to be provided with information on how the current regulations are working both in Pembrokeshire and the rest of Wales, to support a review in 12 months’ time.

“Nine months have elapsed since this NoM was presented to Council in Oct 2023 and seven months since Cabinet debated it with two recommendations and this question is submitted in two parts.

“Can Council be provided with an update of what data has been obtained since Dec 2023 to examine the impact of the 182-day occupancy rule for self-catering properties in advance of a review to be completed by December 2024 prior to any decision over what level of second home council tax to be levied for 2024/25 as it may be necessary to consider a reduction to support an industry under pressure?

“Have PCC received a reply from WG with regards to the concerns raised with regards to the 182-day rule and its impact on the Pembrokeshire tourism industry?”

Cllr Murphy’s questions will be heard at the full council meeting.

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