20 April 2011

The Vale Says NO!

Fracking doesn't actually seem to involve slicing immense setions of the earth's crust away.

For some reason, I am sure we are all amazed when a global news issue arrives at our doorstep, although presumably every global news issue is at someone's door step at some point. However, that doesn't stop ot feeling odd when it is ours.

The issue that has arrived near Cardiff (Llandow in the Vale of Glamorgan actually) is a proposal to carry out some test drilling relating to shale gas extraction, using the method commonly known as "fracking". There are loads of sites and loads of information about this seemingly mad plan, in particular a vivid and award winning film - Gasland - which includes some already infamous sights (setting fire to tap water being the top-trump).

Sadly, it seems that Goverment is well behind the curve here, but no doubt helpful "industry lobbyists" will be on hand to fill the knowlledge gaps - see this article in the Guardian for the sort of thing happening right now.

A protest group is in full swing in the Vale of Glamorgan. Their laudable aim is for the Government to impose a moratorium until more knowledge is available and more research has been done. Obviously, this might indeed involve test drilling and monitoring somewhere, but this protest seems to be based on a straightforward and clear request from a concerned public.

In theory, fracking could open up all sorts of "local" reserves in places which might well be filled with desirable housing and relatively wealthy, educated people and where the "frontier" feel of more traditional resource extraction is another world away. The gas energy companies are of course looking at this as a panacea, thinking that nuclear is now a busted flush. So will policy-makers step up to the plate in a responsible fashion, or is the threat of the lights going out in the UK a bigger concern? It will be interesting to see how this pans out.

14 April 2011

The Welsh Riviera

I recently spent a couple of days in North Wales on Design Commission for Wales duty, and this involved a visit to the seaside town of Llandudno, with its amazing Victorian stucco sweep around the bay. I was so lucky with the weather  - it was more Riviera than Rhyl.

I also visited the Mostyn, which has recently been refurbished by Ellis Williams Architects. The main internal orientation space, described as the "tube" is a tour-de-force in poured concrete, and was wonderfully tactile and very nicely lit from above. There is a full review in the Architect's Journal here.