IP experts support Welsh tech leaders at annual awards

By Raspberry Jim,


Intellectual property experts in Cardiff are supporting the next generation of technology leaders through this year’s Wales Technology Awards.

Leading firm Wynne Jones IP is among the sponsors at this year’s event, which will be taking place in Cardiff City Hall in May.

The awards celebrate the invaluable contributions of over 3,000 businesses and over 40,000 people who are driving success and innovation across the Welsh technology sector.

The event has been organised by ESTnet, a network of technology organisations whose members design, develop, manufacture or integrate electronic and software technologies.

Last year over 370 ESTnet members attended the annual awards at the Wales Millennium Centre, with internationally renowned manufacturing facility Sony UK Technology Centre, based in Pencoed, named as headline sponsor. This year the headline partner for the event will be Welsh fintech company GoCompare.

Sponsoring the Product Innovation category this year will be Wynne Jones IP, which advises on all aspects of IP rights, strategy and renewals.

Jayne Nation, commercial director at the firm with offices in Cardiff, London, Cheltenham and Telford, said it was a pleasure to be supporting the growth of Wales’s flourishing technology sector.

She said: “As an intellectual property firm which prides itself on working with businesses across Wales, we are delighted to be supporting this year’s Wales Technology Awards.

“These awards showcase the inspirational and progressive work that businesses and individuals across Wales are undertaking in a bid to further technological understanding and drive progress across the industry.

“Through our role at this year’s awards, we hope to highlight the essential function that intellectual property plays in supporting product development, ensuring that businesses and individuals can continue to be innovative across Wales

“We’d like to wish all those entering this year’s awards the very best of luck.”

The Wales Technology Awards is set to take place at Cardiff City Hall on May 3, with nominations now open.

Wynne-Jones IP is a UK firm of intellectual property specialists, with offices in Cardiff, London, Cheltenham and Telford. Trading for over fifty years, the firm advises businesses and inventors in a wide range of sectors worldwide on all aspects of IP rights, strategy and renewals.

How business leaders can spot McMafia-style warning signs

By Raspberry Jim,

Phil 5

How easy is it for legitimate businesses to succumb to the temptation of financial crime?

That is the focus of the BBC’s latest drama McMafia, which is shining a vital spotlight on the often- overlooked world of financial and business crime.

The drama explores the illegal dealings of main protagonist Alex Godman, who runs his own London-based investment fund, which he abuses to further his professional and personal ambitions.

But as viewers have seen throughout its five-week run, his increasingly questionable decisions have drawn him further into the maze of murky underworld activity, with Mr Godman now left in a precarious position.

The drama’s success has sparked debate around the wide-spread nature of financial crime, with many questioning whether the events depicted could actually take place in UK businesses.

The weekly show could also be leaving business leaders considering what action they are entitled to take if they spot suspicious behaviour, and how to eradicate illegal temptations before they develop into criminal activity.

Leading serious fraud expert Phil Williams, at Cardiff-based defence firm Blackfords LLP, said McMafia’s rapid descent into crime is not as far fetched as it may appear.

He said: “Obviously in the case of this show, the events and storyline have been exaggerated for dramatic effect, however it does demonstrate just how quickly criminal activity can spiral into other illegal areas.”

However, Mr Williams, who specialises in complex criminal investigations, regulatory and disciplinary matters, is attempting to alleviate fears among business leaders, by offering expert advice on identification of activity and what action to take.

He said managers, team leaders, and directors were well positioned to eradicate financial and business crime before it has wide-spread consequences.

Types of financial and business crime

Financial and business crime can fall into a variety of different types of crimes.

These includes money laundering, fraud, theft, scams, tax evasion, embezzlement, counterfeiting, and forgery.

Mr Williams said managers could protect their firm by identifying the different legal areas and remaining vigilant.

What are the signs

As many of these types of business and financial crime differ, it can be difficult to spot a correlation between the signals.

However, Mr Williams has outlined common signals here:


An employee or colleague’s refusal to divulge information about a client, financial information relating to an account, or even their identity, could also spell trouble, Mr Williams said.

He added: “Business managers should be provided with full information on dealings taking place within a company, as such, an employee’s unwillingness to share information may indicate that something is wrong.

“This is particularly the case if they refuse to name the client or share financial information relating to this account.”

Monopoly over accounts

Tying into the theme of secrecy, if one person has total control over an account and is unwilling to share details, this could lead to criminal temptation.

Mr Williams advised managers to ensure responsibility was shared equally to prevent any potential criminal activity developing.

False information

Mr Williams said another warning sign which could identify criminal intent is incomplete records and forms.

This could involve suspicious documents, the origin or legitimacy of which cannot be traced; a refusal to name business partners in documents; numerous questionable tax IDs; and other information which may appear to be at odds with the client and account. Equally photocopied documents, rather than originals, and missing documentation could suggest documents have been altered.

Mr Williams said: “Documentation provides a legal record of any transactions which take place in relation to your business. But it can also be a quick indicator of any discrepancies surrounding a client or deal too. If information appears to be incomplete or inaccurate this could suggest something is wrong.”

Unusual transactions

The frequency, amount, and location to which money is transferred can reveal a substantial amount, Mr Williams said.

Transactions being made at unusual times of the day, to locations which seemingly bare no relevance to the client or company, and also at irregular frequencies could be warning signs.

Mr Williams added: “Another clear indicator of potential illegality is money being transferred to high risk jurisdiction countries. More information on these can be found on the FATF website.”


What steps do you take next?

Once these warning signs are identified, what steps can business leaders take next?

Mr Williams advised anyone with suspicious to begin recording and monitoring the behaviour of those suspected. Where there is financial irregularity he advised evaluating the company’s accounts with the support of an accountant, or impartial financial adviser to offer an unbiased opinion.

He said: “If you feel there are financial discrepancies, it is imperative you outline these to key players within the business and where possible keep a record of any ongoing losses or irregularities.

“Evaluate all the finances together and evaluate where the issue has arisen. Keep accurate and up to date information, as this will demonstrate provide all the necessary support should the case reach court. It also demonstrates that you gathered sufficient evidence to support your claim,  and have taken every consideration before escalating the issue.

“It is also essential that you seek legal advice at your earliest opportunity.”

Where to report suspicions

Action Fraud – Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime. To report fraudulent activity ring 0300 123 2040.

The National Crime Agency – which aims to eradicate organised and serious crime across the UK, can be contacted on 0800 555 111.

The Home Office is working with professional services firms through its Flag It Up! campaign to help honest enterprises avoid becoming enablers of crime. Visit tgr.ph/homeoffice for more information.

Financial Conduct Authority – A financial regulatory body in the UK which can be contacted on 0800 111 6768.



What is Open Innovation and what does it mean for businesses?

By Raspberry Jim,


Recently, growing attention has been devoted to the concept of Open Innovation, both in academia as well as in industry. Here, Matthew Veale, Senior Trainee Patent Attorney at Wynne-Jones IP covers what Open Innovation is and what it means for you and your intellectual property rights.

What is Open Innovation?
Open Innovation is the development of innovative solutions made on the basis of collaboration between a number of parties. It has the advantages of shortening the time to innovate, sharing risks, and reducing costs.

Open Innovation offers a different model to the historical closed model where the entire innovative process is carried out internally by companies, often in secret.

There have been misconceptions that Open Innovation and owning Intellectual Property Rights are mutually exclusive, when in reality they positively complement each other. Open Innovation is a term used to promote innovating with collaborators by ‘sharing risk and sharing reward’ – the problem is caused by what the term ‘sharing’ means.

An example of headline Open Innovation initiatives is when Tesla decided to open up their patent portfolio to the world – the move has been subject of much debate. It can be argued that they have given away their greatest competitive advantage or alternatively, it can be argued that they have shortened their innovation cycle by removing the disclosure stage of discussions with potential collaborators; the truth probably lies somewhere in between.

Comparison of Open and Closed Innovation

IP and Open Innovation
In the context of Open Innovation, intellectual property plays a new role, which no longer reflects the historical defensive mechanism adopted by companies.

For example, to date, companies have been using their patents to block competitors and operate on the market based on the notion of a patent as a negative right to exclude others rather than to enable innovation. Yet, on the contrary, patent protection assists companies to commercialise their solutions and safely enter into Open Innovation agreements, with limited risks of seeing their assets appropriated by their collaborators.

Indeed, patents are extremely important for the innovative process since they protect and disclose at the same time.

Open Innovation is facilitated by effective intellectual property protection. Clear ownership helps in sharing of knowledge, as collaborators are more willing to enter into transactions and agreements to exchange their inventions.

Strong intellectual property strategies are of utmost importance for small entities with very specific R&D capabilities and which require larger entities to commercialise their products. They would fail to attract collaborators and investors if lacking a robust intellectual property strategy.

Because of the nature of Open Innovation, efficient intellectual property management is essential for the success of the project. Sharing knowledge, technology and expertise between collaborators is an enormous benefit that could nevertheless entail a risk of loss of such assets and free-riding, if not managed effectively.

Accordingly, a co-development of activities carried out in an Open Innovation environment requires a clear agreement on ownership of any resultant IP, particularly where parties to the development have no previously registered IP in the relevant activity.

Are you considering entering into Open Innovation?

Questions you should ask yourself:

  • What will happen to my concept?
  • How can I protect my products if I do not fully own the IP rights?
  • How can I protect my trade secrets and know-how from being lost within such a process?
  • What is happening to my position in the long run by sharing or licencing my IP rights?

If you are considering engaging in Open Innovation, you will need to assess the impact of your decisions now and in the future. Such arrangements can be very rewarding, but you should also remember to protect yourself.

To speak to Wynne-Jones IP about Open Innovation, or any other IP-related issue, email Victor Caddy at victor.caddy@wynne-jones.com or call 01242 267600.

Former Rugby Player, teenage mum and children’s nurse set to star in new S4C show

By Raspberry Jim,


A teenage mum, a children’s nurse and a former rugby player are three of the people chosen to feature in a new health and fitness programme on S4C.

FFIT Cymru, which is hitting screens from April 10, will follow five participants as they aim to transform their lifestyles for the better.

During the series, which runs for eight episodes, the five participants will embark on a journey of a lifetime, supported, advised and guided by the show’s team of experts; personal trainer Rae Carpenter, dietitian Sioned Quirke and psychologist Dr. Ioan Rees.

Serial snacker Mathew Thomas, who weighs in at over 21 stone, is hoping to transform his eating habits and shift the pounds after his wife persuaded him to apply for the show. The dad-of-three from Anglesey, who had a promising rugby career ended by injury, has already turned his life around after a 12-month stint in jail, after he fell into the wrong crowd . He is now hoping to overhaul his lifestyle with the help of FFIT Cymru’s team of experts.

Teenage mum Catherine Lewis, from Caernarfon, is hoping the show will not only help her lose weight but gain confidence. The 19-year-old mum-of-one has never been on a night out with friends as she feels too self-conscious about her weight. Having got engaged to her partner, Jac, at Christmas, she has yet to go wedding dress shopping as she wants to lose weight before walking into a shop.

Having struggled with his weight since he was young, Leon Welsby’s weight issues came to a head after the rollercoaster fanatic queued two-and-a-half hours to go on a ride in Spain, only to be turned away because he wouldn’t fit in the seat.  A night-time binge eater, Leon, who lives in Bridgend, is heading back to Spain in August with his employer – the Urdd – and his target is to be able to fit in the rollercoaster.

Children’s nurse Nic Davies wants to be a better role model to his two sons, Macs and Guto, and in his words, be a “Ffit Father, not Fat Father!”. The Llanelli resident used to play rugby 2-3 times a week, but piled on the pounds when he stopped playing due to the birth of his kids. The shift-worker is hoping to overhaul his lifestyle after his colleagues and doctors at Glangwili Hospital have also been nagging him to lose weight.

By her own admission, head teacher Judith Owen from Caernarfon has used her health issues as an excuse not to do physical exercise. The busy mum-of-two has suffered with Crohns disease for 20 years. After several surgical procedures, which saw her on one occasion contract MRSA, which put her life at risk, she had an ileostomy bag fitted. Despite more recently being diagnosed with epilepsy, doctors have advised her to do more physical activity. With an active family, she wants to do FFIT Cymru to do something for herself and sees it as her opportunity to ‘shine.’

Whittled down from 200 applicants, 14 hopefuls joined the FFIT Cymru team for an assessment day where they were put through their paces, emotionally and physically.

The final five were then revealed when the show’s presenter Lisa Gwilym surprised them at their homes and places of work with the news. She said: “We’re absolutely thrilled with our ‘fab five’ who at our assessment day all showed a real desire to overhaul their lifestyles.

“While each have their own reason for wanting to take part, they are relatable to many people across Wales. A shift worker who skips meals, eats irregularly and unhealthy food, finding it hard to keep up a regular exercise schedule. A teenage mum who struggles with confidence issues. A busy working mum who struggles to fit exercise into her life. A busy professional who skips meals during the day but then binge eats in the evening. And a family man who struggles to eat healthily and exercise, snacks in the evening, yet wants to be a good role model for his family.

“We’re really looking forward to working with them over the next few months to transform their lifestyles and our team of experts will be on hand to support them every step of the way.

“I think our five will be incredibly motivating and inspirational for the people of Wales and I can’t wait for the show to air next month.”

FFIT Cymru is a new eight episode TV series made by Cwmni Da for S4C. It will be broadcast from 10 April 2018. For more information go online to s4c.cymru/ffitcymru.






Cardiff Bus to roll out contactless payments across network

By Raspberry Jim,


Paying for your journey on Cardiff Bus will become even easier with the introduction of contactless payment technology across its entire network from Sunday 25th March

This comes following a successful trial period across the bus operator’s baycar, 27, 57 and 58 services in the past few months.

The contactless payment technology will complement existing payment methods, including mobile and online payment options via the iff card portal, as well as its direct debit scheme, allowing greater flexibility and choice for millions of customers who choose Cardiff Bus.

It is hoped the new payment method will further help speed up boarding times and improve journey times, commercial manager of Cardiff Bus Gareth Stevens said.

Mr Stevens added: “We are delighted to be launching the contactless card payment option across our entire network of bus services.

“This will provide our customers with even more ways to pay for their travel, continuing our investment in alternative payment technologies.

“With mobile ticketing, online payment and our direct debit scheme, there are already a number of ways customers can pay before they board a bus, some of which offer a discount to fares on the day of purchase.

“This additional payment option now gives more flexibility, meaning our customers will no longer need to worry about having enough cash when they board our buses.”

Customers with any questions about the new contactless payment technology from Cardiff Bus or queries about any other payments are advised to visit https://www.cardiffbus.com/



Why more women are saying I Do to prenuptial agreements

By Raspberry Jim,



Wales’s brides-to-be are increasingly ready to sign a prenuptial agreement ahead of their vows, an expert family solicitor has revealed.

Jodi Winter, partner at CJCH Solicitors and head of Family, Matroidal and Childcare law, said the firm had seen a definite increase in engaged women entering into a prenuptial agreement before saying I Do in recent years.

A prenuptial agreement is a formal written agreement both parties enter into ahead of the marriage, which details ownership of any property, assets and finances and outlines how they will be divided in the event of a divorce.

Ms Winter, who works at the firm’s Barry office, said the influx in women consulting a solicitor could be attributed to people choosing to marry later in life.

She said: “At CJCH Solicitors we have seen a definite increase in women entering into prenuptial agreements.

“Historically, it was always men who looked into this ahead of the marriage, however that trend has definitely shifted and more women are looking to instigate this now.

“I think this comes down to the fact that they are getting married later in life, having pursued their careers and ensuring they are financially stable. As such they want to ensue the property, assets, and finances they have acquired are protected in the event of a divorce.”

Ms Winter, whose legal specialisms also include cohabitation agreements, said overall the firm had seen an increase in the number of people in Wales entering into a prenuptial agreement ahead of their wedding, with both men and women making more enquiries.

She said that as women and men married later in life they were more cautious about protecting themselves financially as they entered into marriage.

She added: “We see a lot of people getting married for the first time in their mid to late 30s now, who have got their own properties, business and other assets.

“Equally, there are a lot of more mature people entering into their second marriage, having already gone through divorce once.

“I think that age is a definite factor in the decision to enter into a prenuptial agreement, and I think the gradual rise we have seen in drafting agreements can be linked with later marriages.”

Ms Winter also outlined the top considerations to couples considering entering a prenuptial agreement ahead of their big day.

When should proceedings start?

This should be carried out at least 28 days ahead of the wedding to ensure all matters are resolved ahead of the ceremony. Allow as much time as possible to ensure all matters are thoroughly considered, negotiated and signed without any unnecessary pressure.

What does a prenuptial agreement protect?

A prenuptial agreement can protect all aspects of both partner’s finances, assets, and property which they acquired before getting married. It can also protect inherited assets,  children’s inheritance, control over a business, protect one partner against the other’s debt, and savings.

How do you make a start?

You can get in touch with the expert Family and Childcare Law team at CJCH Solicitors which can guide you through the process. We have extensive experience in working with couples to ensure the outcome is fair and protects everyone’s interests.

What happens if you spilt without a prenuptial agreement in place?

Generally assets are divided 50/50 among both parties in the event of a divorce that doesn’t involve a prenuptial agreement. However, if you feel there is likely to be a financial, or asset imbalance, and there are elements you’d like to protect, then it could be worth entering into a prenuptial agreement.

What’s the difference between a prenuptial agreement and a cohabitation agreement?

A prenuptial agreement is a formal written agreement both parties enter into ahead of a marriage, which outlines their individual entitlements in the event of a divorce. A cohabitation agreement is more specifically suited to couples who are living together, but are unmarried. This also outlines issues including ownership of assets after a divorce, child arrangements, and joint financial dealings. However, couples who are intending to marry while living together would be advised to get a prenuptial agreement before the wedding as it offers greater legal enforceability in the event of a separation.

CJCH Solicitors appoints ‘highly experienced’ court administrator

By Raspberry Jim,



A court administrator with over 15 years’ experience covering cases across south Wales has joined leading legal firm CJCH Solicitors.

Sally Ann Chapman has been appointed as the coordinator of the Court of Protection team based at the specialist firm’s Barry office.

Mrs Chapman joins the firm after developing her skills in the Court of Protection (CoP) since 2012 and building up vast experience across HM Courts and Tribunal Service since 2003.

Her extensive knowledge of the Court of Protection and the judicial system, will be of significant benefit to CJCH Solicitors and add to its breadth of expertise in this area, said head of the department for family and children law Jodi Winter.

She said: “We are absolutely delighted to welcome Sally to the firm having worked with her through the court system for a number of years.

“Her unparalleled first-hand experience is certain to be invaluable to our attorneys in the Court of Protection team. It is an absolute privilege to be working with someone of her experience and talent and we look forward to the positive impact this will have for CJCH.”

Before joining CJCH Solicitors, which has over 30 years’ experience in advising across all aspects of employment law and the provision of HR legal services, Mrs Chapman worked at the highest levels of Cardiff’s court system, assisting district judges and helping to streamline the Court of Protection’s online filing systems across all regions.

During her lengthy career she became the only CoP clerk to work with 10 judges through the Wales region, and managed over 70 live cases. Not only did she list cases at Cardiff court she also liaised with Swansea, Haverfordwest, Aberystwyth and Caernarfon.

Mrs Chapman believes her experience and effective working relationship with the court will be a “big asset” in her new role.

On her appointment she said: “I’m very excited to be joining CJCH Solicitors. I chose this firm as I enjoyed working with CJCH when I was with the court, I found the team to be friendly, efficient and helpful.

“I also knew they were the biggest firm in South Wales involved in CoP work, so I knew there would be plenty of opportunities to develop and grow within the firm.

“Through this role I am working with the team who represent the protected party. I am finding that there are some real opportunities to develop my skills and progress in my career. It is rewarding to be supporting vulnerable people to get the best care that they require.

“I look forward to continuing my professional development and understanding of my role and doing my work with confidence and precision. I am also looking forward to lots of challenges and opportunities that may come my way.”



Wales rugby star Gareth Davies appointed as Oil 4 Wales ambassador

By Raspberry Jim,


Wales international rugby star Gareth Davies has been appointed as an ambassador to leading oil distributor Oil 4 Wales.

The Scarlets’ scrum half, who is preparing to take to the pitch in the latest Six Nations’ fixture against Italy this weekend, has been named as the Welsh company’s latest high-profile ambassador.

The Carmarthen-born player will be joining iconic Oil 4 Wales ambassadors including fellow Wales’ rugby players Dan Biggar, Dan Lydiate, and Ken Owens, along with BBC Hill Farmer Gareth Wyn Jones, and entertainer and comedian Max Boyce.

On his new role he said it was a privilege to be supporting the national company, which supplies 16 million litres of fuel to 65,000 domestic and commercial customers across Wales.

The Wales’ player said: “I’m delighted to be working with Oil 4 Wales as it makes such a difference to families and communities right across the country.

“Colin and the team really strive to provide a fantastic service for their customers, and always go the extra mile to support local people. Their community-focussed ethos has been even more evident this week as they’ve fought to get vital oil supplies to people in extremely challenging weather conditions.

“After hearing about all the worthwhile initiatives my fellow rugby players had had the opportunity to get involved in as ambassadors for the brand, it was a privilege to be asked and to join this brilliant family-run business.

“I’m really looking forward to working with the team in the future and would like to thank them for the opportunity.”

Mr Davies will be working with the oil distributor, which has depots in Cardiff, Carmarthen, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Newtown, Lampeter, Maesteg, Brecon and Milford Haven, to support its vision of working with, and for, communities across Wales.

On the latest player appointment Mr Owens said he was thrilled to be adding more rugby talent to the proud Welsh brand.

He said: “Oil 4 Wales is a Welsh company which is proud to work for the people of Wales. As a patriotic brand we are delighted to be working alongside some of our nation’s finest rugby players, and we are thrilled to welcome Gareth to the Oil 4 Wales family.

“Our ambassadors selflessly undertake fantastic work throughout communities, including sports training sessions in schools, meeting customers at special events, and promoting the importance of adequate heating in homes. Their work represents everything that we as a brand stand for, and we couldn’t be prouder than to have them representing us.

“We’d like to wish Gareth and all the other boys good luck for this weekend and hope they bring home a Welsh win!”


Manufacturing leader Sony UK TEC searches for graduate and apprentice talents

By Raspberry Jim,


Engineers of the future are getting the chance to join one of the world’s leading manufacturing facilities.

Sony UK Technology Centre is launching its graduate and apprentice recruitment schemes for a fourth consecutive year with applicants able to apply online or through a graduate career link on Twitter.

The programme will see successful applicants join the international brand’s award-winning Welsh site, based in Pencoed.

The facility, based just off the M4, has developed a world-renowned reputation thanks to its high-end broadcast and professional camera manufacturing operation, along with its contract manufacturing business which has created industry-leading products including the Raspberry Pi.

Graduates and apprentices applying to the schemes will get the opportunity to develop their skills across Sony UK TEC’s diverse professional facility, which enables them to experience all the challenges and rewards of working in a modern manufacturing facility.

As part of their role they will utilize skills including technical, creative, and problem solving in a bid to revolutionise the facility’s existing manufacturing processes.

During the schemes they will work across Sony UK TEC’s core broadcast camera manufacturing business, which sees thousands of high specification cameras produced at the site and shipped around the world annually. These are then utilised across the film making industry, sporting events, and live news coverage.

Alongside this they will also develop experience in the facility’s highly successful contract manufacturing business, which combines the skill of Sony UK TEC’s team players with its state-of-the-art on-site capabilities to create products for clients around the world.

Over the past three years 13 graduates have successfully undertaken the programme going on to specialise in various areas across the business. The apprenticeship programme is well established having run since 1978, however it has run continually in its current format since 2010 with 18 apprentices currently on site.

Director of Professional Services at Sony UK TEC Gerald Kelly said the training programmes would create more well-rounded and knowledgeable professionals in the long-term.

He said: “We are extremely excited to be starting the search for the next generation of engineers and business leaders at Sony UK TEC.

“Our graduate scheme offers a flexible and varied experience developing your skills at one of the leading manufacturing facilities in the world. While our four-year apprentice scheme sets you on the path to becoming an industry-leading engineer. Through both you’ll get the chance to learn from our world-renown team of engineers, technicians, and business leaders to get first-hand experience of best practice and develop industry-leading techniques.

“We look forward to receiving applications and welcoming the leaders of the future to Sony UK TEC this year.”

Entry requirement for the graduate scheme is a 2:1 degree in any subject, along with a passion for creating leading manufacturing solutions and the drive to continuously exceed industry standards. Entry requirements for the apprentice scheme are five GCSEs, including a B or above in Maths, and Cs or above in Science and English or equivalent. For more information visit http://www.sonypencoed.co.uk/careers/

Campaigners ‘over the moon’ after vital leisure centre saved

By Raspberry Jim,

aerial Pont Leisure Centre 1 Day

Determined campaigners are “over the moon” to have safeguarded the future of a much-loved Pontllanfraith leisure centre dubbed a “community lifeline”.

Members of the Save Ponllanfraith Leisure Centre campaign group were thrilled with Caerphilly County Borough Council’s decision to defer the closure of the much-loved community facility.

Group member Dean Jones, whose under 12s team trains at the leisure centre, said the decision would be welcomed by thousands of families, community groups, and users across the county.

The Blackwood resident, who has coached at the facility for eight years, said: “This is a fantastic result, not just for people across Pontllanfraith, but also others across the county who vitally depend on this community lifeline.

“We are absolutely over the moon with the council’s decision, which will safeguard this amazing facility for so many people for generations to come.

“Our campaign group and its dedicated members have worked tirelessly, from the minute the potential closure was announced. They have been incredible and we can’t thank them enough.”

Fellow member Kate Alderson, who uses the leisure centre through a GP referral scheme, added: “This is amazing news and myself and the other group members are incredibly pleased with the council’s decision. I’d also like to specifically thank independent councillor Kevin Etheridge, whose motion to call-in the original decision really enabled us to fight on.”

The council’s U-turn comes after it announced plans to close the leisure centre, which features a range of amenities includes a sports hall, fitness centre, and football pitch, in December.

Following this, around 30 outraged residents formed the group with a view to challenging the “devastating” plans.

Since September members, including Ms Alderson and Mr Jones, have undertaken numerous activities including organising a petition to save the leisure centre, which attracted almost 1,700 signatures, they also held a demonstration outside the county council building in January, lobbied the Regeneration Scrutiny Committee alongside various cabinet members.

However, the turning point came when members sought the legal advice of specialist solicitor Michael Imperato at Watkins & Gunn Solicitors.

Mr Imperato, a public law specialist at the Cardiff, Newport and Pontypool-based firm, challenged the decision with the council, leading to its reversal.

He said: “The people of Pontllanfraith and its surrounding areas were rightly devastated by the threat to their leisure centre, which is used by community groups, as well as schools, and vulnerable users.

“We challenged the closure decision with the county council, citing various flaws in the consultation into its proposed closure.

“Specifically, we highlighted that the consultation may have been misleading in relation to the availability of Islwyn School, which may not have been able to cater for the displaced Pontlanfraith  users. We also highlighted the necessity of the facility for many elderly and vulnerable groups, who rely on it weekly.

“Finally, we also raised the Council’s failure to consider options put forward such as for the centre to be taken over by Blackwood Town Council;.

“When presented with these arguments the Council rapidy backed down. It was evident that the council recognised the need to reconsider its decision to ensure it reached a more fair and informed conclusion.

“We are delighted for the many dedicated campaigners whose hard work helped to save this treasured leisure centre.”

Michael Imperato is a partner at Watkins & Gunn with extensive experience covering some of Wales’s most complex legal cases. Alongside being a specialist in Public Law, he also heads up the Education and Administrative Law departments, offering his expertise in group actions to local authorities, educational institutions, and youth organisations.