Alternative education

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    Phil Parry is a former BBC news and current affairs reporter. He is winner of the BT Wales award for journalist of the year, BT Wales TV reporter of the year and radio reporter of the year.
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    Centre for Alternative Technology wanted money

    A controversial Welsh alternative technology centre where flies were found in the food and which demanded huge public funding for a contentious new facility after it received enormous amounts of money to build a similar plant, has contracted its bi-lingual school education service to a firm in Milton Keynes, The Eye understand.

    We believe that Machynlleth’s Centre for Alternative Technology is also scrapping its crucial education department.

    Our sources have told us that among those affected is a key figure at the centre.

    Bi-lingual education is crucial

    Yet this is not the first time that CAT has hit the headlines for the wrong reasons.

    Two years ago The Eye revealed that the centre had launched a fundraising campaign, called “Renewing Our Renewables”, and asked the public for £35,000 towards a new “biomass boiler” .

    Yet only eight years before that, officials had built a massive biomass boiler to power the site.

    The flames of controversy were fanned by Biomass

    The price tag for this plant was more than £300,000, which included a large amount of public money, and the associated building work to install it cost another £500,000.


    Officials proclaimed at the time, the ‘Talbott BG 100 woodchip CHP unit’ would provide:

    1. Heat output greater than the peak heating requirement for the site.
    2. Connection to existing and auxiliary equipment.
    3. Island generation.
    4. Power generation within a community.
    Biofuelwatch protested

    But many organisations have issued warnings about the potential impacts of the mass-production of biomass.

    The UK-based group Biofuelwatch protested against plans by Drax power station in Yorkshire to convert half of their coal-fired power station to run on biomass.



    The centre was called ‘rundown and shabby’

    The BBC have reported how the Committee on Climate Change said it would take too long for trees to re-absorb the carbon by burning wood.

    Yet this fundraising campaign for a new contentious boimass boiler also came after we showed how CAT was condemned on social media.

    It was described as “rundown and shabby on the review website Trip Advisor.

    The centre was described as ‘overpriced’

    The assessment continued:

    Once we learned that the centre had given up their ethic of using renewable fuel and switched to Propane (a fossil fuel!) we lost interest and came to the conclusion that they had totally sold out.”

    A post was headlined “Disappointing, Shabby and Overpriced”.

    It stated:  “Paid over £25 for two adults and a concession (our toddler was free).

    “Far too expensive for what was in effect a very short ride on a funicular and a walk round an overgrown, run down area.

    “Interactive stations were very poor.

    “Dirty and rusty.



    In court the centre was fined £13,000

    “Information boards had limited information and is now out of date.

    “The map of the centre makes the place look far more exciting than it actually is!” 

    Another stated that there was “little to inspire younger folk”.

    A worrying criticism has also appeared in the ‘comments’ section of The Guardian newspaper:

    Dead flies were discovered in food

    I’ve studied at CAT, the place is a pathetic joke… CAT excels at two things self promotion and grant grabbing.”

    Hygiene standards for visitors to CAT have also been condemned.

    Last Summer the centre was fined £13,000 after admitting 10 food hygiene offences at Llandrindod Wells Magistrates Court.

    It followed a routine environmental health inspection in September 2016.

    The court heard how a Powys council environmental health officer found accumulations of dirt, grease and food debris on floor and wall coverings, shelves, the underside of food preparation surfaces, the extraction canopy and in the equipment washing area.

    Dirty utensils were found

    The door seals of the walk-in chiller and freezer were mouldy and food preparation utensils were dirty and damaged.

    Food was stored in open packets despite flies in the kitchen, and dead flies were found in a ready-to-eat salad dressing which had been left uncovered in the food handling area.

    Management at CAT has also been in turmoil with at least eight trustees leaving.

    But it seems turmoil among the staff is continuing, with education not top of the centre’s list.

    Check your knowledge of today’s events as revealed over the last few months on The Eye, with our brilliant interactive quiz:


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