Lord of the flies

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An alternative technology centre in Wales has been condemned after a court heard that flies were discovered in the kitchen and it was slammed as “shabby” and “overpriced” by visitors, The Eye can reveal.

One senior official connected with The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) at Machynlleth, said the bad publicity had an “appalling effect” on its image.

Another former worker told us:  “What has been happening at CAT is disgraceful.

“So many of my friends have left in disgust.”

Court heard how CAT utensils were dirty and broken

CAT 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.

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.

The centre is about to offer an “MSC Sustainable Food and Natural Resources” which “draws on our expert staff”.

Yet critics argue this is a challenge when CAT has been rated 0 in food hygiene and incurred a substantial fine.

In a statement following the court case, it said: “This court case relates to an inspection that took place in September 2016, which led to a zero rating for the CAT cafe.

‘A lot of money for a ride on a funicular’

“We immediately set about making improvements, acting decisively to address each issue raised by environmental health.”

But management at CAT has also been in turmoil.

At least eight trustees have left recently, and visitors too seem unimpressed.

A post on Trip Advisor last month 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.

No flies on CAT?

“Interactive stations were very poor.

“Dirty and rusty.

“Information boards had limited information and is now out of date.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

Generating energy through biomass is controversial

But this is not the first time CAT has attracted bad headlines.

In April last year we showed how a worrying criticism appeared in the ‘comments’ section of The Guardian newspaper:

“I’ve studied at CAT, the place is a pathetic joke, nothing, absolutely nothing works, it’s not due to trialing new technologies just plain incompetence.”

The news came as CAT began a fundraising campaign for tens of thousands of pounds towards a new ‘biomass boiler’ a few years after the centre had received large sums of public money to build a similar plant.

In the campaign “Renewing Our Renewables” it asked the public for £35,000 towards a new biomass boiler .

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

Being green costs money apparently

The price tag for this plant then 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.

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

“Heat output greater than the peak heating requirement for the site.

“Connection to existing and auxiliary equipment.

“Island generation.

 “Power generation within a community.

But biomass power generation has received major criticism anyway, which an alternative technology centre should have been aware of.

Young people ‘not inspired by CAT’

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

Perhaps CAT should concentrate on not having flies in the food and impressing visitors rather than asking for money for a controversial method of power generation.

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