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Badger and the new broom

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badgersweepAS 2014 wends its weary way towards 2015, Badger has glanced back over it to pick out his favourite morsels of news. Rather like juicy worms, stories keep on sticking their heads up, demanding Badger’s voracious attention. There is one story above all others about which Badger wants to speak with his readers. It is one on which Badger has spoken with you on a number of occasions over the year and a story to which he expects to return in the future. The petty idiocies of our county councillors are pretty small beer compared to the way the Welsh Government, and its all too biddable flunkies and placemen in local health boards across Wales have torn the heart out of communities.

Pembrokeshire is not alone in fi nding small community facilities, which we all might have taken for granted over the years, taken away with the stroke of a bean-counter’s pen. Cardiff is not much over 100 miles distant from most of Pembrokeshire. But as far as the Welsh Government’s ministers are concerned, we – and the other parts of Wales outside Cardiff Bay, beyond the M4 – may as well be on The Moon. To technocrats like Mark Drakeford, everyone outside the drones and party hacks to which they belong are laboratory samples, whose lives are rather like that of bacteria. Too numerous to eliminate, we poor specimens can be experimented upon without fear of upsetting those in the Valleys and old industrial towns of Wales who would elect a donkey if it wore a red rosette.

And, if you look at the current Welsh Cabinet, readers, it is evident most of those places have done just that. Our communities – not theirs – are the crucible in which Welsh Labour gets to test the notion of turning a glorified local authority – the Senedd – into a malign and immanent presence in our lives. Badger is a fi rm believer in Wales’ right to determine its own future. But bloody hell, readers, the current barmy army in the Bay sorely test his resolve on the issue! The truth is that the Welsh Government is too cowardly to tell people the truth: their ‘reforms’ are cuts.

Earlier this year, Welsh Government ministers were too lily-livered meet the protesters who had travelled to the Senedd by the coach load. Neither have they dared to show their faces to the public in Pembrokeshire since. Perhaps, and Badger is giving them the benefi t of a very large doubt, they are just too ashamed. The Local Health Board is no more than the blunt instrument– oh so very blunt, readers – with which the Welsh Government has beaten down local health care in our county. The Board plays a complex game with language always saying precisely what it means while leading others to reach a separate understanding.

Then, when the proverbial hits the fan, when the Board takes an action which results in protest, it is able to say that its position has been in the public domain for ages without protest and it is all too late to do anything about it now. Trevor Purt it was, in an interview with this newspaper’s editor, who tried that one on for size. With evident annoyance, he said that if the Board lost the then pending judicial review proceedings about specialist maternity services, it would simply run the consultation process again to ensure that it got the result it wanted.

What does that attitude say to you about the good faith with which the Health Board ran the consultation process? Rather like a stage magician, Trev the Magnifi cent wanted you to pick a card – to pick any card – to pick his card. Of course, having gutted healthcare in Pembrokeshire like a fi sh, Trev the Magnificent shortly thereafter decamped to Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board, there to try and perform his favourite trick of sawing a hospital in half. It worked in Rochdale, it’s working at Withybush: Trev the Magnifi cent is less an NHS executive than the grim reaper. Where he goes, service closures follow.

A new Chief Executive starts at our Local Health Board in the New Year. The question is how will he deal with Trev’s toxic legacy of resentment, mistrust and pig-headed indifference to the public? Frankly readers, such is the state to which essential services have been reduced in Pembrokeshire, will he even bother to try? Well, readers, back in the summer the Health Board appointed a new Chair: Bernardine Rees and from her actions we are well able to discern the Board’s direction of travel. There will be no more hiding away. Instead Bernadine has come out swinging with a new line. She wants to make it clear that she is a new broom determined to sweep clean. But there is a problem.

A stonking great big one right at the outset. Bernardine has deluded herself that the Board’s problem is communication. If only, the rationale goes, if only the Board could get its message through that taking child healthcare out of Pembrokeshire is a good thing. If only it could get its message through that consultant-led maternity services are unnecessary anywhere west of Carmarthen. If only all those beastly protesters and media types would stop being so beastly and let the Board tell people the good news about its slashing cuts to health services. It’s all a question of perception, see readers. And for good measure a new factor has been thrown into the mix.

The Board has now cynically adopted a plan to silence protesters by telling them that their campaigns are driving down staff morale – particularly that of the nursing staff. The Board is relying on public unwillingness to hurt the feelings of those who deliver care to throw its critics off the scent. They are using those at the sharp end as a shield to protect the Welsh Government’s blunt instrument from justifi able criticism about its past cynical double-dealing and snide manoeuvring. Look to the future, Bernardine says; judge my words on the Board’s actions. If one was judging on the message being promulgated by the Board since she took over, we can see a new aggressive and hectoring tone to the Board’s relationship with the outside world.

The Board’s claim that its problems are all the fault of the media and campaigners is self-serving tripe being dished up a body that has manag e d to lose the m o r a l argument w h i l e w i n n i n g the battle on the ground. The Board’s line is so far beneath contempt that when those who peddle it look up they see not the stars but the ceiling of the sewer. The problems Bernardine Rees faces as a new broom, readers are both that she is decidedly second-hand and that, such is the mistrust with which the Board is viewed in Pembrokeshire, it is not a new broom which is required. Rather, it will take an industrial vacuum hose to suck the poison out of the Board’s past relationship with Pembrokeshire. As a consequence, the Board had better start sincerely sucking up to Pembrokeshire very, very soon.

 

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Tenby left ‘strewn with rubbish and smelling of urine’ after hundreds party

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TENBY was left with empty cans, broken bottles and fast food wrappers strewn everywhere, after over two hundred young people gathered to enjoy the weekend – perhaps expected whilst pubs remained closed.
Licensed establishment have not yet been able to open in Wales, but they are open in England for outdoor refreshments.

There were reports of young people walking through the town with boxes full of alcohol on Saturday night (Apr 17), with other people buying takeaway drinks from licensed premises before making their way to the harbour.
The sheer number of people meant people were urinating in the streets, some residents told The Pembrokeshire Herald.

Unlawful gathering: Party in full swing in Tenby as pubs remain closed (Image: Pure West Radio)

Facebook comments from people concerned included Larry Lambert who said: “Most of these are probably around my age, have some respect for the place, you all wouldn’t like it if this happened outside your house and left all the rubbish for you to wake up to, disrespectful!”

Kyle Scourfield said : “Aw guys. We’re literally on the track where we can see light at the end of the tunnel, don’t ruin it now. More importantly, pick up your rubbish and look after our coast. I’m bloody dying for the nightclubs so seriously, take it down a notch!”

Danny Wilson who took the below photo said on social media: “This [photo was taken] after nearly two hours of cleaning up. Completely blame the government for this if pubs were open there would be next to no take outs and 20 odd doormen keeping an eye on things every weekend, but that’s no excuse to act like absolute savages with zero respect for anything.

“I’ve never seen as much broken glass like there was today! Definitely give the harbour and castle hill a swerve for a couple of days if you’ve got kids or dogs.”

Tenby on Sunday morning (Apr 18) (Image: Facebook/Danny Wilson)

Pembrokeshire County Council operatives have been working since earlier this morning to remove rubbish in various locations in the town, including piles of bottles and other litter under picnic tables at the harbour.
The Tenby Observer has reported that in correspondence sent to Pembrokeshire County Council’s licensing department, county councillor for Tenby’s North ward Clr. Michael Williams said: “From as early as late afternoon, the situation at the harbour has become threatening with residents feeling unsafe due to the considerable numbers of individuals in the area consuming large quantities of alcohol.

“Police Officers appear to be overwhelmed by the numbers and are unable to take the necessary firm action to disperse a crowd that I estimated to be about 200. These kind of events are becoming a regular occurrence and action must be taken to address it.

“We appear to have taken several steps backwards to where we were a number of years ago when Tenby was becoming regarded as party central for groups of stag and hen events.

“Certain parts of the harbour estate are being used as a public urinal causing distress to families attempting to lawfully use the area.”

One local, who did not wish to me named said: “The police operation last week, which was widely publicised, seems to have failed miserably.

“Instead of going out last week when police were out in force, the youth of south Pembrokeshire seem to have waited until this weekend and have partied twice as hard.

“I understand that resouces are stratched but where were the police this weekend?

“Something needs to be done, we don’t want a third wave.”

Over the Easter bank holiday officers seized alcohol from young people, moved them on and prevented clashes between groups from escalating.

Speaking just ten days ago Sgt Stuart Wheeler said that there was concern from the Tenby community and that police were ‘keen to avoid a repeat of this behaviour’.

“This type of behaviour is distressing for people living and working in Tenby,” he said.

“We understand that the past few months have been difficult, and that children want to see their friends, but remember that only six people from two households can meet outdoors still.

“Please do your best to ensure your children are adhering to regulations that are in place for all our safety.”
The police have been contacted for an updated comment.

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Protest against ‘draconian’ Police and Crime Bill takes place in Haverfordwest

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A SECOND Kill the Bill protest took place in Haverfordwest on Saturday (Apr 17).

One of the organisers told  The Herald: “The new law will be an enormous piece of draconian legislation that includes significant expansion in police powers to curtail the right to protest. The right to peacefully assemble and protest are a fundamental part of any democracy; empowering people to have their voices heard, in addition to holding the Government to account. These rights are universal –they protect peaceful and legitimate protest whatever the cause.“The events at the Clapham vigil and at demonstrations over the last few weeks are a dangerous indication of what the future of protest will look like if the police powers bill gets through parliament.”

A local campaigner, a mother and grandmother said “We are in the process of losing a fundamental part of our democracy, It is important we protect it for future generations. We have messed up so much of their future already-we need to hold the Government to account”.

Aspects of the Bill include:

  • The power for Police forces to shut down protests that they deem too disruptive at their own discretion.
  • Up to a 10-year sentence for demonstrators considered to be causing a “public nuisance”.
  • The power for police forces to impose start and end times on static protests of any size.
  • The power to expand stop and search powers, which already discriminate against marginalised communities. If you live in the Dyfed Powys police area, you are 5 times more likely to be stopped and searched if you are black than white.
  • Up to 10-year sentences for damage to public monuments’ Police powers will be expanded and custodial sentences increased to “protect” women.
  • These measures are not sufficient to prevent violence and are troubling, considering some police officers’ involvement in cases of violence against women. Significant restrictions on where protests around Parliament may take place.
  • The elevation of trespass from a civil offence to a criminal offence, meaning police and courts can give harsh sentences to Travellers.
  • Increased power of police to seize vehicles and homes from Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller communities and demanding proof of permission to travel.
  • The bill will criminalise a way of life for these communities.

Some of the proposals in the new bill which is the subject of the protest include putting start and finish times on protests, as well as noise limits. The bill also says damage to memorials could lead to up to 10 years in prison. The bill could also expand stop-and-search powers and includes an offence of “intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance,” which is designed to stop people occupying public spaces and doing things like hanging off bridges or gluing themselves to windows.

The bill will be reintroduced to Parliament after the Queen’s Speech, according to the Home Office, with Commons Committee Stage expected to be completed by 24 June.

“The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill delivers on the government’s commitment to crack down on crime and build safer communities,” a Home Office spokesperson says. “We are equipping the police with the tools they need to stop violent criminals in their tracks.” They add that the bill “enshrines our commitment to those brave officers who put themselves in danger to keep rest of us safe into law”.

One protestor told Herald.Wales: “People are getting more angry and more frustrated and they feel like their issues are not being dealt with – but are rather just simply being cracked down on.

“And that is the wrong approach. People are still going to take to the streets and be even more passionate.”

Haverfordwest Kill the Bill protest 2021

Protests – a senior police officer’s view

A police boss who describes himself as an “experienced protester” says a report on how protests are policed is one sided, illiberal and undermines civil and political rights.

North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones is so concerned that he has written to Home Secretary Priti Patel to complain about it.

The UK Government used the report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Service (HMICFRS),“Getting the balance right?, when they were drafting the controversial Police, Crime,  Sentencing and Courts Bill.

Arfon Jones, the new North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner at Police HQ in Colwyn Bay.

According to the inspectors, the balance had tipped too heavily in favour of protesters.

The legislation will give the police powers to set start and end times for static protests and stop protests if they are judged to be too noisy or too “disruptive”.

Protesters face fines of up to £2,500 and up to 10 years in jail if they are convicted.

Mr Jones, a former police inspector, said: “Although equilibrium should be struck between individual rights to protest and the general interests of the community, I simply do not agree the balance tips too readily in favour of protestors.

“The recommendations in the report are one sided, illiberal and undermine civil and political rights and are not in the public interest.

“The new powers in the proposed act are not necessary and will prevent protest as we know today. The whole purpose of protest is to disrupt and to seek change.

“The police have enough powers to police protests and do not need more. I do not believe that HMICFRS have the balance right in this report and as an *experienced* protestor for the last 50 years the perception that police are favourable towards protestors rights is a fallacy.

“Policing protests has always been, and always will be, a tool of the state to control its citizens and I will have no truck with it.

“Automatic Facial Recognition in non-violent protests is a privacy intrusion and should not be used.

“Non-violent protests should be policed as events not as a public order exercise.

“The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will afford new powers to officers to tackle protests, including measures aimed at static protests and a new offence of ‘intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance’, which is in part defined as causing ‘serious annoyance’ or ‘serious inconvenience’.

“In a democracy the right to protest sometimes means people are inconvenienced, such is the price of living in a society where voicing support for a cause of your choosing is permitted. “These proposals seek to whittle that right down to such a degree that any demonstration, large or small, may be heavily restricted or even curtailed altogether. The effect on free expression will be substantial.

“The report is short-term and politically driven. Policing should be very careful not to be drawn into the situation of being arbiters of which protests can go ahead and become stuck in the middle.

“The policing of industrial action in the 1970s reminds us that policing protests may cause long-term damage on the relationships between community and police.

“The United Kingdom and its people have been through a very difficult year, with exceptional Covid-19 restrictions coming to an end as the pandemic recedes. 

“This is a time for reflection and consideration, not a time to be rushing through poorly thought out measures to impose disproportionate controls on free expression.

“Such laws may shield ministers and corporations from public dissent, but who would wish to live in a society where such matters are guiding principles of legislation?”

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Approval recommended for dockyard plans

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A CONTROVERSIAL plan to develop part of Pembroke Dock’s Royal Dockyard comes before the County Council’s Planning Committee next week.

Despite many objections from heritage organisations, Council planning officers recommend the development’s approval.

However, the Planning Committee will only indicate whether it is ‘minded to approve’ the proposal instead of giving it the go-ahead.

The Welsh Government has called in the application for decision by the next Welsh Government minister responsible for planning and infrastructure developments.

That means the Welsh Government will consider the Report presented to the Committee and weigh it against the objections received.

HERITAGE ASSETS VERSUSECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The application is to develop a brownfield site within the former Royal Dockyard.

It seeks outline planning permission for the demolition or part demolition and infill of various buildings and structures, modification of existing slipways, erection of buildings and ancillary development. 

The development is intended for port-related activities, including the manufacture of marine energy devices, boat manufacture, repair and erection of plant.

The application is for outline planning permission. All matters relating to access, appearance, landscaping, layout, and scale are reserved for consideration as part of reserved matters applications. In practice, as many councils – including Pembrokeshire – have discovered, once outline planning is granted, reserved applications tend to proceed despite potential negative impacts.

A similar situation arose with Milford Haven Port Authority’s hotel development at Milford Marina, where councillors’ concerns were largely overruled by the existence of outline planning permission for the development.

Part of the proposal would see the former graving dock and timber pond infilled, the part demolition of existing slipways, and some buildings on site.

Both the graving dock and timber pond are Grade II listed. Buildings near the development are also listed, including the iconic Sunderland flying boat hangars.

The existing caisson gate currently in situ at the dock’s southern end would be removed and conserved. It is unique in Wales and a rare example. The planning report states that the caisson gate would remain within the marine environment without development and deteriorate. 

The development would include a new ‘super slipway’ built over the land extending into the River Cleddau and the construction of massive new industrial sheds to accommodate new marine technology.

JOBS AND THE CITY DEAL

The planning report claims the facilities erected will support anywhere between 288 and 975 full-time equivalent jobs in Pembrokeshire and make a substantial contribution to the local economy. However, the report also notes that the numbers of jobs claimed cannot be corroborated.

This proposal is linked to the establishment of the Marine Energy Test Areas (META), the Marine Energy Engineering Centre of Excellence (MEECE) and the Pembrokeshire Demonstration Zone (PDZ). These collectively comprise the Pembroke Dock Marine (PDM) project. 

The project forms part of the Swansea Bay City Deal to facilitate the next generation of marine renewable energy technology.

Companies who could potentially gain from the development have signalled their support from the proposal.Although their enthusiasm is predictable, the economic potential for local businesses cannot be ignored.

DOCKYARD ESSENTIAL TO TOWN’S EXISTENCE

However, a raft of objections also exists.

The Council received representations from, among others: The Victorian Society; The Georgian Group; Hywel Dda University Health Board;  Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre; Pembrokeshire Historic Buildings Trust; Pembroke Civic Trust; Naval Dockyards Society; The Commodore Trust; Ridgway History Group.

Not all of those organisations objected to the principle of development. For example, Hywel Dda expressed concern about the potential effect on access to South Pembs Hospital and patient care. However, most criticised the impact on the historic environment of the Royal Dockyard. Individual objections also expressed the same concerns.

The Naval Dockyard Society points out that the Dockyard construction was the reason for Pembroke Dock’s creation as a town. Without it, the town would not exist.

The Society continues: ‘The proposed scheme would severely damage Pembroke Dock Conservation Area and crucial listed buildings. 

‘The Grade II* Graving Dock would be infilled and partially built over, the Grade II Timber Pond infilled and built over, and the Grade II Building Slips Nos 1 and 2 partially demolished and removed. It would also be detrimental to the adjacent Grade II Carr Jetty setting, which adds to the group value of these threatened structures at Pembroke Dockyard.

‘These structures are the last and most important features of the magnificent and unique assemblage of thirteen slips, graving dock and timber pond constructed and functioning 1809–1926. 

‘Pembroke Dock specialised in building warships during the transition from wood to iron and steel, sail to steam and turbines. 

‘While the eastern slips were sacrificed in 1979 for the Irish ferry terminal and the deep-water berth Quay 1, we now live in a more responsible era, when significant community assets merit planning protection.

‘The Royal Dockyard established at Pembroke Dock from 1809 was unique: the only one in Wales, the only one on the west coast of Britain, and the only one created solely as a shipbuilding facility. 

‘It built over 260 warships for the Royal Navy, including many of the most prestigious warships of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as well as five royal yachts. Many of these vessels were built on the two large slipways at the western end of the yard threatened by the current development proposal’.

THE COMMUNITY’S VIEW

William Gannon represents Pembroke Dock Town Council on the Milford Haven Port Authority. Mr Gannon recently hosted an online event that reviewed the application and gave local people the chance to express their views.

We asked him what the public had to say about the plans.

Listening to the community: David Gannon (photo credit: David Steel)

William Gannon told us: “The feeling of the Community following our Zoom Meeting was that we welcome the 1800 jobs and the £63 Million of investment that the Pembroke Dock Marine Project has promised. 

“However, the Community is concerned about the Pickling Pond and The Graving Dock’s loss, which will be buried beneath the new slipway. Both The Pickling Pond and The Graving Dock are Grade 2 Star listed heritage assets.

“The Community are also concerned about the size of the two ‘super sheds’ that may be built. It is felt that these sheds are both too large and ugly, and they will damage the appearance of the Dockyard and The Haven and could damage Pembroke Docks plans to develop Tourism in and around the Dockyard.

“Our Community is looking to strike a balance between the need to develop the Dockyard and to preserve our Heritage Assets. 

“We believe that we can do this by working with The Port to develop a solution that allows for both.”

The Port Authority plans to infill the dock and pond in such a way as to preserve the structures and excavate them in the future. Once they are built over, however, the circumstances that would be possible or even likely are unclear. 

The Port Authority also proposes to use digital media to provide an ‘augmented reality’ experience to show visitors what the Royal Dockyard looked like before its development.

The Port says that part of the land, the Carriage Drive, would be enhanced and restored under its plans for the site.
The balance between preserving heritage and creating future jobs in one of its pet project areas is one the Welsh Government will wrestle with on this application and others.

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