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Doubts raised over feasibility of Milford docks master plan

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MilfordHavenThe Herald reported last month that Milford Haven Port Authority has unveiled a new £60 million Milford Dock Master plan is to radically change and regenerate “Wales’ largest fishing port”.

Details unveiled by the plan aim to create a high quality brand for its fish and other seafood. Part of the £60 million development aspires to transform the entire area around Milford Fish docks and the plan claims that this will bring further growth and job opportunities. The intention is to provide high standard storage, processing, retail and tourism facilities for the area, in order that ‘seafood caught in Pembrokeshire can be promoted as a brand to be sought after’.

Milford Haven was once one of the busiest ports in the UK and has even inspired writers such as Shakespeare who used Milford as a setting in the play Cymbeline referring to the location as ‘this same blessed Milford’. Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson said of Milford Haven, ‘It is one of the greatest harbours in the world’.

Having one of the deepest natural waters of any harbour in the world, Milford became home to a thriving and important fishing port during the 19th century and throughout the first half of the 20th century boasted a busy and bustling fishing port quayside. At one point, for every one job at sea there were four in the port. However, a decline in the 1950’s saw the fishing industry all but disappear and the port was transformed into what is now mainly a marina.

Alun Davies, Assembly Minister for Natural Resources and Food, is quoted in the web article as saying that, ‘The success of our proposed plan relies upon our ability to work in partnership with the Welsh fishing industry’. He also says that he hopes the plans announced will ‘help strengthen the local fishing industry and bring employment opportunities to the area’.

Kevin Hobbs added to this optimism by stating that he believes the Milford Fish docks have huge potential. He suggests that greater tonnages of fish could be handled there given the range of ‘quality and diverse species’ available in Pembrokeshire fishing waters. He goes on to applaud the plan’s aim to create wholesale and retail outlets, along with facilities for processing catch that is landed on the quay, which he sees as crucial in creating jobs and encouraging growth.

However, The Herald spoke exclusively to one local fisherman, who wished to remain unnamed, and who cast serious doubt over the viability of these ambitious plans.

“I believe this is just a way of getting grant money. Half of what they are saying might not happen. In my case, I have a shed on the quay for which I have been asking for a drainer for over eighteen months now. The public are even complaining about the smell and yet nothing has been done. We have a similar problem with getting ice which is really expensive.”

He went on to say that the fishermen who use the port find it very hard to obtain fuel which, he claims, is only available during ‘normal’ working hours and which, he says,‘would be available round the clock in any other port’, stating, “There is nothing here for fishermen”.

On the subject of Kevin Hobbs’ vision of greater fish quantities being handled at the port he pointed out that,

“Fish couldn’t be caught locally because of the fishing quotas. Under the new European rule (EU Fisheries) called ‘Kilowatt Days’ we are only allowed to fish a certain amount of days per year. So where is all this fish going to come from? If there are such good fishing stocks here, then why aren’t the fishermen here?”

He was also sceptical of the Port Authority’s ability to ‘get things done’ as he said that there wasn’t even anywhere for local fisherman to lift their boats in order to complete paint work, along with the lack of crane facilities available for them to use. He asked who would really benefit from the plans? He implied that only the port authority, rather than the local fishermen, would reap the rewards. He believes that of the £60 million the local fishermen would be lucky to receive two million pounds, the rest, he thinks, being spent on the port.

He pointed out that: “There are not enough fishing boats here, roughly twenty to thirty little boats. There are only two big trawlers here and one big shellfish boat. This is the port in Britain with the least amount of fishing boats. Do they want fishing or not? If they do they will have to change their attitude. There is only one fish shop in Milford, which is closed on Saturdays, and this is the biggest fishing port in wales!”

He explained that the problem was largely to do with who is actually fishing from Milford Haven.

“To bring fish here, in Pembrokeshire, process it here and then take it away from here is very expensive. What is happening is that Belgium vessels, for example, are offloading produce here at port and then it goes straight onto a foreign lorry and it’s off. They don’t use local crews and even their crew changes involve men being taxied from Belgium! They aren’t even using local transport services. The food they use for their vessels is 95% brought over in the back of a lorry from Belgium. Even the fishing gear comes from Belgium. The only thing they buy here is the fuel, and that comes from the Port Authority, so how is this helping local fishermen and traders?”

The Fisherman with whom The Herald spoke also complained that he has tried approaching the Port Authority for new property and was struggling, despite several meetings with the Port Authority Committee.

What seems to be clear is that, if the Port Authority’s plans are to succeed, it will be essential for them to work with local fishermen and traders if their redevelopment is truly to benefit the local community, creating jobs in the fishing industry. From speaking with a local and busy fisherman, it seems this is not the prevailing position and more co-operation would appear to be needed if the ambitious £60million ‘master plan’ is to reach its full potential, and succeed in making Milford Haven one of the UK’s best and more productive fishing ports. Local fishermen, businesses and retailers will be waiting to see how this develops.

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Crabb takes up the reins as Wales Committee chair

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PRESELI MP Stephen Crabb has been elected as the new chairman of the Welsh Affairs Committee in Parliament.

Stephen Crabb, who served as Secretary of State for Wales from 2014 to 2016, secured support from across the political divide to be elected unopposed, and is looking forward to taking on the new role.

He received nominations from MPs drawn from of all parties in Wales as well as being supported by numerous other MPs from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The committee examines the work of the Wales Office and other UK departments in Wales. It takes evidence from Ministers, experts and other witnesses in order to make recommendations that benefit Wales and its economy.

Following the announcement, Stephen Crabb said: “This is an exciting opportunity and I’m grateful to have received support from such a wide cross-section the House of Commons, including from Conservative, Labour and Plaid Cymru MPs. By drawing on the knowledge and passion of MPs from all parties, the committee can help to shape a positive and optimistic agenda for Wales at a time of enormous change.

“Post-Brexit trade deals, the Shared Prosperity Fund, infrastructure investment and the climate challenge will all have an impact on Wales in the years ahead. The Welsh Affairs Committee will provide an essential forum for examining Government action in these areas and ensuring that the unique circumstances of Wales are properly understood.”

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Old barracks promised new lease of life

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THE COMPANY which has purchased the iconic defensible barracks in Pembroke Dock have promised to breathe new life into the historic building.

The grade II fort was built in the Victorian era to provide a military defence to the Royal Dockyard. It was recently sold for an undisclosed sum to VR1844 Ltd. The company directors are listed as Jonathan McDermott, Emma Jane Morby, Lai Hang Seto, and Iain Trevor Walker.

VR1844Ltd office manager Tanya McDermott said: “VR1844 believe people never truly own a building but are the buildings guardians for a period of time.

“Taking the view that it is only the right development for the right building at the right time it is our privilege to bring the building back into life, repair, nurture and give back to the local community, not to shut the main doors and lock the building away from people who are interested in it and its history.

“VR1844 Ltd who have brought this very under-loved and not looked after building, want to bring the buildings back into life with a mix of community uses, together with a number of dwellings that will breathe life back into the buildings.
“To do this VR1844 are already working hard with CADW, Pembrokeshire County Council and local councillors to bring forward a scheme that all parties can support, and the community can once again be proud of.”

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Town councillors object to hotel on health and safety grounds

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TOWN COUNCILLORS in Milford Haven have unanimously voted to object to a planning application my Milford Haven Port Authority to build a 100-bedroom hotel on Milford Docks.
Town Mayor Terry Davies said he had had numerous requests from members of the public to try to get it refused.
Several members of the public were at the meeting to watch, including Ian Bannister and his daughter and James Kershaw – whose homes were seriously flooded in 2018 causing tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage.
Cllr Lynne Turner told councillors: “We look forward to the development of the marina and the town desperately needs a hotel, but we have been contacted by a number of representatives from the Lower Priory and Havens Head area who are very concerned about the impact on flooding in their villages.
“The sewage waste from this development, and the change to water run-off, unless the Port Authority addresses the culverts in the area, then we have to assume that this must present a big risk to increased flooding.”
“We need to wait for the outcome of a report to see how the hotel will affect the villages”
“Then that report needs to be acted upon, if needs be.”
Cllr Rhys Sinnett said: “It is clear from the representation from the communities affected by the floods in 2018, they are still awaiting answers and actions from Pembrokeshire County Council to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.
“Whilst no action is being taken, I don’t see how we can support anything that might raise water levels and I suggest we need to delay this as long as possible.
“There is no reference in the report to the flooding in 2018 so how can we support an application that has faulty information.”
“We have to object to this application within the scope of planning rules, and I propose that we can object in terms of health and safety.
What happened in 2018 was a had a huge impact on the health and safety of those who were living in Lower Priory and in Havens Head.
Cllr Turner then formally that the town council object, as Cllr Sinnett suggested, to the application on health and safety grounds.
Cllr Sinnett added that because of the controversial nature of the application, he would be strongly suggesting the application go before the council’s planning committee.
“That would be best for local democracy” he said, adding “this application should not be decided by officers under their delegated powers.
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