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Plans to conserve Welsh coastline

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Protection plan: A spectacular view of Cardigan Bay from the Outer Ward of Criccieth Castle

Protection plan: A spectacular view of Cardigan Bay from the Outer Ward of Criccieth Castle

PART of the North Pembrokeshire coast line stretching up to the Llyn Peninsula, in North Wales including Ceredigion is set to become part of a new special area of conservation aimed at protecting harbour porpoises following a proposal from Natural Resources Wales (NRW)

The land known as the West Wales Marine site, is one of six main areas being put across as parts of the country to protect to ensure the survival of a range of species.

A report released by the NRW said: “The proposals to create six new marine protected areas come after NRW and other conservation agencies across the UK spent several years studying a number of species and where they spend their time.”

As part of the proposal, potential restrictions on some activities in the site could be put in place, but the report stated it is difficult to say at this stage exactly what action needs to be taken.

The report has however said: “The West Wales Marine site has been selected primarily on the basis of its long-term, preferential use by harbour porpoise in contrast to other areas of the UK portion of the Irish Sea.

“The implication is that the site provides good foraging habitat and it may also be used for breeding and calving.

“For that reason, the intent of this objective is to minimise the risk posed by activities within the site to the species viability.

“Activities that kill, injure or significantly disturb harbour porpoise have the potential to affect species viability within the site.”

These plans will join the Welsh coast with other parts of Europe already protecting their wildlife in an effort for sustainability: “Along with other European countries, Wales already has a series of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) on land and sea, and the proposed new areas will add to this network, called Natura 2000, which aims to conserve biodiversity right across the EU.”

Ceri Davies, the executive director for knowledge, strategy and planning for NRW, said: “These sites are not just valuable for wildlife, they also include some of Wales’ most beautiful and valued seascapes.

“They attract thousands of visitors every year and enhance the quality of life for the people who live in and near them.

“And Wales’ existing network of marine SACs and SPAs are also used for a variety of activities, including shipping, energy, fisheries and recreational activities.

“We work with all users of the marine environment to find ways that allow sustainable use of the sea, while protecting important parts of the environment.”

The proposal has been welcomed by wildlife groups who have said it is an important step in providing greater protection to marine animals and birds.

Scott Fryer, a Wildlife Trusts Wales officer said: “This is an important step towards Wales’s contribution to helping protect a range of sites for protected animals in Wales as part of the larger UK network.”

“The Wildlife Trusts in Wales are pleased that NRW recognises how essential it is to create special areas for marine wildlife. We must protect our seas so that they can continue to provide benefits for wildlife and for future generations to enjoy.”

“This is good news. Harbour porpoise are our smallest mammal so they tend to get overlooked compared to the larger dolphins. As they mostly live around the coast these sites are essential.” Added Gill Bell, the chair of the Wales Environment Link and a member of the Marine Conservation Society.

The NRW will be running their consultation until April 19, when a final decision on whether to implement the proposals will be made by the Minister for Natural Resources in the Welsh Government.

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Education

Delight as foundation phase learners return to class

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PEMBROKESHIRE Headteachers have reported very positive returns to school for Foundation Phase Learners.

All Foundation Phase Learners returned to schools on Monday, March 1st and attendance has been reported at almost 90% since.

The Council’s Director for Education, Steven Richards-Downes, said: “A wide range of council services have worked together to ensure that Foundation Phase pupils have been able to return
safely to school.

“I am particularly grateful to all school staff and families for ensure that learning is now available for our youngest learners face to face.”

Headteachers remarked how schools have filled with smiles and laughter following the safe and phased return of Foundation Phase learners.

Cora O’Brien, Headteacher at Waldo Williams School in Haverfordwest emphasised how quickly learners have settled back in to a routine.

“It has been an absolute joy to hear their laughter in the playground and to observe their love of learning face to face once again. I thank everybody in the Waldo Williams School
community for working so hard to ensure that the transition went smoothly.”

Vicky Hart-Griffiths, Headteacher of Ysgol Hafan y Mor in Tenby, said: “It has been wonderful to welcome all our Foundation Phase learners back to school. They are thriving, being amongst
friends and back to a school routine.  

“All the pupils have spoken about how happy they are to have returned and it’s an absolute pleasure to welcome them back and we can’t wait until we have all our pupils back in school.

“The school feels alive again and there’s a positive buzz and laughter once again echoing throughout the school.”

Gareth Lewis, Headteacher at Broad Haven CP School said children had returned “with real enthusiasm, and have been very keen to meet up with their friends.”

Mr Lewis added: “Our parents have been very supportive and positive about the return, and those with older children are very much looking forward to a wider return to schooling.”

Mr Richards-Downes said plans were now turning to more learners returning to schools in the near future.

“We are looking to the next phases of the re-opening of schools on the 15th of March as long as the government guidelines allow.”

Further details will be released in due course.

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Pembrokeshire County Council: This week’s Leader’s coronavirus update

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL Leader, Councillor David Simpson, has provided a further coronavirus update for Friday, 5th March as follows:

‘Welcome everyone to my weekly update.

“It is with rather a heavy heart that I tell you that it’s almost 12 months since my first statement on the coronavirus pandemic.

“On 9th March 2020, I addressed our Cabinet meeting with the following words:

“Further to the news yesterday that two people in Pembrokeshire had tested as positive for the Covid 19 virus, I am sure you will join me in wishing them both a speedy and full recovery.

“I can reassure you that our services will continue as usual, and all our employees can continue to attend to their work, appointments, schools and services as they normally would.

“We should all help protect ourselves and our communities by following Public Health Wales advice, particularly around washing hands and using a tissue for symptoms associated with cold and flu and then safely disposing of it.

“I am grateful to the co-operation and hard work of all of our staff and we will provide further updates and information when we have them.

“In the meantime I can confirm that detailed planning arrangements, both internally, with partner agencies and through the Dyfed Powys Local Resilience Forum, are well underway to ensure that the Council and Pembrokeshire are as well placed as possible for whatever challenges we may face. Thank you.”

“I am sure you will join me while I take a moment now to remember all those people in Pembrokeshire and further afield, who, very sadly, passed away since I made that announcement.

“I continue to be incredibly grateful, as I’m sure you are, to everyone who is helping to beat this pandemic, working so very hard now for over a year.

“We are fortunate now to be in a position where the vaccine programme is protecting older members of our community and starting to roll out among one of the biggest groups – the over 65s and those with underlying health conditions.

“This time next week (12th March) the Welsh Government will have notified us of their plans for the next three weeks.

“In the meantime, we remain in Alert Level 4 and the stay at home message continues to be more important than ever as we reach the threshold of better times.

“I wish you all a good weekend and thank you once again to the vast majority of wonderful Pembrokeshire residents who are doing the right thing and waiting patiently at home for restrictions to lift.

“We do really appreciate your efforts and determination to help bring this pandemic to an end.”

 

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Sergeant Hillier ‘died doing the job he loved’, says his heartbroken father

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THE ARMY SERGEANT who died after being injured in a live firing exercise, has been named locally.

The incident occurred at Castlemartin Training Area, and led to the death of Sgt Gavin Hillier, who was in the Welsh Guards.

In a post on social media, his father wrote: “Absolutely devastated to be writing this post, probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

“At 3.45am this morning I received a phone call that will forever change my life. My eldest son Gavin Mark Hillier was in a fatal accident yesterday in the army (the job he loved).

“Sleep tight & rest in peace son. I’m so proud of you. Goodnight and god bless, love your heartbroken dad.”

An Army spokesperson said: “It is with great sadness we can confirm the death of a soldier on March 4.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this tragic time.

“The circumstances surrounding this death are being investigated and it would be inappropriate to comment any further.”

It is understood that Sergeant Hillier, who served as part of the Welsh Guards’ motor transport platoon, was due to be deployed to Iraq and had previously been awarded a Long Service and Good Conduct medal by Prince Charles, the regiment’s Colonel in Chief, in 2019.

The tragic incident is the latest in a number of accidents at Castlemartin.

In 2017, The Herald reported that two soldiers died in a tank explosion, which a coroner ruled was due to a design flaw.

The following year, an Army captain was jailed in July 2018 after a 21-year-old soldier was killed by a stray bullet during an exercise at the range in 2012.

An investigation has been launched into the death of a soldier at Castlemartin RAC Range following a military exercise.

Police were called to the site at just before 10.45pm on March 4.

Sadly, a man was pronounced dead shortly after. Our thoughts are with his family, who have been informed of the incident and are being supported by specialist officers.

An investigation is underway led by Dyfed-Powys Police. Officers are liaising with the Health and Safety Executive and MoD.

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