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Will Lower Town be abandoned to the sea?

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Lower Town Fishguard

Lower Town Fishguard

CHAIRED by AM Paul Davies, residents of Fishguard and Goodwick attended a meeting to address representatives from the Pembrokeshire County Council and National Resources Wales, about the flooding issue which has long plagued Fishguard Lower Town.

The meeting was scheduled to discuss a Flood Investigation Report brought out by PCC on the topic of the serious flooding which occurred in 2014.

In 2014 the tidal surge saw water not only come from the sea to flood properties, but also up through drainage systems beneath houses, which proved an impossible force to tackle.

Starting off with Richard Wicks, Flood risk analysis team leader for the NRW speaking about the responsibilities NRW has and then going onto PCC’s Darren Thomas who explained the councils responsibility for the roads, highways and coastal protection constructions. Also attending was PCC’s Emyr Williams one of the coastal engineers and Pauline Louchart the emergency planning officer for the council.

What do the people of Lower Town think of the report?

In Mayor Richard Grosvenor’s absence, town Cllr Alex Allison spoke on behalf of the town and said: “One of the things I noticed in the report, I think on behalf of both agencies, it is a total abligation of their responsibilities, and that they’re passing this responsibility directly onto the local residents.

“The other thing that concerns me about the report is that you keep talking about projected frequencies, we know that in the last 10-15 years your projected frequencies have been blown right into the air.”

Also criticising the councils emergency efforts Cllr Allison said: “I also have to criticise the county council directly, in the actions they take when there is flooding.”

He continued: “To turn around and tell residents that if they want sand bags, they will have to buy them for themselves is again, a total abligation of their responsibilities.”

How does the report help the residents of Lower Town?

Getting down to the main issue the residents have with the report he also brought up the fact that, the report does not shed any light on future plans to tackle the flooding issue.

Alex Allison also brought up something mentioned in the report, which said that the cost of the properties has to outweigh that of the works being completed.

Following on from this he questioned how the works at Newgale were financially justified, where there is only ‘One pub and a field’ and not to save ‘125 houses in a historic village.’

He said: “I know a lot of people in the village feel the same way, that we are going to be abandoned in the long term.

“All we ask for is for you to tell us what plans you’ve got to stop it happening.”

Paul Davies then once again took the floor to highlight they key issues and possible ways to tackle them, which were brought up in the meeting directly following the 2014 flood crisis.

He also mentioned about the second flood which occurred just a month after the main issue which sparked the initiation of the report happened.

Some of the discussed flood defences included a “flood gate, and improvement to the old quay”, however he said: “No immediate solution was found, thus creating the need for the report.”

What do the locals think of the report?

Darren Thomas briefly explained the report: “We looked into what happened with the flooding, its causes, a summary of the incident, the responsibilities of those involved, and the conclusions and recommendations.”

“The report also includes technical details about the flooding for how our findings came about.”

He then welcomed questions from the attending audience. One man stepped up and began picking apart the report, he said: “In the conclusions and recommendations section you reference the operatives, who you say are trained, but it seems they need some guidance on where to place sand bags.”

He continued to explain an example where those placing sand bags had used ‘no common sense’ when placing them in non-strategic way.

Questioning the qualifications of those who wrote the report he also spoke about one possible flood defence strategy listed, and he himself being an engineer with over 50-years experience explained how the solution would make the flooding worse.

He then also stated that it was obvious that no public consultation had taken place when writing the report, because it was written from an unfamiliar perspective.

One lady asked why the report had taken two years to write, and questioned a point in the report which stated the sewage systems beneath the homes were deemed satisfactory following the January 2014 flooding.

She then went on to quote the report which said that no immediate action was needed in order to tackle the flooding issue, which she followed up by asking the rhetorical question: “What about the flooding which then occurred just one month on from that flood?”

Darren Thomas addressed the issue of the time it took to release the report and said: “This hasn’t just been sat on a desk waiting to be issued, it has gone through a process of consultation with stake holders and being drafted.”

Henry an attendee of the meeting began by stating he could match the engineering qualifications of those talking about the report and continued: “They built a refinery from scratch to produce oil in 18 months and you’ve taken two years to write a report which should have taken four at most.”

What is going to be done for the future?

Henry then proposed an idea and finishing with the question: “Are you going to do anything about the flooding or not?”

Bruce, another local, then picked more problems and issues with the plan when he was interrupted by Darren who said: “We’ve come along tonight to try and constructively discuss the issue, it is not constructive to keep just slagging off the report.

“We are here to go through the report and its findings.”

Richard Wicks added: “We do want to stop the flooding in Lower Town Fishguard and on the Abergwaun.”

He continued: “The first stage is to map where we actually are with the flooding, which we are doing, so please don’t think we don’t consider your small town here worth looking at.

Bringing up a few of the suggestions and problems with the proposed plans, Richard said about how Lower Town doesn’t just face tidal flooding but fluvial flooding from the river, he noted: “The last thing you want from us as engineers is to stop one type of flooding and leave you exposed to the other.”

Talking about more of the suggested solutions, he said that the cost would be very high for any considerable works and went on to explain the priority ranking system in place, which they advise the Welsh Government on.

Richard said: “Fishguard is about 400 on the list. Cardiff with it’s high population is top, as they are at risk of flooding with rising tide levels.

“Money would be much more wisely spent on areas like this with a high population. In time we will look at flood defences for Lower Town.”

Deputy Mayor, Mike Mayberry then spoke about Fishguard being so low down the list, and said about how places like Newgale where there are no residents effected have already had work started.

Darren went onto say that the work at Newgale isn’t about protecting houses or residents but is ‘managerial alignment’ after a ‘vulnerability survey’ showed the trunk road had only 10 years left before it was lost to the sea.

What was the final conclusion of the meeting?

More discussion about strategies to solve the problem, including short term suggestions about stopping traffic took place which Emyr said would be ‘extremely difficult to police’. The meeting continued to heat up and a local man left the meeting through frustration, of not hearing any actual solutions from the report which took two years to complete.

Highlighting that the meeting had started to snow ball and cross topics set out for discussion, Paul Davies pulled the meeting back and asked the panel to answer the question: “What solutions can you bring forward to start alleviating the issues?

“Because so far I am not hearing any.”

Richard from the NRW said that before work could be started, time has been taken to map the area and it’s specific issues, but further studies would need to take place to more studies and surveys would need to be completed.

He expressed that because it is a small harbour there are limits to what can be done, and lots of this they cannot do as it would spoil the scenery.

Paul Davies asked him to confirm: “Are you saying that further studies will need to be done?”

To which Richard replied: “Studies will be done, but I can’t promise you when they will be done, as any public funded body, we have to do things in a prioritised way.

“We have done what we can for Lower Town Fishguard.” He continued: “at the moment we have done what we can for residents in the short term.”

A local woman stood up and said: “So basically what you are saying is that you will not be doing anything!”

He responded: “I didn’t say that.” another man jumped in and said: “If it’s already taken two years to get this report, how many more years will it take for the next?”

Richard responded: “It really depends on availability of funds.”

Asked if they will be consulting the locals in any further reports, he replied by saying that they would. At which point several locals raised their voices and stated that is was not done with the current report.

The meeting closed with Richard saying that in the short term nothing will be done for Lower Town, and after being questioned as to how long ‘the short term’ was, he responded by saying it all depends on fund.

Richard then spoke about some solutions and concluded by saying: “If the cost of the measures are not much less than the damages that it is stopping, the works will not be allowed to go ahead.”

A local man asked: “I’ve got a simple question, give us a clue when it is going to start?”

Richard replied: “It is not in the short term, that is all I can say. It is all a question of resources and priority.”

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Trial of Haverfordwest primary school teacher starts at Swansea Crown Court

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A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher who is accused of sexually abusing eleven children thinks he is a victim of a witch hunt by the police, a jury has heard.

But at Swansea Crown Court on Monday (Apr 12), the Clare Wilks for the prosecution said that the defendant had “abused the trust of parents and staff” by sexually touching children in his care.

James Oulton, denies 30 charges of sexual assault against the eleven children who were aged eight or nine years old at the time.

The alleged offences took place between 2012 and 2018.

The jury heard how the pupils, now aged between 11 and 17, claimed he touched them sexually.

But the court was also told that Mr Oulton claimed he received cards at the end of term, and he believed letters sent by Pembrokeshire council to parents encouraged false complaints and collusion between pupils.

Oulton, 34, of Richmond Crescent, Haverfordwest, told the court he had behaved appropriately.

The jury heard how the alleged abuse occurred while Mr Oulton was working at a primary school in Haverfordwest.

Clare Wilks, prosecuting, said some of the children alleged that they had been assaulted on a daily basis, while others had had given statements to say it only happened the one time.

The trial continues.

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Kill the Bill protest to take place in Haverfordwest on Saturday

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INDIVIDUALS and activists from local groups, including Extinction Rebellion Pembrokeshire, Stand Up to Racism West Wales, Pembrokeshire People’s Assembly and Reclaim These Streets Pembrokeshire are campaigning against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and are to hold a demonstration against the Bill at 1pm this Saturday April 17, in Haverfordwest.
One of the organisers told  The Herald: “This is 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.
A peaceful, Covid-compliant march and rally will be taking place in Haverfordwest on Saturday April 17 , assembling at Picton Fields at 1pm.
People will be asked to wear masks and keep to social distancing regulations.  It is one of a number of protests being organised nationally on the same day against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill.
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Everything you need to know about the current coronavirus restrictions in Wales

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THE GOVERNMENT guidelines in Wales are changing today (Apr 12).

There are major changes coming into force today across the country as the government coronavirus guidelines are starting to relax.

The changes affect household bubbles, non-essential retail, education and travel.

As of Monday, April 12, the following changes have come into force:

  • Six people from two different households (not counting children under 11) can meet and exercise outdoors and in private gardens
  • Households or support bubbles can holiday in self-contained accommodation – including hotels with en-suite facilities
  • All pupils and students can now return to school, college and other education
  • All shops and close-contact services can open
  • The ban on travelling in and out of Wales has ended
  • Driving lessons can resume and some driving tests (Remainder on April 22)

Non-essential retail are able to open up today for the first time since the country was put into a national lockdown with non-essential retail ordered to close in December of last year.

With infection rates falling and the national vaccine rollout success, the Welsh Government have set out a road map of restriction easing.

Unlike England, the hospitality industry in Wales will have to wait until April 26 to open their doors to customers, but only for those who can operate in an outdoor space such as beer gardens.

The current guidelines in force for Wales are as follows:

Meeting friends and family

From May 3:

  • Two families can once again form an “extended household” and meet indoors.

The following rules currently apply:

  • Six people from two different households (not counting children under 11) can meet up outdoors, including gardens.
  • If you are an adult living alone or you’re a single responsible adult in a household (a single parent, for instance), you can form a support bubble with one other household.
  • You can also end it and form another support bubble with a different household, as long as you leave a 10-day gap between.

Going to work

  • You must work from home if you can. The only exceptions will be critical workers and jobs where working from home is not possible.
  • Tradespeople can work in someone else’s private home, as long as it is managed in a safe way and both the worker and household members are well and have no symptoms of coronavirus.

Schools and nurseries

  • All pupils will return to face-to-face teaching at school from 12 April.
  • From that date all students can return to further education and training centres.
  • University campuses will be able to open for blended (face-to face and online) learning for all students.
  • Internal GCSE, A-level and AS-level assessments have been cancelled.

Leisure time

From April 26:

  • Outdoor attractions, including funfairs and theme parks, will be allowed to reopen.
  • Outdoor hospitality can resume, including at cafes, pubs and restaurants, but indoor hospitality will remain restricted.

From May 3:

  • Organised outdoor activities for up to 30 people can again take place.
  • Gyms, leisure centres and fitness facilities can reopen. This will include individual or one-to-one training but not exercise classes.

The following rules currently apply:

  • Self-contained holiday accommodation, including hotels with en-suite facilities and room service, can open to people from the same household or support bubble.
  • Outdoor sports facilities such as golf, tennis and basketball are open. A maximum of six people from two households can take part.
  • Organised outdoor sport for under-18s can now take place.
  • All gyms and leisure centres are closed.
  • Professional sports will continue but stadiums are closed to fans.
  • Bars, restaurants, cafes and pubs are closed – except for takeaway and delivery.
  • The outdoor areas of some historic places and gardens can reopen in a limited way.
  • Libraries and archives can reopen

Shopping

From April 12:

  • All shops can reopen.
  • All close contact services such as hairdressers or beauty salons can open, including mobile services.

The following rules currently apply:

  • Hairdressers and barbers are open for business – by appointment only.
  • Non-essential shops remain closed.
  • Garden centres are now open.
  • Alcohol cannot be sold in shops between 22:00 and 06:00 BST.
  • Face coverings must be worn by customers and staff.
  • Indoor shopping should be done alone, or with people in your household.

Other

From April 12:

  • You can travel anywhere in the UK or the Common Travel Area (Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands)
  • Outdoor canvassing for the Welsh elections can begin.
  • Driving lessons can resume and some driving tests (remainder on 22 April).

From April 26:

  • Weddings receptions can take place outdoors, but will be limited to 30 people.

The following rules currently apply:

  • Weddings and civil partnerships can take place at licensed venues, but receptions are not allowed.
  • Care home residents can receive one designated visitor.
  • You can travel anywhere within Wales.
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