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New policy for fly grazing horses: will it work?

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Monkton: The Horse tethered to the ground near to Monkton Priory School

Monkton: The Horse tethered to the ground near to Monkton Priory School

PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL has developed a new way of dealing with horses fly grazing on council land.

The issue has been on-going for a number of years but until now there has not been one single point of contact to deal with the problem.

The Council’s Environmental Services now has the lead when dealing with fly grazing horses but will the new service actually work?

The Police have said that although they may be called to an incident, they are often in a difficult position when it comes to dealing with it and it takes them on average 1 hour and 22 minutes to deal with a stray horse.

It was also pointed that owners may not be willing to pay the fee required to get their horses back should the council have to take them away.

The Control of Horses act has been brought in across England while Carmarthenshire County Council has also embraced the act.

The horse has also been seen chasing after residents who have been walking their dogs.

SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

Discussions were held at a meeting of the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday, March 15.

The Committee has been concerned about the issue for a number of months and had asked what could be done to tackle the problem.

Previously, there were no specific resources available for dealing with horses fly grazing on Council land and any issue would have to be dealt with within existing budgets.

At a meeting in November 2015, the Environment committee recommended that a working group be set up to look at a way forward.

A meeting of the Heads of Service of Property (Barry Cooke), Highways and Construction (Darren Thomas), Environment and Civil Contingencies (Richard Brown) and Public Protection (Mark Elliot) on February 11, 2016 and they have come up with a way forward.

Environmental services have been tasked with being the main point of contact for issues around horses fly grazing on council land.

It was also agreed that the incidences would be dealt with on a case by case basis when either;

• A horse is posing a realistic threat to people or property

• A horse is posing a realistic threat to the health and welfare of people and animals or,

• A horse has strayed onto the highway

Enforcement action will not be taken if a horse is securely tethered and tendered.

Any costs incurred will be left to the service responsible for the land where the horse is found.

At the meeting of the Environment Committee in March councillors were concerned that the police had little powers when it comes to dealing with fly grazing and also spoke about adding signs to help prevent future issues.

Head of Environment and Civil Contingencies, Richard Brown said: “We have agreed a way forward with Barry Cooke, Mark Elliot (Head of Public Protection) and Lyn Hambidge.

“Environmental services will act as a lead co-ordination body for dealing with all fly-grazing issues. So at the moment there is confusion, lack of clarity and ultimately lack of action in the way that things are currently going on.

“Essentially we’re proposing an approach which is, the best analogy is similar to something of an abandoned car or a stray dog, you have a single point of contact, it doesn’t matter whose land it is on, whether it is running between housing land or highway land or play areas, we just have one section dealing with it who’s got the knowledge, the legal authority to be able to deal with it and the understanding of it.

“We won’t have an automatic assumption of dealing with it. We’ll be looking at whether or not it is posing a risk or there has got to be some other overwhelming reason that we want to tackle it.

“We are fully aware that and don’t disagree with what was said previously regarding costs but having had a look into it and haven spoke to Carmarthen, the costs are not insignificant.

“The value of the horse is next to nothing, we have to pay somebody to come along and take the horse away, stable it, give it a medical check over and then retain it for a period of time and the likelihood is nobody is going to come and claim it and pay what’s going to be several hundred pound at least, so essentially we are taking in horses and then we have to make a decision about what happens to them.

“Internal protocol is being developed but we’re here just to address your concerns regarding a single point of contact.”

The Council had also invited two police sergeants to the meeting to ask what the police could do in relation to fly grazing horses.

DYFED-POWYS POLICE

Sgt Terri Harrison said: “The majority of calls we have relate to horses straying onto the highway as opposed to horses fly grazing and whether it be private or public land.

“We have had a number of calls but I think that you’d be surprised at the amount of calls we do have that aren’t reflected in your concerns.

“We’ve got the stats from our headquarters and they are not reflective with the concerns that have been brought to our attention in the last few days. Certainly we are not getting calls regarding horses fly grazing on council land.

“The majority of calls that we tend to are horses, cattle, and livestock roaming on the highways which of course we can deal with.

“I know that Carmarthenshire County Council has embraced the new Control of Horses Act that came in 2014 and they have seized a large amount of horses since then. They work with animal welfare and they take them away and obviously there is seven days when they can keep them, until the owners or the location of the horses are known then they will apply to them to try and get the money back but that is not happening because these will say it is not mine and there are so many families with the same name so sometimes it is really hard to get hold of them.

“What we need to do as a police force is that if we do come across these and somebody comes up to us says that is their horse, we need to take initial action and get their details from them there and then.

“With regards to fly grazing we are not having the calls at all and, with due respect, it is not really in our remit unless it is a public concern of community safety or danger.”

Cllr Brian Hall said: “The animals that are roaming have obviously come from somewhere, usually tethered on to council or private land and they have broken their tethers.”

Sgt Harrison replied: “On occasion, I wouldn’t say the majority of times.”

PROBLEMS IN MONKTON

There is a significant issue in Monkton, Cllr Pearly Llewellyn’s ward, and she was also invited to the committee to give here views.

Cllr Llewellyn said: “There is one particular problem which is a stallion that is tethered on community ground. It’s been there five to seven weeks.

“It’s a huge animal; it’s got full length of the tether across the community ground. Children can’t go on it to play football and it is also a favourite place for dogs to walk.

“I made an approach, because we found out who the owner was and happened to be passing through and I saw the owner moving the tether. So I went up to him and I said I don’t want to cause an argument but do you know you are not supposed to be here. I had a load of abuse from him and he kept walking around and he said ‘there is nothing wrong with my horse, it’s well fed, it’s watered, I’ll do what I want to do and if I want to put my horse here I will.’

“On March 9, I had a telephone call to say the horse was in the school grounds galloping round and the children are coming into the school.

“Another person saw to the horse and caught it and the horse pulled him around and hit him into the hedge where he damaged his hand. So he tied the horse up to the nearest place where he could tie it so the owner came to retrieve the horse and take it back where it had come from.

“The deputy head teacher said he was going to report it to the police and they said that school gates were going to be locked.

“I was fearing for my safety that night thinking there was going to be repercussions.

“They’re just not taking any notice, and the problem I have had is being passed from department to department so there has to be a point of contact and there has to be something done to stop whoever it is tethering horses on council land.

“There was an incident in the middle of the night and five horses had got out into South Meadows on a private housing estate rampaging through there. The Police were called and the wrong owner was contacted. They eventually did get the owner and the owner of those horses in in the field not with the permission of the land owner so they can’t do anything about it.

“Some years ago we had a meeting with the gypsy community, RSPCA and police to find out if there is any land available that these gypsies could rent or buy to put their horses on. The man from the RSPCA came up with the idea that he would get some funding to chip these horses and passport them so nothing ever happened after that meeting.

“What I want is notices put up on spare ground in Monkton, not a little notice, I want a big notice knocked into the ground that says horses are not allowed.”

Richard Brown responded saying: “I don’t think those experiences have held the council in a particularly good light. I’ll apologise on behalf of the officers because that isn’t what you should be experiencing.

“I think going forward, what we need to look at isn’t just enforcement, we need to work with the police, with gypsy liaison officers, things like signs.

“We want prevention as the start, we don’t want to just take horses away, we want to stop it happening in the first place. I think that is going to be a wider piece of work than just having a horse warden to take them off.

“It might be that we want to look at providing opportunities or facilitating grazing arrangements, I don’t know. There is a piece of work to do here and we have the advantage that Carmarthenshire is well ahead of us on this. They have had some significant problems down in Llanelli where roads have been closed for several days at a time because horses have got loose down one of the main roads.

“I think we probably are going to have to bit the bullet and get a few horses picked up to let people know that we are serious and that if they do leave them there, there are going to be consequences. I think at the moment they have done it without fear of consequences.”

It was pointed out that since Carmarthen had introduced the Control of Horses act, the number of seizures had reduced from 38 in 2014 to just 4 so far in 2016.

Sgt Geraint Lewis added: “The problem you have from a police perspective is that we are going there to educate and then we look at the enforcement side of it; if we can’t enforce what we’ve actually educated it will have no impact whatsoever. We’ve got no powers to enforce fly grazing.

“If you’ve got a report of horses in the night on a main road and they attend, it is difficult for them to actually deal with that if you’ve got no one to come along and move the horses from the highway.

“The police then are in a difficult position; either we stay there for hours on end closing both sides of the road or you look at a common sense procedure to alleviate the problem and put them into the nearest field, that then obviously causes problems if there are issues within that field and there are bills coming to Dyfed- Powys Police for damage to field where horses have been placed into so there is not an easy fix in any shape or form to this.”

Cllr Brian Hall added: “Prevention is the way forward. The last thing the police want to deal with is if one of these horses gets out, and the council wouldn’t want it, because then the gates would be open, because we would liable if it’s on our land for any claims and I wouldn’t want you or us to deal with any fatality.”

Sgt Lewis highlighted that the problem was not just relevant to Pembroke and listed a number of statistics for other areas of the county.

He told the committee that there were 17 calls to stray horses on the road in Kilgetty in the last eighteen months and 9 in Tenby and Milford Haven. There were also 24 in Pembroke, 18 in Pembroke Dock and 5 in Haverfordwest.

Sgt Lewis added: “The problem you’ve got is that it’s taking officers an awful long time to deal with these problems. It’s taking officers an hour and 22 minutes on average to deal with each call of horses. That’s an awful lot of police time dealt with horses.”

Richard Brown said that staff would be trained as quickly as they possibly can.

Cllr Lyn Jenkins said: “The people who have these horses are not stupid. They know the law and I am sure they know that if you come along with a blue light there is nothing you can do apart from get them to make the horse safe and you’re not going to prosecute them.”

Cllr Brian Hall said unless they made an example the issue would go on and on.

Cllr Tony Wilcox added that the issue could not be ignored and that it had to be addressed.

It is hoped that the number of complaints will go down once the new policy is put in place but there are still concerns as to how it will be dealt with.

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News

Simon Hart MP says that First Minister is ‘reckless’ to say that the UK is ‘as it is, over’

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THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WALES, Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire MP Simon Hart, said that the First Minister for Wales, Mark Drakeford is wrong to suggest that the United Kingdom has had its day in its current form.

The First Minister’s exact words were “the UK as it is; is over”.

Mr Drakeford’s has said a new union should be created to reflect a “voluntary association of four nations”.

In his conference speech, the Welsh Labour leader called for “home rule for Wales in a successful United Kingdom”.

In a strong rebuke of Mark Drakeford’s comments Simon Hart MP said on the BBC’s politics Wales programme on Sunday (Mar 7) that his suggestion was “reckless” and “an overt act of flirtation with Plaid Cymru.”

Mr Hart added: “I think he realises if he wants to remain first minister he has to do a deal with Plaid, it’s the only option on the table. He hasn’t denied that, I’ve heard.

“In order to do that he has to start making noises about the union that has to appeal to his Plaid Cymru colleagues. I think it’s quite a reckless thing.”

Mr Hart explained that the UK “benefits” Wales and that the UK-wide procurement of Covid-19 vaccines proves this. He added: “It demonstrates just one example that the UK is a positive influence but it doesn’t mean that some of the other arguments are not valid”.

Plaid Cymru wants to hold a referendum on Welsh independence if it wins May’s Senedd election, but the power to do so lies at Westminster.

There has been a growing interest in more independence for Wales in the last few years, with a huge surge in membership of the non-political Yes Cymru group since the start of the pandemic.

Plaid leader Adam Price, speaking on the same programme, said: “We sincerely believe that independence is ultimately the only sustainable way whereby Wales can achieve its incredible potential as a nation that isn’t being delivered at the moment and whereby we can achieve social and economic justice for everyone that lives in Wales.”

Giving evidence to the Welsh Affairs Select Committee on Thursday, which The Herald was invited attended via a Zoom, Mr Drakeford explained said his idea of home-rule meant “the powers we have, and the devolution settlement we develop, would be guaranteed and would not be interfered with in the way we have seen so vividly in recent months”.

Mr Drakeford said: “I do think the effect of the pandemic and last 12 months has been to polarise opinion in Wales about how Wales should be governed.

“There are some people who take a lesson that we would be better off handing Wales back to Whitehall, there are some Conservative candidates standing in the Senedd elections who apparently take that view.

“It has undoubtedly strengthened interest in those people who believe Wales should be taken out of the United Kingdom altogether.”

The company which runs The Pembrokeshire Herald, Herald News UK, has recently launched a national news website for Wales which is sympathetic to Welsh independence.

This is something which could not have happened without a shift in feeling by many in Wales that as a nation it should have more autonomy.

Speaking on ITN’s News at Ten on Thursday (Mar 4), Herald.Wales South and West Wales Editor, Tom Sinclair said: “From our test marketing we can see that there certainly is a huge appetite for news that is about Wales, made in Wales, and owned by a company which is actually Welsh.”

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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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