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£1.25m town centre cash for Port to develop ‘private rented accommodation’

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stores2AN EXAMINATION of the minutes of the meeting of a key council committee that took place in June reveals that the Milford Haven Town Centre Regeneration Scheme, for which the county council secured funding from the Welsh Government, was focused on the improvement, repair, and refit of the former Motorworld building in the town’s Charles Street until at least June this year.

However, during the meeting of the council’s Economy Overview and Scrutiny Committee, not a single councillor mentioned Milford Haven at all, and, while the other five towns targeted for town centre regeneration had a number of projects as part of plans affecting them, the only item under consideration for the whole of Milford Haven’s town centre was the former Motorworld building.

And while the committee ‘noted progress’ it is impossible to ascertain what progress had been made regarding Milford Haven – if any – as it is barely referenced – other than on one line listing the Charles Street building – in the report councillors received.

plan
The funding intended to regenerate the town centre has now been directed to the controversial Masterplan submitted by the Milford Haven Port Authority, with the council directing the funding that should have gone to the town centre to the Port’s plans for the Old Quay Stores.

The fact that the Port development is not related to the town centre of Milford Haven is shown by the content of the original planning report on the Port Masterplan, which states “The application describes the development as delivering a new commercial and leisure quarter for Milford Haven, a distinctive place with its own unique character and revitalising the fishing port and leisure marina.”

And, in relation to the proposed retail development of the docks, the same report draws a firm distinction between the port and the town centre: “The proposed food and non-food retail stores will be within walking distance of the town centre. Indeed, the proposals are between, and adjacent to, two parcels of the defined town centre…. It has been concluded that there will be only a limited impact on the town centre and there is a lack of suitable alternative sites within the town centre.”

Bearing in mind the ‘limited impact’ on the town centre of the proposed retail development, it is difficult to make the idea that town centre regeneration funds should be allocated to the Port as anything other than a considerable stretch, not least as the Port masterplan is keen to draw a distinction between the facilities on offer there and those in the town itself.

Moreover, when the council’s Cabinet discussed the matter on September 12, the fact that the Old Quay stores is not part of the town centre is demonstrated by the preamble to its discussion in the Cabinet papers: “Following a meeting with Milford Haven Port Authority, an application has been submitted to assist with the start of the delivery of their Masterplan. The focus of the bid will be the Quay Stores building and adjacent land, which will assist with connecting the town centre with the marina.”

The development shown on the Masterplan for that building is a hotel. However, the plan discussed and approved by Cabinet for the location is to provide private rented accommodation.

There appears to be the familiar signs of a hasty re-jig of policies against a timetable that has become tight due to council inertia, and warnings were given at the Cabinet meeting on September 12 that there was a deadline imminent for drawing down the funds. The details of the meeting between the county council at the Port Authority which apparently stitched up the deal were not before the Cabinet and remain unpublished.

Neil Jenkins, Destination Director at the Port of Milford Haven, said: “The Port of Milford Haven has applied for the maximum loan amount of £1.25m from the Welsh Government Town Centre Loan Fund to assist with the redevelopment of the Quay Stores building, a listed building within the Port’s property portfolio. Under the terms of the loan scheme the sum would be repaid over five years.

“If the application is approved, detailed planning permission would be sought from Pembrokeshire County Council, along with listed building consent. Subject to gaining the necessary consents and entering into tenancy agreements, work would hopefully start on site in 2017.”

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Castell Howell Foods highlights sector concerns over Covid recovery

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THE HOSPITALITY sector may be opening up, but transport and supply issues are hampering the industry’s recovery – according to Castell Howell Foods.

One of the UK’s largest independent food wholesalers, Castell Howell, has taken the step of contacting customers to highlight the significant challenges faced by the sector as it recovers from the pandemic.

While there is relief at easing lockdown and optimism for a busy summer with bookings for UK ‘staycations’ and leisure activities, pressing issues remain.

Shortages of key staff and problems faced by some suppliers have resulted in the Welsh wholesaler being forced to make some “uncomfortable” decisions and changes to its operation, including having to pass on some supply chain price increases.

In particular, a shortage of qualified delivery drivers has meant the Cross Hands based business has had to be resourceful to maintain its delivery frequency to its customers. To help bridge the gap in the short term, other Castell Howell staff who hold an HGV licence have been temporarily redeployed to the transport department. Among them are area sales managers.

Castell Howell Sales Director, Kathryn Jones, said “Unfortunately, due to the drastic reduction in sales in 2020, our workforce decreased by over 100 colleagues. Whilst we now need most to return to the workplace, many have found alternative employment; this is a common theme across the supply chain.

“We have been actively advertising and recruiting for several months. However, as highlighted in the press, there are over 75,000 vacancies across the UK for HGV drivers alone.

“We too are currently short of drivers, especially Class 2 HGV. Driving a multi-drop vehicle for Castell Howell is a very different proposition to driving a limited drop schedule. Consequently, as you can imagine, it has been challenging to fill these vacancies.”
Stock availability is also an issue, as some suppliers struggle to manufacture under new social distancing rules. Delivery to Castell Howell from suppliers is also being affected by the UK-wide shortage of haulage drivers.

Kathryn Jones said, “To build up buffer stocks, we are increasing our volume of orders, especially for commodity lines. We aim to mitigate future stock shortages the best we can. We are constantly seeking substitute products from manufacturers who have the capacity to deliver. However, this is becoming increasingly more difficult.”

Castell Howell has made changes to its ordering process to improve its own deliveries, with earlier cut-off times.

“These changes go against the grain and were extremely difficult decisions to take. However, it is imperative to implement these in order to continue operating under these difficult circumstances whilst still maintaining a high level of service. We are very grateful to our customers for their support, patience and understanding.”

For Castell Howell, the difficulties arising from the pandemic were exacerbated by the loss of business with SA Brain & Co. This loss occurred following the Welsh company’s deal with brewery giant Marston’s to operate SA Brains pubs from January 2021.

Before that date, Castell Howell had been the sole supplier to SA Brain since 2008, including supplying 80 of the Welsh brewery’s managed public houses.

Kathryn Jones said, “However, despite the challenges in the supply chain and deliveries, we remain optimistic that the sector in the UK will work together to navigate through these unprecedented times and have a successful summer.”

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Port boss: Pembroke Dock development full permission an ‘important step’

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THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE of the Port of Milford Haven has welcomed a decision of “non-intervention” by the Welsh Government over plans to re-vamp Pembroke Dock’s historic port facilities.

The redevelopment scheme, approved by Pembrokeshire County Council’s Planning Committee in May, will see some areas such as a dock covered with sand and “infilled”.

Plans also include the demolishing of some buildings, erection of buildings and ancillary works.
Despite planning being granted at council level, full authorisation to go ahead with the development was not to be issued until the Welsh Government made its decision regards the matter.

More about the planning application can be read here: https://www.herald.wales/west-wales/pembrokeshire/major-marine-project-causes-concern-about-visual-impact-and-heritage-loss/

Now that the Welsh Government has decided not to interfere with Pembrokeshire County Council’s grant of planning permission, the Port’s boss, Andy Jones, expressed his delight, saying: “This marks an important step forward in the development of Wales’ clean energy centre at Pembroke Dock.

“It will provide sustainable opportunities for the many people who rely on the activity along the Milford Haven Waterway for employment.

CEO: Port Authority’s Andy Jones (Pic MHPA)

“Pembroke Dock Marine will unlock new opportunities for young people to enter the maritime, renewable and engineering sectors, build resilience within Pembrokeshire’s business community, and make a positive contribution to our natural environment as we transition to a low carbon energy generation.”

Tim James, head of commercial and energy at the Port of Milford Haven called the project a “once in a generation opportunity to improve Pembrokeshire’s economy for years to come”.

Objectors had complained that the plans were too large and would damage the historic dockyard, as well as having a visual impact on the dock.

The was opposition from local heritage campaigners, with complaints over the size of two huge proposed hangars which the project’s critics said would impact adversely the landscape.

The economic benefits of the £60 million marine energy “far outweigh” any impact on the historic environment, a report earlier this year to council planners said.

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Medical evacuation from LPG tanker off St Ann’s Head

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ANGLE Lifeboat was launched on service at 12:59pm on Thursday afternoon (Jun 10) to assist in a medical evacuation from a LPG tanker 13 miles SSW off St Ann’s Head.

The coastguard helicopter from Newquay in Cornwall was also on route. With the poor visibility due to fog, Angle all-weather lifeboat was to stand by the vessel to provide an alternative route for evacuation if needed.

After a choppy route in the poor visibility the RNLI volunteers arrived on scene at 2:07pm.

At the time of their arrival, the paramedic from the coastguard helicopter was aboard the vessel preparing the casualty to be winched to the helicopter.

In less than ten minutes the casualty was winched up to the helicopter and flown to hospital, at which point the lifeboat and crews were stood down and headed back to the station.

After rehousing shortly after 3:30pm the lifeboat was washed fuelled and made ready for service shortly after.

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