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Council ‘supports’ Narberth School developers

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map1PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL has told The Herald that ‘it continues to support’ the developers behind a controversial scheme to redevelop the site of Narberth’s former school.

The Council’s assertion was made in response to questions from this newspaper which asked for a statement from the Head of Property, Barry Cooke, as to whether the current proposed development meets the criteria set when the preferred developer was selected by the local authority.

We also asked for confirmation from Mr Cooke on whether or not the Council considers the current proposals advanced by the developers were complementary to or in competition with the present town centre retail mix.

We received a statement from a Council spokesperson which said: ‘At its meeting of 12th September, Cabinet noted the recommendation of the Economy Overview and Scrutiny Committee to uphold the decision that it took at the Cabinet meeting of 4th July.

‘This was that the Council continues to support the preferred developer of the mixed retail and residential scheme at the former Narberth school site in bringing the development to fruition.

‘This was on the proviso that this support be withdrawn if the developers fail to secure the tenants and commence the scheme by 31st December.

‘The Council is continuing to support the developers on this basis.’

East Williamston county councillor Jacob Williams has recently provided further background to the Narberth School development in an article on his website jacobwilliams.com.

Councillor Williams report that, despite agreeing a sale price for the former school to Abbeymore Estates and Knox & Wells Ltd, the council failed to finalise the sale price for the former school. All the while, when Sainsburys were being flagged as anchor tenants for the development, it seems that the Council had failed to complete the formality of tying the developer to a price for the premises.

After failing to progress the development for two years, the developers then returned to the Council to ask for a loan and what Jacob Williams describes as ‘a substantial reduction on their previously-agreed sale price’.

In response to that request, Councillor Williams reveals that the County Council’s Cabinet agreed – in secret session – to cut its price for the school by a third the Narberth sale price by a third!

The scheme, which had by now radically changed from the original proposal, was not re-tendered.

In fact, The Herald can reveal that the Council had expressed serious reservations about what the developer was proposing to replace the original scheme.

In a letter to the developers, the Head of Property said: ‘I regret to advise that … the line-up of retail uses has departed too significantly from that envisaged when your companies were appointed as preferred bidder to the point that the Council no longer believes they meet the criteria set’.

Mr Cooke goes on to point out that the plans were to complement the retail mix of the town centre, but that the proposals being advanced by Abbeymore and Knox & Wells would ‘impact on the sustainability of existing businesses’ in the town centre.

The Herald understands that a briefing note prepared by the Head of Property sets out a new proposed anchor tenant for the development, whom we believe – from information received from a local business owner – to be the Co-op.

It is not clear what, if anything, Councillors were told either of the Council’s reservations; or what, if anything, they have been told of the new proposed anchor tenant for the troubled site. However, Cllr Jacob Williams paints a vivid picture of the discussions held in July this year from which the public were excluded.

Cllr Williams writes: ‘Narberth’s local member, Cllr. Wynne Evans, flipped his lid – only after the meeting was in private session, though.

‘Shouting, banging the table and using words that, had I used, would be frowned upon, Cllr. Evans stressed that progress needed to be made without delay.

‘His passionate plea worked, and committee members seemed to come to the view that, as PCC had gone down the path so far with the favoured redevelopment company, there was only one way they could continue – and it involved splashing the cash.

‘But what readers probably don’t know is that during the behind-closed-doors scrutiny call-in of the Narberth deal, after much probing of officers by Cllr. Mike Evans, councillors were told that, amid the media controversy of cabinet’s decision to offer the loan and slash the price – and my call-in of the decision – a separate, unsolicited expression of interest for the site’s redevelopment had been received by the council’.

The deadline for Abbeymore Estates and Knox & Wells Ltd to start the development is December 31.  If the developers are not in a position to start then, there remain questions as to why – when the scope of the scheme and the range of support being offered to prospective developers changed so dramatically and included a significant price reduction and a seven-figure loan – the project was not re-tendered; and how the Council found itself – two years after it had awarded a contract to a preferred bidder – with an undeveloped site in Narberth. It remains to be seen whether the Council will give its ‘preferred bidder’ more time or whether it will then find itself in a worse position with a prospective new developer, well-aware of what has gone wrong this time round.

And finally, if Abbeymore Estates and Knox & Wells Ltd do proceed, what will happen to those businesses in the town centre which the council considers could be affected by the revised scheme? If the scheme advanced is the one that the council thought would affect the sustainability of those businesses, it is likely to find itself embroiled in a lengthy legal fight once final plans are brought forward for consideration.

As things stand, plans to demolish the school are being prepared with an alternative use for the school site as a short-term car park being considered as a contingency plan.

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Further coronavirus restriction relaxations brought forward

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FURTHER changes to the coronavirus restrictions have been announced by the First Minister Mark Drakeford today.

The Welsh Government has confirmed further relaxations will be brought forward from 17 May to 3 May – including the resumption of indoor supervised activities for children, indoor organised activities for up to 15 adults, such as exercise classes, and the re-opening of community centres.

This means Wales will have completed the move to Alert Level 3 by Monday 3 May.

From Saturday 24 April, the rule of 6 will allow for up to six people from six households to meet outdoors, not including children under 11 years of age or carers from those households.

The Welsh Government has also confirmed the relaxations that will take place on Monday 26 April. Outdoor attractions, including outdoor swimming pools, funfairs and theme parks, will be allowed to reopen, while outdoor hospitality can also resume, including at cafes, pubs and restaurants.

Organised outdoor activities for up to 30 people will be able to take place and weddings receptions can begin again outdoors for up to 30 people.

Wales has the lowest coronavirus rates of the UK nations.  The successful vaccine programme continues with a higher proportion of people vaccinated in Wales than other nations of the UK for both first and second doses.

Changes from Monday 3 May:

  • Gyms, leisure centres and fitness facilities being able to reopen;
  • People will also again be able to form extended households with one other household.

Relaxations planned for 17 May will be brought forward to the 3 May, including:

  • The resumption of indoor supervised activities for children;
  • Indoor organised activities for up to 15 adults (such as exercise classes and swimming lessons);
  • And the re-opening of community centres.

The First Minister said:

“The sacrifices we have made continue to show results. By us all working together and sticking to the rules, combined with our vaccination programme, mean we continue to make progress. Rates of the virus continue to fall and the public health situation is improving. 

“Due to these efforts we are able confirm more easing of the restrictions from 26 April and for early May we are again able to bring forward some of our plans. However, this progress is dependent on all of us continuing to work together to keep Wales safe.

“At the last three-week review, I set out a forward-look of how the restrictions could continue to be lifted in the weeks ahead, if the public health situation remains stable.

“It will be for the incoming Welsh Government to confirm these arrangements at the next three-week review, which will be held on May 13 – a week after the election. It is my assessment that the hospitality sector – bars, pubs, restaurants and cafes – will be able to open indoors from May 17, together with all other tourist accommodation, indoor entertainment and attractions.”

Further possible easements are subject to the public health situation remaining favourable.

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Tragedy above Milford Haven takeaway

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DYFED POWYS POLICE has confirmed that a 20-year-old male passed away in Milford Haven last Saturday, April 17.

Police were called to the USA Fried Chicken store on Charles Street at around 1:30pm but have said there are no suspicious circumstances.

A Herald reporter was at the scene and witnessed a number of police cars and an ambulance while plain-clothed officers were also seen.

HM Coroner has been informed.

A Welsh Ambulance Service spokesperson added: “We were called to Charles Street in Milford Haven on Saturday 17 April at approximately 1.34pm to reports of a medical emergency. We attended the scene with one emergency ambulance where we assisted colleagues from the police.”

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Health

Tavernspite School the ‘healthiest of schools despite the pandemic’

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THE STAFF, governors, parents, and of course, the children of Tavernspite Community Primary School are delighted to gain the Welsh Network of Healthy School Schemes National Quality Award for an incredible 5th time after a recent and very rigorous assessment.

The school is already well known and highly regarded for its outstanding work in developing the health and wellbeing of all members of its school community. To achieve this prestigious recognition in the midst of a pandemic is all the more impressive. 

Health and Wellbeing at the school is led by teacher, Lauren Arthur, who has done an incredible job preparing for this re-assessment and raising the profile of the Healthy Schools scheme.

The assessor Mrs Lynne Perry, enjoyed a virtual tour and presentation by Year 3 pupils who took great pleasure in proudly showing Mrs Perry all the wonderful work the school has done to ensure its children are safe, happy with high levels of emotional and physical wellbeing.

In her report, Mrs Perry wrote, ‘Tavernspite School continues to be an outstanding health promoting school. The health promoting school ethos is evident across the whole school population and it runs seamlessly throughout everything that the school does. Tavernspite School continues to give high priority to promoting and enhancing the health and well-being of the whole school community.’

The school received fantastic support from Mrs Liz Western, Senior Public Health Officer and Lead for Healthy Schools and Pre-schools, Pembrokeshire, to whom they are very grateful.

Head teacher Kevin Phelps said, ‘We were delighted to receive this award for the fifth time, particularly considering the experiences we have all been through these past twelve months. Health and wellbeing has never been so important and we are proud to be leading the way like this.’

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