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PM’s flying visit

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flying visitTHE FIRST visit to Pembrokeshire by a serving UK Prime Minister since 1991 took place in a mist shrouded Newgale on Wednesday, February 19.

Landing by helicopter, the Prime Minister’s visit included a visit to the Duke of Edinburgh pub, pictures of which, surrounded by flood waters and the remains of sea defences, have become iconic images of the recent storms.

Jasper Slater, the owner of the pub for fourteen years told The Herald: “The Prime Minister arrived by helicopter and landed in the car park. He was greeted at the door of the pub by myself and was shown around the damage by landlord Chris Lugg and his partner. He looked around and spoke with the workmen inside such as plasters and electricians. He was very interested to see how the bad storms had affected the community and offered his concerns.”

The Prime Minister joked to Mr Slater that he may be back to enjoy a pint with him once the reconstruction work was completed.

Later during his visit, the Prime Minister called in at St David’s Assemblies’ plant on Glasfryn Road, St David’s and met with local and national press representatives.

Herald assistant editor, Jon Coles, attended along with representatives of the Western Mail, Western Telegraph, and Radio Pembrokeshire. He writes:The road to St David’s was shrouded in mist as the local press headed to and from the site of St David’s Assemblies Ltd, a leading supplier of parts to the automotive and domestic appliance industries. Stephen Crabb, MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire told the local press pool:

“It’s quite surprising that this type of manufacturing still exists in a place like St David’s. There are high-quality, skilled jobs, employing local people on good wages. The company has partnerships with local colleges to train apprentices and employs over forty people, many of them women. This is a Pembrokeshire success story.”

There was quite a wait to see the Prime Minister, before the four of us were ushered into a small office to ask one question each to David Cameron. He’s significantly less full-faced than he appears on television: dressed down for his visit, as you might expect, he was friendly in the way that professional politicians are friendly and invited us to sit down with him around a low table for what was described as “a huddle”.

He was clear and precise with his answers. On the issue of tackling flooding, David Cameron said:

“Tackling floods is a devolved issue to the Welsh Government. I rang the First Minister to offer military help. Of course, there is the question of insurance, which is not devolved and we shall be speaking to the Welsh Government about that. In terms of offering additional funding, funding for flood defences is a devolved issue and we have the Barnett formula for public funding in Wales. We (the UK government) are always happy to talk with the Welsh Government about needs and problems. That is one of the reasons we have come today”

With roads blocked and railways damaged, the question of what opportunities existed to review and replace existing transport infrastructure:

“In England, there is an annual review of the resilience of our transport infrastructure. In Wales, that process is a devolved area. I think it is sensible, once the flood waters have drained down, to ask how we can better build in resilience to our infrastructure, for example signalling equipment able to withstand flooding. I am sure the Welsh Government will be doing that and we will share expertise and experience with them.”

In relation to “planned withdrawal” from coastal areas, David Cameron was forthright:

“I think we should look at our flood defences and work out how to make them more robust. Where I was this morning (Newgale) was flooded from in front and behind, from the river and the sea. It was flooded twice in one month. We need to make sure that we restore the defences from the sea and clear the river. We shouldn’t feel powerless in the face of these extreme weather events. Of course, across the UK many thousands of homes were flooded, but flood defences protected over a million homes. I am confident in using modern technology and improving our forecasting, we can protect ourselves even better.”

On a change of tack, the Prime Minister took a strongly partisan line to a question about Withybush Hospital:

“Health is a matter for the Welsh Government. I’m very clear that the Welsh Government, controlled by Labour, made a bad decision because they decided to cut the funding to the Health Service. In England, we took the decision to protect the funding for the Health Service. So we’re not making cuts to the health budgets in England, we’re protecting them. Here in Wales, they are being cut; they are being cut by over eight percent and that has had very bad consequences for the NHS in Wales. That was a political decision taken by the Labour Party in Cardiff and I think it was a mistake.”

And that was it, polite exchanges, 5 minutes out of the Prime Minister’s schedule, and he was ushered out to meet the BBC and ITV Wales. While we waited for the camera crews to clear the outside of the building, we took the chance to speak with Stephen Crabb, who praised the efforts of local council workers during the recent floods.

“Today the Prime Minister has paid tribute to the County Council’s workers who helped keep Pembrokeshire open during the recent storms, during which the County Council got a lot of things right. The way in which it used social media to get information quickly to the public was particularly effective.”

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Rochdale car dealer fined for duping Pembrokeshire buyer

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A USED car dealership based in Rochdale, Lancashire, has been convicted of offences relating to the sale of a falsely described vehicle to a Pembrokeshire buyer.

Fines and prosecution costs totalling £4,600 were awarded against The Car Corner Limited by Haverfordwest Magistrates on Thursday (14th November).

The case was prosecuted by Pembrokeshire County Council’s Trading Standards team – part of the authorities’ Public Protection service – and was instigated by a consumer complaint from Graham Fisher of Camrose.

The court heard that Mr Fisher had purchased a second-hand Ford Maverick from the Rochdale garage in August 2018 after seeing it advertised online.

He phoned Car Corner to check whether the car was still for sale and specifically asked whether there was any corrosion on the car – particularly on the rear wheel arches and the sills.

He was told on the phone that “there was a little bit on one side and none on the other”.

The sales description listed the car as in “excellent condition”. Based on these descriptions; Mr Fisher purchased the car and arranged delivery.

Upon delivery of the car to Pembrokeshire by the dealer, Mr Fisher found that the car was considerably corroded on both rear wheel arches and on both sills. He attempted to reject the car and refused delivery. However, the car was left outside the delivery address without his consent and the trader refused to provide a full refund.

An independent report commissioned by Mr Fisher confirmed that the car was excessively corroded on the wheel arches and inner sills. He stated that had he been made aware of the corrosion he would not have purchased the car.

He later complained to Pembrokeshire Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline.

Although the dealership denied the charges, it was found guilty of two offences contrary to the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

The company was found not guilty in respect of two additional charges relating to the car’s safety.

Car Corner was fined a total of £2,000 and ordered to pay £2,500 in prosecution costs to Pembrokeshire County Council. A victim surcharge of £100 was also awarded.

The buyer had already received a partial refund prior to the trial via a claim in the Small Claims Court.

After the case, Lead Trading Standards Officer, Andy Layton, said: “The penalty handed out by the court sends a clear message to motor dealers that they must trade fairly and ensure that all cars that they offer for sale are safe and correctly described.

“Trading Standards Officers continue to conduct unannounced checks at second-hand car dealers across Pembrokeshire. This case shows that the Trading Standards service will also seek take action against motor traders based outside the county who sell misdescribed or unsafe vehicles to Pembrokeshire residents.”

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Jury out in chip shop murder trial

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THE JURY has retired to consider its verdict regarding the trial of a man who is charged with murdering his wife with a chip shop fryer.

Geoffrey Bran, aged 70 from Hermon in Carmarthenshire, is accused of murdering his wife Mavis on October 23 last year, and is alleged to have thrown scalding hot oil over her from a deep fat fryer, which gave her widespread burns and lead to her death later in hospital.

He had also burnt his own hand when he tried to help her remove her jumper, which was saturated in the boiling hot oil, by trying to pull it over her head.

Earlier this week, Bran gave evidence to the court in his own defence. He told the court that there would be arguments about nothing after his wife would drink alcohol and have ‘spells of paranoia moments’ in the day, but claimed he had never hit his wife during a confrontation. He said that Mavis would start drinking early, and would consume two and a half bottles of red wine.

Bran told the court they opened the Chipoteria because Mavis was doing some meals for elderly people in the village, and didn’t like retirement because she was always on the go. He said he built a cabin next to the caravan, which took around a year, because Mavis desperately wanted to open in January. He said he would clean and blanch chips, fry them, and clean the equipment after. Mavis would cook fish and pies, and make sauces.

On the day that Mavis died, Bran said Mavis was in a good mood, but had been drinking from around 9.30am that day. He said she consumed a brandy with two neighbours, and he didn’t notice anything different about her behaviour when she had been drinking.

Bran spoke about an order, for which his wife said the fat wasn’t good enough to cook the fish in. He said: “I said you may as well use my friers, I use you for chips, but you have to turn them down because they’re a bit high for fish.”

He claimed that shortly afterwards, she looking into the fryer and told him he had overdone them. He said: “I didn’t know I was meant to look after them. She said she was coming back straight away.”

With that, he said Mavis took the fish out with tongs and tossed them into a tray, resulting in a ‘waterfall of fat’. He told her he had seen worse on plates, and said he believed she wasn’t going to serve them.

He went on to describe that he went to blanch some chips, but happened to turn around to see that Mavis had fallen, and her head was about nine inches away from the floor.

He said: “I hadn’t seen her falling because I wasn’t looking at that point. I turned around and saw her flying to the floor. In the corner of my eye I could see the fat fryer moving on the table as if in slow motion, but it wasn’t slow motion. At the moment I was going to move I could see the legs … instantly the legs fell off the edge and the weight of the oil tipped the whole thing forwards the whole two tubs came out in one whoosh.

“Once the legs got over the edge the weight of the oil must have moved things fast without the tubs coming out and it was like a waterfall and landed on her chest.

“By this time now the whole unit was going through the air and landing on top of her, pulling the sockets out.”

He continued: “I grabbed her arm, grabbed her other arm, pulled her to a sitting position, and lift all her clothes off. I didn’t know whether I was doing the right thing to be honest. I just thought get the clothes off. She was wearing a thick jumper and a t-shirt underneath. Usually she wears a kitchen apron, but because we had guests that day she had forgotten to change.

“I grabbed the bottom of the jumper and pulled it off her head. I think the jumper came into contact with her face.”

When asked if he felt any pain, he said he couldn’t remember, and was trying to get her clothes off her.

He said: “I walk round her, grab her two arms and pull her to a standing condition. I pulled her to the slabs outside. At that point I forgot I didn’t have a phone. I’d forgotten to bring it down in the morning. We always took the mobile phone back to the house in the night to charge it.”

Bran said he told her to run up the house in order to call an ambulance. He said: “She screamed up the path. She was in shock but she knew what was happening. I could see her arms were peeling. That’s about it really because all the rest was quite red.”

When asked why he didn’t go with her or why he didn’t comfort her, she said he didn’t know and was ‘totally stumped’.

The court heard how when a customer came in, Bran told them there had been an accident, but when he said he could go to Newcastle Emlyn, he said he would serve him. He said that Mavis was in a dressing gown shaking, and her face was white.

Bran was kept in custody until October 24. He was asked if he visited Mavis in hospital, but said he was told he was not allowed to.

He said he wanted to see her to say goodbye, and told the court that he misses her every day.

During cross examination, Bran was pressed as to why he didn’t comfort his wife of 30 years and ask about how she was. He told the court he ‘couldn’t face it’, but couldn’t say why.

He claimed that his wife deliberately lied to paramedics and blamed him for burning her. He said ‘they are all lies’, and said that she would always make things up and blamed him for everything.

Bran was asked, if he had helped to remove Mavis’ clothing, why he didn’t have burns on both hands. He couldn’t answer.

The court heard that Mavis suffered 46% burns to her total body area. The burns were both partial and full thickness.

The front of her body mostly suffered from full thickness burns, including her torso, thigh and neck. Her eyes were closed when she suffered the partial thickness burns to her face. Her eyelids were burned, but not her eyes themselves. There were no burns to the back of her hands, her palms or her fingers, but there were to her inner forearms. They were likely secondary burns, caused by the removal of her clothing.

The burns proved to be fatal when her condition deteriorated. As a result, the burns she suffered caused her death.

The jury retired at 12.51pm on Monday (Nov 18) to consider the case. Judge Paul Thomas QC, said: “Members of the jury I am now going to ask you to retire and consider your verdict in this case. There is no pressure of time. Take as short or as long time as needs be. As far as today is concerned, if you have reached a verdict that is well and good; if you haven’t you will be sent home and return tomorrow.”

The jury has since retired and the court awaits a verdict.

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Community

Consider the benefits of living in a community-led housing scheme

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NO one could have missed the Extinction Rebellion protests around the world in recent months, but a little-known low-impact eco-community in Pembrokeshire is also working hard to spread the sustainability message.

The Brithdir Mawr community grow their own food, generate their own electricity and provide low cost rented housing, as well as sharing ideas, resources and skills with people who want to learn more.

More than 100 people have lived there over the past quarter of a century and the current residents have an innovative way of living.

One such resident is Lea Trainer. He moved here a few months ago and feels the move has changed his family’s life for the better after he left his job as a project manager in London: “My wife Kirsty and children Brianna and Frankie have been here since June but the community has been around for more than 25 years. My wife brought the children here last year for an educational trip and they were texting me about birds and insect-spotting and I had a bit of an epiphany.

“Our life is incomparable to before. We now live a lower impact life and have reduced our footprint on the Earth. I’m learning all the time about nature, renewable energy. It’s fantastic to be part of a community contributing towards the development of a regenerative culture, farming using organic methods and preserving and increasing biodiversity.

Living at Brithdir Mawr has also brought personal benefits to Lea: “Now I can spend quality time with my children and my wife. I’ve already noticed a real difference in the children. They have really developed their personalities and freedom of expression. They know much more about nature and have really come out of their shells in the time that we’ve been here.”

“Each day is different here. We do all meet as a community at 11 for coffee and then again for dinner. Some people have part-time jobs, others will tend to the garden and our children are home-schooled. We have a community day each week where we do activities together, like apple-picking.”

Brithdir Mawr is being supported by the Wales Co-operative Centre, which has been supporting and championing the growth of co-operative and community-led housing since 2012. In April this year, it launched its Communities Creating Homes programme which aims to stimulate demand for community-led housing throughout Wales. The programme is funded by the Nationwide Foundation and Welsh Government.

With more than 30 schemes already in place across Wales, communities can be created for various purposes and shared visions. Where some schemes have been created to make housing more affordable for residents, others have been developed for people who want improved eco-friendly lifestyles.

Meanwhile, Brithdir Mawr community is planning for the future. It has been there for 25 years but wants to make sure it’ll be there for future generations and continue the message of sustainability by purchasing the lease for the 80-acre site. The residents have launched a crowdfunding campaign to try and raise funds to buy the land they live on and are hoping to raise £1million to purchase the site.

Go to www.crowdfunder.co.uk/save-brithdir-mawr for more information and how you can support Brithdir Mawr. Visit https://wales.coop/co-operative-community-led-housing/ for more information on community-led housing schemes and how they work.

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