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‘Bigoted, small minded council’ are ‘wrong’ to object to home for the autistic

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A COUNTY COUNCILLOR and planning committee member has blasted a community council on Facebook for objecting to a care home being opened in Haverfordwest because there could be too many autistic people near to a school.

A shocked Cllr Joshua Beynon told the Herald: “If this was about black people or Muslims then this would be national news”.

On Facebook the Councillor wrote: “I was outraged to read that members of Merlins Bridge Community Council were concerned about ‘the level of autistic residents’ in their letter objecting to the care home.”

He added: “This bigoted, small minded response should not be tolerated from anyone in the 21st century, especially members of a council and this should be called out at every opportunity.”

Rachel Johnson, Clerk to Merlins Bridge Community Council was asked by its members to write to Pembrokeshire County Council to raise objects to the proposed development. The project is to enable adults with Autistic Spectrum Disorder to live in the community, in a caring, domestic environment, with an existing pair of semi-detached dwellings which need little alteration on order to accommodate this change of use.

One of the objections raised in the letter, in addition to the likelihood that property prices would be adversely affected, was ‘concerns about the level of autism that residents are living with’.

The letter of objection added: “This can vary largely and there are worries about the proximity to the school.”
In response, Pembrokeshire County Council Planning Committee member, Joshua Beynon, has written to the community council asking them to explain their bizarre, and potentially prejudicial, objection.

In his email he wrote: “Yesterday we were deciding whether or not to approve the care home at 57 & 59 St Issells Avenue.

Disgusted: Cllr Beynon

“I too researched the business on Companies House and could see the potential home was registered under the nature of business code 87200, meaning those with learning difficulties.

“I was saddened to see the objection from Merlins Bridge Community Council which stated it objected due to the ‘level of autistic residents and close proximity to the school’. Whilst at first I thought I had misinterpreted the statement I found it to be offensive to anyone who would read it as it implies that the council would not want anyone severe on the autism spectrum living in the community.

“I fail to see how ‘level of autistic residents’ could be interpreted in any other way.

“I am hoping the council can address this at the next council meeting as other members of the wider community feel the same way.

The planning application for the care home development has been brought by James Ross Donald of C & C Pembs Limited. The company was incorporated in August last year, but Mr Donald says that he has many years’ experience in the care field.

The applicant said: “Care in the Community at this level has no detrimental impact on surrounding areas and the integration of the residents of the proposed home will have a positive bearing, not only in their own lives, but also on the community as a whole.”

Lee Hind, Chair of the Pembrokeshire Sibling Group – who work with a lot of families with autistic children – said: “I am stunned that these attitudes still exist in 2018!

“The idea that disability should be used as an objection in this way is abhorrent to me and works against the ethos of inclusion that every public body should be working towards.

Ward member, County Councillor John Cole told The Herald that it was he who called in the application to full planning committee therefore preventing its approval by officers under delegated powers. Cllr Cole also sits as a member of the community council.

Speaking on Wednesday (Mar 14) he said: “I called in the application because I was asked to by residents to do so. I do not have any objections myself personally to this application but I must represent the people of my ward. There has been a petition with 29 signatures on it against the home.”

He added “I do not feel that the community council had enough information in front of them at the time they made the decision to object to the application.

“For example, they did not have the main document ‘Design and Access Statement’ explaining exactly what the application was about.

“I am going to ask the Clerk of the Council to get this information for us in time for the next meeting tonight.”

When asked if the community council would not have objected had they had all the documents, Cllr Cole said he was unable to comment.

A mother of autistic teenagers who attended the meeting said that, after listening to councillors, she felt that their position had been misrepresented.

Lisa O’Sullivan of Pembroke Dock told The Herald: “The Community Council have no objection to any cared for individual being in the community. The original document sent to the County Council has been paraphrased and their concerns’ emphasis misplaced.

“Their main concerns are the safety of their residents from badly planned increases to traffic flow and the dangers this will increase on the residents living nearby. They feel there would be other, much more suitable buildings within the community

“The main thing I took away from meeting was they seemed upset that any offense had been caused.

“Obviously there are documents mentioning autism – they’re sorry for that as it was never meant to be a factor.

“I went there as an unknown with a massive autism mom bag on my shoulder. I don’t think anything about autism was supposed to be put across, and if it was it was done mistakenly – more as them wanting information what was going on.

“I have been shown certain documents which would suggest a low level of care as there’s only going to be one support worker through twilight hours.

“This would suggest a high volume of visitors etc, as it will be like my boys having a flat there with support in day.

“I think all documents are available online but whether county council kept original one that I was shown I don’t know, but they should be held accountable for stirring up a witch hunt.”

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Police call for vigilance to report illegal raves

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE is asking farmers and local landowners to be on the alert over the next few months for warning signs of any illegal gatherings planned for their land over the summer.

Gatherings – such as illegal raves – can cause considerable anxiety to the community and if they are not dealt with swiftly, they are difficult to stop or otherwise control, due often to the sheer numbers of persons involved and the safety aspects surrounding breaking up such an event.

Superintendent Robyn Mason said: “There is little doubt that these type of events are very well planned, organised and that local knowledge is important in drawing down the main group to a particular ‘vulnerable’ field, or area of land which has been targeted previously as a suitable venue.

“Farmers, landowners and local communities are encouraged to report any suspicious activity immediately to the Police; this may be an unusual numbers of vehicles, especially camper vans, vans or trucks in the locality, illegal trespassers who may be doing ‘recce’ of sites in advance of the event.

“I can assure local communities that Police will take the appropriate action to deter illegal gatherings and deal robustly with any criminal offences discovered or disclosed.”

Members of the public are also urged to be vigilant of persons who approach landowners or enquiring for land, in the guise of hiring for apparently acceptable activities such as gymkhanas and scouts/guides events.

Please contact Police on 101 with reports on any suspicious activity.

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Discover Coast and Cleddau boat trips launched at Milford Waterfront

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A NEW way to appreciate the spectacular Pembrokeshire coast has been officially launched at Milford Waterfront.

Discover Coast and Cleddau offers two exciting boat trips; ‘Discover Coast’ takes passengers on a guided tour around Skomer Island to see the array of wildlife while ‘Discover Cleddau’ explores the more tranquil waters around Benton, Cosheston Woodlands and Lawrenny.

Both trips celebrate the rich history of the Waterway. Suited to all ages from five upwards, what makes these trips unique is that all passengers are seated comfortably inside a heated cabin.

Director of Property and Tourism at the Port of Milford Haven which owns and operates the vessel, Clare Stowell, said “There is so much to see within the Milford Haven Waterway and out towards the islands that we’re confident both trips will be really popular. The trips form part of our wider strategy to transform Milford Waterfront into a vibrant destination where visitors will enjoy a memorable leisure experience.”

As well as the regular boat trips, a number of special tours will be publicised throughout the summer such as photography expeditions.

Excursions can be booked by calling the Skipper Gareth Light on 01646 696370; tickets are £25.00 per person with the boat departing from Mackerel Quay at Milford Marina.

For the latest information on Discover Coast and Discover Cleddau please follow Milford Waterfront on social media.

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Man who gets ‘a sexual buzz’ from touching bottoms avoids prison

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A HAVERFORDWEST man who cannot stop grabbing women’s bottoms has today (Jun 22) received a suspended prison sentence.

John Robert Hancox told police he could not understand where the urge had come from at the age of 66.

Hancox, of Hanover Court, was arrested on May 15 for touching the bottoms of two women in the town. Police cautioned him and released him.

Helen Randall, prosecuting, told Swansea Crown Court that just eight days later Hancox said hello to a 23-year-old woman walking along Milford Road and then grabbed her bottom.

The following day he approached a 16-year-old girl who was clearly wearing a school uniform in the car park at Tesco, Haverfordwest and did the same to her.

Miss Randall said her friends spotted a police van and alerted the officers, who happened to be looking for Hancox for the offence the previous day.

Hancox admitted sexually assaulting two females.

During police interviews he said he got ‘a sexual buzz’ out of touching his victims and felt embarrassed.

His barrister, Carina Hughes, told the court: “These urges are recent in his life and he is crying out for help.”

The judge Mr Recorder Peter Griffiths told Hancox he presented a problem to the court as the public needed protecting but he needed help.

Hancox was jailed for two months, suspended for two years, and placed under supervision for two years coupled with an order to complete up to 30 days of a rehabilitation activity designed by the probation service.

He was also made the subject of a sexual harm prevention order under which he must not approach girls aged under 18.

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