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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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Nine Dyfed-Powys Police officers assaulted in one weekend

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NINE Dyfed-Powys Police officers were assaulted in five incidents over the weekend, including a Special Constable who was bitten while on her probation period.

Officers across the force were punched, kicked, bitten and spat at as they responded to domestic assaults, harassment, a disturbance and a missing person.

The offences were alleged to have been committed by women aged between 14 and 61, all of whom were arrested on suspicion of assaulting an emergency worker.

Chief Constable Mark Collins said: “Policing, by its very nature, is a challenging occupation, and officers do expect to be put in difficult situations. However, it is completely unacceptable that they should be subject to assaults while they are carrying out their duties – particularly when they are assaulted by the very people they are trying to help.

“Nine officers being assaulted as they respond to five incidents is shocking – and this doesn’t include the verbal abuse and near misses they face daily.

“We take these matters very seriously. For every officer who is assaulted, a plan is put in place to support them, whether they are able to remain on duty or not.

“Our view is that assaults on police officers and staff should be investigated with the same care, compassion and commitment as an assault on a member of the public. This sounds obvious, but too often our response to assaults on officers and staff can be rushed or treated as secondary to other offences.”

Charges have been brought against two of the alleged offenders.

Chantelle Thomas, aged 18, of Water Street in Carmarthen, was charged with two counts of assaulting an emergency worker by kicking and biting them. Police had been called to a disturbance at Maes yr Ysgol at around 9.40pm on Saturday, where the defendant was found to be distressed. Officers attempted to calm her down, but she is alleged to have become irate, kicking out at one Special Constable and biting another.

One of the SCs, who is still in their probation period has been praised by their sergeant for their patience and composure during the incident.

Rhian Jeremiah, aged 32, of Adpar, Newcastle Emlyn, was also charged with two counts of assaulting an emergency worker following an incident on Saturday. She is reported to have bitten two PCs while they attempted to arrest her. She is due to appeal at Aberystwyth Magistrates’ Court on March 4.

In other incidents, a PC was kicked while attending a report of a mother assaulting her daughter in Pembroke Dock, and others were assaulted while at a domestic disturbance.

An officer and a sergeant were also kicked, punched and spat at after finding a teenager who had been reported missing.

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Stepaside: Residents group seeks to stop building of 80 houses

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A PLANNING application is causing controversy in south Pembrokeshire.

Stepaside and Pleasant Valley Residents Group have said that they are against 80 “houses” proposed on flood plain over the historical mine workings

The people living around Pleasant Valley have come together to keep their valley ‘pleasant’ and not developed by a remotely owned company just for profit.

The residents group was formed last year by local residents to oppose this planning application for the Heritage Park in Pleasant Valley, Stepaside.

Their Objection, submitted in October 2019 has raised awareness locally and the level of resistance has continued to grow with more and more people joining the mailing list and Facebook group.

The planning application, doubling the size of the Heritage Park in Pleasant Valley may be given the go ahead as early as the Planning Committee on 10th March.

The project proposes to cover the whole area at the top of the valley with a significant development on land riddled with unmapped old coal mines and over a floodplain.

It includes around 80 accommodation units, some of which will, from historic experience in this kind of development, be used as permanent residences, and will surround, and discourage access to, an important CADW heritage industrial site with walks, trees and wildlife, the campaign group have said.

They told this newspaper: “The car parking and access to walks and woodland, that have been enjoyed by large numbers of local people and visitors for many years, will be restricted.

“It will increase light and noise pollution, which along with human activities will significantly repress wildlife such as rare bats, dormice, a wide range of shy birds – woodpeckers, owls, herons, dippers, treecreepers, etc. and proposes to remove trees at the very time we understand the importance of re-wilding our countryside and retaining mature trees.

The pressure group says that the proposal goes against the PCC recently published aim to encourage tourism development ‘while balancing this with the need to protect and celebrate the very features that make Pembrokeshire an attractive visitor destination.’

Ben Morris said: “Our objections are to protect this small community from over development and maintain the long held, access for local people and visitors to this heritage and wildlife area`. He added ‘If there is demand for more self-catering spaces there are many less sensitive sites where such developments could take places.

“The scheme is opposed by Friends of the Earth, Woodland Trust, other environment groups and a high proportion of local residents and visitors.

“Local residents wanting more information, or to join SPVRG should go to http://spvrg.wales”

The Herald has contacted the developer’s agent for a comment to the objections.

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Met Office: More rain and flooding warnings for Wales

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ALTHOUGH the severe weather associated with Storm Dennis has passed, there is further wet and windy weather to come this week.

With much of the ground around the UK saturated from heavy rain over the last two weeks, further severe weather warnings are in force for some of the worst hit areas. Yellow National Severe Weather warnings for rain have been issued for southern and north west Wales on Wednesday evening and through Thursday.

Chief Meteorologist Andy Page said: “Further rain will arrive on Wednesday evening and this is likely to become prolonged and possibly heavy over areas of high ground. For example, there is a chance that 60mm of rain could fall in parts of south Wales over 24 hours. With the ground already saturated there is a chance of further flooding, members of the public should check their flood risk and stay up to date with flood warnings from Natural Resources Wales, SEPA, NI Direct and the Environment Agency.”

Blustery showers will continue through the day on Monday and Tuesday, particularly in the west, these showers are likely to fall as snow over higher ground especially in Scotland over 200m in elevation. Although there will be sunny spells for many, thunder and hail could accompany the heavier showers.

Under clear skies on Tuesday night pockets of frost are likely as more settled conditions associated with a brief ridge of higher pressure pass through.

Rain and increasingly strong winds will move in from the west on Wednesday morning spreading across the whole of the UK through the day. Rain will be persistent and heavy at times in Wales and north western England overnight and a further front will move through on Thursday bringing heavy downpours.

Storm Dennis brought wet and windy conditions after what was an unsettled week, with Storm Ciara bringing stormy conditions the weekend before. South Wales saw the most rain from Storm Dennis, with 157.6mm recorded at a Natural Resources Wales site in Crai Resr, Powys, between midnight on Saturday morning to 10:00 this morning (17 February). The highest wind speed recorded during the storm was 91mph on Saturday evening at Aberdaron, Gwynedd.

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