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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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Burton Ferry: Public advised to avoid oil on beach

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MEMBERS of the public have been asked to avoid a section of the beach at Burton Ferry following the discovery of oil on the shoreline.

Officers from the Public Protection team at Pembrokeshire County Council have put up warning signs advising people that part of the shore between the Jolly Sailor and the NATO jetty has been contaminated with oil. 

The County Council and other agencies are investigating the source of the oil. Work to clean up the beach will be starting soon to ensure there is minimum impact on the public and the environment.

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Stephen Crabb MP speaks out in 40 hour Brexit debate

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PRESELI MP Stephen Crabb has spoken out against a so-called ‘No Deal Brexit’ which would see Britain leave the EU next March without a transition period or an agreement in place for the rules that will apply to trade after next March.

He defended his support for Brexit and said that he had promised on the night of the Referendum in 2016 to implement the result and do it in a responsible way which protects the economy of Pembrokeshire.

Speaking on Wednesday night in the House of Commons, Mr Crabb drew attention to the risks facing local industries like oil refining and the ferry ports connecting to Ireland if Brexit is mishandled.

“How we leave the EU really does matter to the lives of people who work in these sectors,” he said.

He warned of “very serious and specific reasons” why a No Deal Brexit would be “very bad news indeed” for the Valero oil refinery in Pembroke. He described the closure of the Murco oil refinery in 2014 as a “horrible” time for the County and said that he could not vote for anything that would create new risks for Pembrokeshire’s last remaining refinery.

Mr Crabb said that no responsible Member of Parliament for Preseli Pembrokeshire could vote for No Deal and look their constituents in the eye again.

He closed his speech by saying that he would vote for this “imperfect” deal because a perfect Brexit does not exist and Britain needs a way forward from the current divisions and argument.

FOR MORE SEE THIS WEEK’S PAPER

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Welsh Assembly Government will probe Bay City Deal

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THE WELSH Government has announced an independent investigation into the Swansea Bay City Deal.
Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Ken Skates, issued a written statement this evening which said that the UK and Welsh Governments had agreed the project required ‘a rapid and independent review’.
While Mr Skates’ statement is upbeat about the progress made on elements of the Deal, saying ‘all partners are committed’ to its success, the review will cover due diligence and governance in respect all aspects of the deal.
The statement concludes the review will ‘ensure that governance and oversight at programme and project level are robust’. If the review identifies weaknesses, it will recommend measures to strengthen them.
The Cabinet Secretary’s statement follows suspensions of staff from Swansea University who were concerned in elements of the Deal’s delivery, particularly the £200m+ redevelopment of the bog at Delta Lakes into a Wellness Village and Life Sciences Centre.
The move follows a call for the WAO to examine the web of companies and the tendering process made by Carmarthenshire Labour Leader, Rob James.
Carmarthenshire blogger Jacqui Thompson has highlighted potentially serious issues affecting due diligence on the Delta Lakes project. Pat Dodd Racher of West Wales News Review has also probed the project and highlighted a series of overlaps between personnel in different parts of it.
If governance and failures are identified or due diligence is shown to have been less than optimal sub-par, Mark James CBE, the Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council who also heads up the City Board could find himself considerably embarrassed.
The Wellness project has been the subject of a number of articles in The Herald which have examined the corporate backgrounds of the County Council’s development partners in the project.
Tomorrow’s Herald digs further into the tangled web of connection between key individuals concerned in the Deal and particularly at Delta Lakes.

Exclusive By Jon Coles, Senior Reporter

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