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Conservatives press for lagoon decision

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Lagoon could inspire vast economic regeneration: Says Conservative AM Russell George

WELSH Conservatives have renewed calls for a decision to be made by the UK Government on the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, and for fresh consideration to be given to the devolution of Air Passenger Duty to Wales.

Last year, the Hendry Review concluded that backing the £1.3 billion Tidal Lagoon is a ‘no regrets policy’, costing households less than the price of a pint of milk each year. Welsh Conservatives have consistently backed the tidal lagoon and it is hoped that the UK Government will give the scheme the green light.

Shadow Economy Secretary, Russell George AM, has also called on the UK Government to give fresh consideration to the devolution of Air Passenger Duty (APD), following the Chancellor’s Spring Statement announcement of a consultation on the impact of devolving short-haul APD to Northern Ireland – a country which already enjoys the benefits of long-haul APD.

Calling for a decision on the Tidal Lagoon to be made ‘sooner rather than later’, Mr George, said: “The Tidal Lagoon project could be the inspiration for vast economic regeneration in South West Wales as well as ensuring Wales and the UK becomes pioneers in the delivery of this technology.

“The scheme also holds great promise to be the most reliable and resilient source of green energy available, and the Welsh Conservatives have been supportive of this ambitious scheme since day one.

“Last year’s Hendry Review was emphatic and we remain as convinced as ever that this transformational project should be given the go ahead.

“Our green agenda is winning plaudits across the globe and this project will only serve to strengthen those credentials in the bold new world post-Brexit.”

In 2012 the UK Government’s Silk Commission recommended APD should be devolved to Wales for direct long-haul flights initially, followed by full devolution as part of the UK Government’s future work on aviation taxation.

Requesting the UK Government give fresh consideration to devolving APD, Mr George added: “We believe Air Passenger Duty should be devolved to Wales, just like it is to Scotland, and in part to Northern Ireland.

“With a consultation recently announced by the UK Government on devolving the remaining element of APD to Northern Ireland, we see no reason why such a process cannot be forthcoming for Wales.

“We acknowledge concerns held in some quarters but a consultation on this subject would be welcome progress and would allow for these issues to be explored in greater detail.

“Welsh Conservatives believe the devolution of Air Passenger Duty holds the key to increasing passenger numbers and overseas route options for Cardiff Airport, helping to make it more competitive and providing a shot in the arm to the Welsh economy.”

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Online conference will give everyone a say on transport in South West Wales

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ANYONE interested in helping to shape the future of transport in Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Neath Port Talbot and Swansea is invited to attend a major online event that aims to set out a clear plan for transport in the region.

This event, titled Moving Forward Together – Regional Transport Conference – South West Wales, is organised by 4theRegion and Swansea Environmental Forum and sponsored by South West Wales Connected community rail partnership and Natural Resources Wales. It runs in the mornings of Tuesday, February 9 and Wednesday, February 10, beginning at 10 am on the Tuesday with an opening address from Lee Waters MS, Deputy Minister for Economy & Transport, Welsh Government.

The conference will provide an open forum to explore key transport challenges and opportunities, and design new solutions to move towards a greener, cleaner, healthier, more inclusive and better-connected transport system for our region.

Topics to be discussed include the transport needs of local communities, how businesses address staff transport needs, innovative approaches to travel, potential for investments and what it would really take for people to leave their cars at home more often.

Participants will get their say on what the government should be investing in, what the local authorities could be doing, and how people, communities and businesses can be part of the solution.

Organisations, businesses and community groups involved in travel and transport in Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Neath Port Talbot and/or Swansea, are also being invited to get in touch regarding opportunities to showcase their work at this event.

Dawn Lyle, Chair of 4theRegion, said: “It’s time to take a fresh look at how we can better connect our region whilst reducing carbon emissions and improving health and well-being. This is an inclusive online event for car users, transport users, cyclists and pedestrians, even if you’ve never been involved in conversations about transport before. If you care about South West Wales and want to see our region flourish in the years to come, please get involved!”

If you represent an organisation, business or community group involved in travel and transport in Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Neath Port Talbot and/or Swansea, and would like to showcase your work at this event, email Zoe@4theregion.com.

Philip McDonnell, Coordinator for Swansea Environmental Forum and Low Carbon Swansea Bay added: “As we journey towards a low carbon society, transport is lagging behind and remains one of the most challenging issues in both rural and urban areas in our region. The current situation is simply bad for our health and totally unsustainable. We will need everyone to get on board if we are going to tackle this.”

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Local businesses to benefit from Supreme Court insurance ruling

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THE SUPREME COURT has largely ruled in favour of policyholders and the City regulator in the landmark business interruption insurance case. 

In a judgment handed down today, the court said it “substantially allowed” the appeal by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and campaign groups Hiscox Action Group and Hospitality Insurance Group Action. 

Tens of thousands of small businesses will receive insurance pay-outs across the UK covering losses from the first national lockdown. There are thought to be hundreds of businesses in Pembrokeshire which will benefit from the ruling.

One of the judges, Lord Briggs, said in the ruling: “On the insurers’ case, the cover apparently provided for business interruption caused by the effects of a national pandemic type of notifiable disease was in reality illusory, just when it might have been supposed to have been most needed by policyholders.

“That outcome seemed to me to be clearly contrary to the spirit and intent of the relevant provisions of the policies in issue.”

The insurers Arch, Argenta, Hiscox, MS Amlin, RSA and QBE, have had their appeals dismissed. 

The ruling will provide guidance for a further 700 policies, potentially affecting up to 400,000 policyholders.

Richard Leedham, partner at Mishcon de Reya who represents the Hiscox Action Group today said: “The judgment should be a massive boost to all businesses reeling from a third lockdown who can now demand their claims are paid.”

“The hope and expectation of our clients is that the claim adjustment process starts immediately and that insurers will not continue to cause further distress by further unnecessary delay.”   

Following today’s decision the insurance industry is expected to pay out over £1.8bn in coronavirus claims related to the first lockdown, which includes business interruption policies.

The FCA, which brought the test case, said: “We will be working with insurers to ensure that they now move quickly to pay claims that the judgment says should be paid, making interim payments wherever possible.”

Huw Evans, director general of the Association of British Insurers (ABI) confirmed insurers would settle claims as soon as possible.

“Customers who have made claims that are affected by the test case will be contacted by their insurer to discuss what the judgment means for their claim. All valid claims will be settled as soon as possible and in many cases the process of settling claims has begun,” he said after the judgment.

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Welsh Government reminding hauliers to be prepared for changes at ports

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FOLLOWING the expected quiet start to the New Year at Welsh ports and with freight levels expected to rise over the next few days, the Welsh Government said it is reminding hauliers to be prepared for the changes which are now in place

To transport goods from Great Britain to Ireland, including from Welsh ports, hauliers need a Pre-Boarding Notification (PBN) from the Irish Revenue.  Without it they will not be able to enter the port to board the ferry, and will be turned away.

Since January 1 around 20 per cent of HGVs have been turned away because they do not have the correct paperwork.

With an increase in freight traffic expected, more hauliers could be turned away.  Forecasts from the UK Government have predicted between 40 and 70 per cent of hauliers could be turned away from ports.

Contingency plans are in place at Holyhead to minimise any potential disruption to the port, town and community as a result of HGVs being turned away.  Hauliers without the correct paperwork will be redirected along the contraflow on the A55 to Junction 4 where they will turn off and join the westbound carriageway where they will either be stacked while they sort their paperwork, or be redirected to Parc Cybi.

Minister for Transport and North Wales Ken Skates said: “When we announced our contingency plans for Holyhead Port we said the New Year period was expected to be quiet, following a very high level of freight passing through the port before Christmas.  Mid-January is expected to be the peak period for HGVs being turned away.

“Many hauliers are prepared for the changes which are now in place as a result of the EU Transition period.  But, as the experience of the first few days have shown, as expected there are a number who are not.  I would urge all hauliers and freight companies which transport goods from Welsh ports to Ireland to familiarise themselves with the process and ensure they have a Pre-Boarding Notification ID before they arrive at the port.

Pembroke Port (Pic MHPA)

“Our contingency plans are there to minimise disruption for the port itself and the wider community.  They are in place and ready to be used should the need arise and as we approach mid-January we will be reaching a busier time for freight at the port.  We will keep our plans under constant review.”

Anglesey Council Leader, Councillor Llinos Medi, added, “We’re working closely with Welsh Government, North Wales Police, Port Authority and other key partners to ensure safe and efficient trade and traffic movement through the Port of Holyhead, whilst protecting our local communities.”

“Given the expected increase in freight volume over the coming weeks, I would echo the Minister’s call for hauliers to be prepared when they reach the Port of Holyhead. Despite contingencies being in place, I would also ask local residents and businesses to bear in mind the impact that any potential traffic congestion in the Holyhead area and on the A55 could have on their lives and daily routines, and to plan any essential journeys accordingly.”

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