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Application for Cleddau Bridge Hotel to become care home approved

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THE FORMER Cleddau Bridge Hotel in Pembroke Dock will become a care home after an application was approved by the Planning Committee today (May 22).

The Cleddau Bridge Hotel closed in January and its staff were left without jobs and were not paid.

Since then the application to change it to a care home has come about and it has been the subject of much debate and a public meeting has also been held.

The ownership of the building has also been called into question with three different changes in the last couple of years.

Pembroke Dock Town Councillor George Manning had hoped to question the previous ownership of the building but was stopped twice as he was warned by the Chairman, Cllr David Howlett, that those issues were not planning matters.

Cllr Manning said: “When this came before Pembroke Dock Town Council we decided to put this open to the public and we had a public meeting about it.

“The consensus of opinion is that there is no great objection to the use of this building as a care home. But, what is most concerning, to not only the Town Council but to the general public is that this property and the management of it will still be in the ownership of the Kular family.

“Over the past five years, the hotel itself has changed hands within the Kular family at least three times.

“Although there is no strong reason for refusal on planning issues, I think there are strong reasons to ensure that whoever takes over that this applicant has the credibility to undertake and run a care home.

“I would urge, before you make a decision on this application, that it would not be unreasonable for this committee to seek further evidence of the ability for this company and Mr John Smith to run a care home, it is important to everybody.”

The agent for the application, Mr Richard Bowen said: “The application before you today has been thoroughly examined, resulting in a positive recommendation from your officers.

“The applicant is aware that there are some concerns and whilst the officers report has sought to address these matters, I take this opportunity to reinforce the fact that this application accords with the spirit of local and national planning policy.

“In terms of fit and proper people to run nursing home, you’ll be aware this will need a license from yourselves as the local licensing authority and that matter can be dealt with appropriately at that time.

“The former Cleddau Bridge hotel comprised a 54-bed hotel and despite its success in early years, following the closure of key clients, the occupancy rates fell and dropped significantly below a level which enabled a successful and viable operation to continue and therefore closed in January 2018 resulting in the regrettable loss of 40 jobs.

“Once it is operational, it will result in the creation of 40 full-time employees, allowing for shift patterns it could be a far higher number of people employed at the facility.”

Cllr Tony Wilcox said: “It is worrying for the people of Pembroke Dock that this hotel has changed hands frequently over the last couple of years and as soon as it wasn’t viable it was closed virtually overnight.

“What’s to stop that happening again if it’s not viable and closed overnight and you’ve got incredibly vulnerable people there literally homeless.”

Cllr Brian Hall said: “If we go down the lines of refusing this today, along the lines of the Town Council, as has already been mentioned, they are not viable planning reasons.

“I can understand the concern of the staff but you’ve got to be realistic, we’ve been told by the agent they are going to employ 40, 50, 60 people, there is a distinct possibility that some of them will apply for another job and they would be delighted to get another job, albeit it’s a different use.”

Cllr Hall then moved the application for approval and that was seconded by Cllr Peter Morgan.

Cllr David Pugh added he would rather see a building in use rather than be empty and deteriorating and also indicated his support.

The application was approved by a majority with Cllr Tony Wilcox abstaining from the vote.

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Llangwm: Solicitor jailed for six years for £1m fraud

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A PEMBROKESHIRE solicitor who overcharged clients by almost £1m has been jailed this week for six years.

Edgar Stephen Thomas, aged 58, charged one client at the rate of £20,000 a week without doing any work at all.

Another was charged at £12,000 a week and went on to lose a total of £100,000.

Thomas, of Stephen’s Green, Deerland Road, Llangwm, admitted 23 offences of fraud and theft, which stopped only when his firm of Steve Thomas and Co was closed down by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority.

Jim Davis, prosecuting, told Swansea Crown Court that Thomas got away with the frauds by deducting monies from the estates of deceased people without telling the beneficiaries.

“He grossly overcharged and then deducted the payments directly from the estates of deceased people,” he said.

“He helped himself without telling them what he was doing.”

The overcharging began in 2005 when he was asked to handle the estate of Richard James Rogers. He charged the estate £41,800 plus VAT but internal documents showed that as the work decreased his bills increased.

Thomas agreed overcharging that estate by £12,000.

Thomas went on to plunder many more accounts.

The most outrageous example, said Mr Davies, related to the estate of Audrey Williams, who died in 2013.

Thomas charged £127,250 plus VAT, sometimes raising–but not posting–two invoices a day. He agreed he had overcharged by £100,000.

Mr Davis said Thomas’ offending did not stop there. His firm was hired by Vaughan’s Radio, an electrical store in Haverfordwest, to handle the purchase of a business in Aberystwyth.

Thomas simply kept for himself £50,000 of the purchase price.

Mr Davis said Thomas had worked for Eaton Evans in Haverfordwest, rising to becoming a partner, before leaving to form his own firm in 2005.

His accounts had to be audited and as a result the SRA were alerted to fears that he was overcharging.

A detailed forensic examination of his accounts was carried out and the fears were confirmed, along with the discovery of a shortfall in his client’s accounts of £144,326.

There was then an administrative error at the SRA and the initial report was not acted upon until June 2014, when a second financial investigation revealed more fraud and he was later struck off.

In February 2015 Thomas was declared bankrupt.

Mr Davis said the SRA had reimbursed those who had lost because of Thomas’ fraudulent behaviour, but there remained the question of costs and whether he could be made to repay any of the money. An investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act is underway.

Thomas’ barrister, Ian Ibrahim, said his client was now broke and all the money had gone on keeping his business afloat.

“His fall from a high place has been dramatic. His remorse is complete and utterly without qualification.

“He has lost everything and knows that he will go to jail today.”

Judge Keith Thomas said those who worked in the legal profession had to demonstrate the highest level of integrity because the public put trust in them, sometimes at the most stressful times of their life.

“Your victims have described your behaviour as disgusting and despicable.

“You were struck off in 2016 and have had to wait a long time for the process to be complete, but that is partly because you were not willing to admit the extent of your offending,” he added.

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Claim a free McDonalds cheeseburger this week

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TO REMEDY ‘Blue Monday’, McDonalds is giving away a free cheeseburger to everyone this week.

Starting today (Jan 21), the fast food chain is asking customers to install the McDonalds app on their phone and then take it to their nearest restaurant for a free burger.

Blue Monday is said to be the ‘most miserable day’ in the year.

The app is available on both the Google Play store for Android devices, and the App Store for iOS devices.

Once downloaded, register a new account, or log in to your existing account, and go to ‘My Deals’ to claim your free burger.

The offer runs until Friday (Jan 25) and can be claimed any time after 10:30am, when the breakfast menu finishes.

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Road re-opened following successful bridge replacement

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PEMBROKE ROAD in Merlins Bridge, Haverfordwest, has re-opened and train services between Whitland and Milford Haven have resumed as normal, following the successful replacement of Pembroke Road railway bridge this weekend.

Over the weekend, Network Rail teams worked around the clock to demolish and remove the existing railway bridge deck – which carries the South Wales Main Line. Engineers then installed a new, steel structure which includes a concrete collision beam to provide extra resilience, as part of Network Rail’s Railway Upgrade Plan to improve the reliability of the railway.

Rhys Howells, scheme project manager for Network Rail Wales and Borders, said: “We would like to thank residents and rail passengers for bearing with us whilst we replaced Pembroke Road railway bridge.

“The previous bridge deck was nearing the end of its serviceable life, and has now been replaced with a more resilient structure which will help to keep the railway in West Wales running reliably.”

Next month the second part of this £4.25m upgrade project will see engineers replace Milford Road railway bridge.

The A4076 at Milford Road railway bridge on Dredgeman Hill will be closed from 7pm on Friday 15 until 6am on Monday 18 February and a fully signposted diversion route will be in operation.

Residents and local businesses wishing to find out more about the work to Milford Road railway bridge are invited to attend a ‘drop-in’ event on Thursday 31 January from 3pm to 6pm at the Merlins Bridge Welfare Hall, Pembroke Road, SA61 1JW. No appointment is necessary and representatives from Network Rail’s project team will be on hand to provide information and answer any questions.

You can also find out more information about this essential upgrade project here: www.networkrail.co.uk/Merlins-Bridge.

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