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Skates makes case for rail

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Rail investment inequitable: Ken Skates demands action

TRANSPORT S​ECRETARY Ken Skates has cited slow speeds, manual Victorian signalling and level crossings bringing traffic to a standstill up to 200 times a day in his call on the UK Government to make available an equitable level of funding for rail infrastructure enhancements in Wales.

In May, Ken Skates announced Cardiff University’s Professor Mark Barry would lead on the case for investment in rail infrastructure in Wales, against the backdrop of the UK Government’s £50bn investment in HS2.

The Transport Secretary summarised the case in the Senedd on Tuesday​ (Jul 17)​.

Ken Skates told Assembly Members: “The initial findings of this work are stark. Wales has not received an equitable share of UK rail investment over a sustained period, denying us the economic benefits enjoyed elsewhere in the UK.

“Network Rail’s Wales Route, which makes up 11% of the network, has received little more than 1% of total spend on enhancements in England and Wales.

“This has resulted in low lines speed on the South Wales Mainline, capacity and speed constraints along the North Wales Coast, infrequent commuter services for the Swansea Bay city region, and inadequate cross-border services in both North and South Wales.

“I continue to support HS2, but call once again on the UK Government to make the right choices to benefit north Wales, and exert pressure on them to mitigate against the probable impact of HS2 on the economy in South Wales.”

The work carried out by Professor Barry highlights the use of old, inefficient, and unreliable infrastructure constraining the number, speed, and quality of services.

“These constraints dampen demand, restrict economic growth, and increase costs to passengers and tax-payers.

“I will continue to set out a broader vision for a successful rail network. One that helps us meet our obligations to the environment, responsibilities for Well-being and Future Generations, delivers the goals of the Economic Action Plan, and meets the UK Government’s commitment to rebalance the economy.

“The work undertaken has identified direct transport user benefits of at least £2bn, generated by reducing journey times for rail passengers. Additional benefits also arise from reduced road congestion leading to environmental and safety improvements.”

James Price, Chief Executive, Transport for Wales said: “The success of the Wales and Borders rail service relies on efficient and reliable infrastructure with the ability to transport more people more efficiently. We look forward to working with the Welsh and UK governments to deliver improvements that meet the needs of passengers in Wales and across the border.”

Cardiff University Professor of Practice in Connectivity, Mark Barry said: “Wales’ railways are stuck in second gear. Long-term under-investment compared to the UK as a whole has left them unfit for purpose.

“It’s no great surprise fewer people in Wales choose to use the train than in the rest of the UK, leading to less efficient rail operations, higher subsidies per passenger and more road congestion. This is a brake on our economic growth, improvement of air quality and carbon reduction.”

Business

Covid 19 grants for small businesses

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COUNCILLOR PAUL MILLER, the Authority’s Cabinet Member for Economy, Tourism, Leisure and Culture, has announced that applications for business support grants can be made from today (March 27, 2020).

Access to the online application form can be found on the Council’s Business webpage via the following link:
https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/business-advice-and-support

You can email other business enquiries about the impacts of Covid 19 via the following email address: covid19businesssupport@pembrokeshire.gov.uk
Councillor Miller said: “The team have been working flat out to get this scheme up and running as we know just how important this support is to business right now.
“Government has promised the cash will be with us by the 1st April and the second it is, we’ll be distributing that support to our businesses.”

The following grants are available to small businesses to support the costs associated with the impact of Covid 19 on their businesses as follows:
• small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief
• grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000
Councillor Miller added: “I know our local businesses are doing all they can to sustain jobs and livelihoods. Our job is to get assistance to them as quickly and efficiently as possible.
“While our application form wasn’t the first to go live – we were hoping not to need an application at all – we have developed an automated system which will allow us to begin making payments, into businesses bank accounts, the minute funds arrive from Government.”

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St Clears McDonald’s gets go ahead

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THE REFUSAL of a planning application for a McDonald’s near St Clears could provide very costly for Carmarthenshire County Council after the Planning Inspectorate permitted an appeal and awarded costs to a development company.
The Planning Inspectorate’s ruling also states the developer is no longer bound by an undertaking to improve pedestrian access by improving a pedestrian crossing in St Clears.

Carmarthenshire County Council’s Planning Committee voted to deny the application on Thursday, September 19 last year.

Council officers recommended approval of the scheme, which caused an uproar in the community. There were around 270 objections to the planned McDonald’s and Costa Coffee against 28 broadly in favour of it.

Officers told councillors the alterations to the road layout around the restaurant would benefit an un-associated housing development scheduled for land adjacent to the site. The 50-home building scheme is within St Clears’ development limit.

Surprisingly for a business intending to make a profit from users accessing the site solely by car, planning officers accepted the contention that any increase in traffic would be marginal without addressing why – if such were the case – such a large site was needed for the restaurant and coffee house.

At the Planning Committee meeting, councillors expressed concerns about the traffic impact on the town and the impact on local businesses. However, the sole reason for denying the application was that the plans were for land outside – but immediately next to – the Local Development Plan limits for St Clears.

At the time, the Chair of the Council’s Planning Committee, Cllr Alun Lenny, sought advice from the Head of Planning whether the issue raised by councillors was a material planning consideration. Llinos Quelch confirmed the development’s location was not necessarily a determining factor.

She continued to explain economic development land was not always within the LDP boundaries. That did not mean it was a straightforward refusal as the officer had set out his reasons why the development overrode the boundary consideration.

Cllr Alun Lenny expressed concerns about the reasons being advanced for refusal. However, despite the clear advice from the Head of Planning, Committee members voted unanimously to reject the plans.

The only dissenting vote coming from Cllr Lenny, who again expressed concern the reasons advanced for rejection might not stand up to an appeal.

Cllr Lenny’s concerns about his fellow councillors’ actions proved amply justified.

The Planning Inspector noted that the plans were for a location directly opposite an existing Travelodge and that economic development was a material consideration which overrode the Planning Committee’s sole objection regarding the boundary of the development area.

He also said: “Although located outside the development limits identified in the LDP, the prevailing character of the site’s environs is edge-of-settlement rather than open countryside, with visible development close by in most directions.

“The locality does not possess any designation indicating any special landscape sensitivity or value. Moreover, the developed character of the site’s environs is likely to be reinforced as the housing site on its north-east side is delivered. Given the presence of this housing allocation, the appeal proposal would not result in a materially harmful erosion of the gap separating the development limits of St Clears and Pwll Trap. ln summary, the proposal would relate well to the existing built form of the locality and would not harm the area’s character and appearance.”

While dismissing the reason given by the Council for rejecting the proposal, the Inspector also said competition between businesses – to which many local objections related – was not a material planning consideration.

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Business

Young Tenby-based currency trader making £8k a day

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BBC ONE Wales show ‘Young, Welsh and Pretty Minted’ will feature Pembrokeshire-based currency trader Ashley Richards this week.

The successful young entrepreneur, who lives in Tenby, fuels a life of fast cars and expensive watches by making thousands of pounds per-day with just a few simple phone calls.

Ashley, 20, has been trading online for 4 years and discovered that he’d failed his GCSE exams on the same day that he also made £470 trading currency online.

“That’s the day I first found out that I could make money without any GCSEs or qualifications,” says Ashley confidently.

“I’ve always thought that I would want to do business at university and I was thinking to myself, ‘What’s the point of learning how to do business when you can do it and learn on the job?'”

From there, Ashley launched into a risky career that has given him an incredible £200,000 a year since.

Ashley spends his money on cars, he currently owns 4 including a BMW i8 that cost a staggering £115,000, but never forgets the Pembrokeshire council estate he grew up on, returning to visit regularly so he never forgets his roots.

A spokesperson for the show told The Herald “Ashley is living the fantasy life from his seaside home in Tenby.

Armed with only his laptop and a mobile, he has been known to bring home £8,000 in one day by trading currency online. He supports his appetite for fast cars and designer watches working just two hours a day, but with his mates all working full time, it can be a lonely place to be.”

A high risk career like currency trading can involve losing money, something Ashley is more than aware of: “You’ve got to have it in the back of your mind that you can possibly lose money. I’ve lost money before, but how I look at it is that I’ve just profited less than I would’ve.”

Ashley also uses his new found wealth to help his mother out “It’s every son’s or daughter’s dream to be able to really treat their parents. It is really nice.

“My mum has definitely done her bit so it’s only fair that I reward her. That’s one of the main reasons why I work so hard because I just want to make sure my family has an easier life.”

Ashley’s amazing story is on ‘Young, Welsh and Pretty Minted’ which will air on BBC One Wales tonight (Feb 24) at 10:35pm

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