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Cabinet approves Ocky White purchase at £250K

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CABINET members praised the intervention of a key scrutiny committee in helping to secure a reduced price for the former Ocky White building.
On Monday (October 8), members of the County Council dealt with the purchase of the department store on Bridge Street, Haverfordwest.
Members agreed on a purchase price of £1/4m for the building and praised scrutiny committee members for helping to add impetus to what had been ongoing negotiations with its owners.
The landmark retail outlet has become increasingly dilapidated since its closure in 2013 and is a key part of the Council’s scheme to regenerate Haverfordwest’s Town Centre.
On September 10, the Cabinet had – with some misgivings – approved a proposal that the building should be bought at a price of £460,000 pending a decision on redevelopment or demolition. The Council had secured Welsh Government grant support towards the cost of redeveloping the building.
However, six councillors – Mike Evans, Phil Kidney, Pearl Llewellyn, Mike Stoddart, Viv Stoddart and Jacob Williams exercised their right to ‘call in’ the Cabinet’s decision for further scrutiny by the Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee, chaired by Conservative leader Rob Summons.
The grounds for the call-in were:
– That the decision represents particularly poor value for taxpayers’ money
– That the report to cabinet does not present the full financial picture
That meeting took place on September 28. At it, several councillors took the chance to attack the Cabinet’s decision, including – ironically – Cllr Jamie Adams, whose late IPPG administration was behind the original development scheme to buy and redevelop the property.
Those plans were subsequently discounted as unviable when the current administration decided to seek an assessment of the site’s commercial prospects.
A common theme to the Committee’s complaints was that the price agreed of £460,000 was ‘vastly over the top’.
Jacob Williams described it as ‘scandalous’, before adding: “The significance of the building is overhyped. It has a listed building as an annexe and we would be rewarding a property owner of a not particularly attractive building with taxpayers’ money.
Cllr Jamie Adams said although the scheme had been in the offing for a long time he could not support the decision to invest in the building saying ‘it is incompatible with financial demands’.
Then Head of Property, Barry Cooke, told the Committee that the price agreed was too high but added that the owners won’t sell for anything less than that. “If we can’t acquire the property we will not able to proceed with the first step. It is a difficult building to value but we did get them down to £450,000 but they have quoted more than that,” he added.
It was those committee discussions and the pressure that they placed on the Ocky White buildings’ owners that were credited by Cabinet members with driving down the purchase price.
Reintroducing the matter to his Cabinet colleagues, Labour leader Paul Miller emphasised that the regeneration of Haverfordwest Town Centre was something to which he was passionately committed. Cllr Miller added that the Council’s intention was not simply a ‘one-off’ purchase but part of a much larger regeneration scheme and should be seen in that context.
Cllr David Lloyd said that the effect of scrutiny on the purchase price previously agreed was ‘proof that local democracy works’ and urged his Cabinet colleagues to use ‘courage and ambition’ to drive the regeneration project forward.
Cllr Bob Kilmister, who had at best been sceptical about the original plans to buy the premises, said that while he had been won over on the purchase price element, he still had concerns about the potential for an ongoing revenue cost to the Council if the building remained under-occupied or unoccupied after the project’s completion. He added that the Council simply could not afford that revenue cost but that he was encouraged that Cllr Miller and officers were examining ways to avoid further liabilities building up.
Cllr Neil Prior, who was sceptical of the wisdom of buying the Ocky White building in September, commended those negotiating on the Council’s behalf for achieving such a significant reduction in price in the ten days between the Services Committee’s meeting on September 28 and the Cabinet meeting.
It was proposed by Cllr Paul Miller and seconded by Cllr Bob Kilmister that the former Ocky White building be bought for £250,000 and that further plans be drawn up for the redevelopment of the site with all options – including demolition – remaining on the table.
The motion was carried unanimously.

Cllr Paul Miller

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Alec Don resigns as Chief Executive of Port Authority

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MILFORD HAVEN PORT AUTHORITY has confirmed that Alec Don, Chief Executive, is ‘stepping down’ from the role.

The Port said that with the support of a great team Alec has set a vision for the business, securing planning consents for the development of Milford Waterfront and establishing Pembroke Dock Marine as a core component of the Swansea Bay City Deal.

In a statement the Port said: “The business has been shepherded through some challenging times, with the closure of Murco, but it has a strong balance sheet and is now more than ready to proceed with a phase of substantial investment and growth.”

Commenting on the resignation Chris Martin, Chairman of the Port, said: “Alec is a person of the highest integrity and is one of the Port’s and the region’s greatest advocates.  We have in front of us a fantastic opportunity to develop the Port’s position in some exciting new markets and this change gives us the opportunity to refresh and develop our skill sets to take the organisation forward into the next phase of its development.  For his part Alec has himself expressed the wish to seek new and fresh challenges.  I personally have greatly enjoyed working with him and we all wish him well for the future.”

Alec Don said in an official statement: “It has been nothing but a privilege and honour to work for the Port of Milford Haven and I most genuinely wish the Board and all colleagues at the Port every success going forward.  For my part I feel more than ready for a new challenge and look forward to the future with relish.”

The Port said they would not comment further on the development.

Alec Don has been the Chief Executive of the Port since 2010.

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Mount Estate: Man arrested after gas explosion threat

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Armed police: In the Mount Estate (pic. Herald)

ARMED POLICE have arrested a man on the Mount Estate in Milford Haven this afternoon (Oct 16) after responding to reports of a man who is threatening to set a fire using the gas supply in his flat.

The windows of the first floor flat, in Birch Mead, were smashed and a man was shouting to officers below threatening to cause an explosion.

Threatening: To cause an explosion (pic. Herald)

A Herald reporter at the scene had counted at least a dozen Dyfed-Powys Police vehicles, including vans and undercover cars.

Nearby residents have been evacuated and a cordon has been set up.

Emergency services: Gathered by the flat (pic. Herald)

Police asked residents and a Herald reporter at the scene to move back further after the arrival of the armed officers.

Mid & West Wales Fire and Rescue, as well as specialists from the gas board, are also at the scene.

Watching: Locals were evacuated (pic. Herald)

A large crowd has gathered by the cordon.

MORE TO FOLLOW.

Armed officers: Locals were asked to move back upon their arrival (pic. Herald)

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Work goes on for NRW in aftermath of storm

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AFTER a weekend of heavy rain and floods which hit South West Wales particularly hard, the clear up has begun.

For Natural Resources Wales officers this means inspecting flood defences and other assets to assess and repair any damage caused by the high river levels and volumes of water.

Jeremy Parr, NRW Head of Flood and Incident Risk Management said:

“Our sympathies go out to anybody impacted by these floods and Storm Callum, it is an unwelcome reminder of the damage that severe weather can do.

“While some communities were significantly affected, for many the flood defences did their job and reduced the worst of the impacts.

The weekend storm caused 80 properties to flood across south west Wales and led to major disruption of businesses and transport across the whole of the country.

The River Teifi at Llandysul reached its highest level since records began in 1971 and the Towey above Carmarthen was at its highest since 1987.

NRW officers were on duty around the clock ensuring defence structures were sound, operating flood gates, erecting temporary defences and clearing trash screens.

In Abergwili, in the Tywi Valley, the flood gates were closed and prevented flooding despite the water level rising to within 180mm of the top of the gate, just short of the evacuation trigger of 150mm.

More people than ever visited NRW’s website to check the latest flood warning information. Before and during Storm Callum NRW’s flood pages received more than half a million-page views, while warning and informing messages on social media reached over 110,000 people.

Jeremy added: “After any major flooding event there are lessons to be learned and Storm Callum is no exception, so we will review what took place and how we responded to identify where improvements can be made.

“As is usual after any flood event, we now have our people out and about checking our defences for any damage, and to ensure they can continue to help protect people and property.”

“We won’t just look at the flood defence network, but also at our incident response and our warning and informing before, during and after the incident.

“While there were significant impacts in some areas, the initial indications are that these elements worked well.

“We will be working with our partners in local government and the emergency services to ensure we continue where possible to reduce the impacts of incidents like this.”

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