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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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Police officer was assaulted on Christmas Day

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A 25-YEAR-OLD woman from Haverfordwest appeared before the town’s magistrates on Tuesday (Jan 15) to face a charge of assault by beating against a police officer.

Tiffany Rowlands, of West Court, pleaded guilty to assaulting PC Gareth Potter on Christmas Day.

Prosecutor, Sian Vaughan said: “The officer was at the defendant’s property searching the childrens’ bedrooms.

“Rowlands pushed the officer to the chest, and after she calmed down apologised following the incident.”

Defence solicitor, Mark Layton, said: “There’s no record of any injury. They were upstairs, the lights were off so it was dark, and she realises it was wholly inappropriate.”

Magistrates fined Rowlands £40 for the offence and ordered her to pay £85 prosecution costs and £30 victim surcharge.

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Milford Haven: Booms to be removed following oil spill

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BOOMS installed earlier this month to contain an oil spill in the Milford Haven waterway will be removed tomorrow (Jan 17).

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and partner agencies have continued to survey the affected areas since the incident on 3 January and are satisfied that they have contained as much oil as possible.

Where oil has been found on local beaches, Valero’s clean up team have removed it under advice of NRW officers.

The investigation into how this incident, and the previous oil spill in December 2018, happened is ongoing.

Following further assessments and an inspection of the affected fuel pipelines, Valero now believe that no more than 500 litres of oil was released during the incident on 3 January – significantly less than originally feared.

But the pipelines will remain closed after NRW took action last week to suspend their use. NRW will not allow Valero to reopen the pipelines until it is satisfied they can operate without causing further damage to the local environment.

Andrea Winterton, Operations Manager from Natural Resources Wales, said: “Following a swift response from everyone involved, much of the pollution has been contained and cleaned up quickly, reducing the impact it could have had on wildlife and the environment.

“Along with our partners, we will continue to monitor the situation and will respond to any further reports of oil washing ashore in the coming weeks.

“Valero continue to support our efforts and cooperate with our enquiries into how the incidents happened. Our investigation also continues as we consider what further action we need to take to stop this happening again.”

NRW is asking people who live in the area to report any signs of pollution to their 24/7 incident hotline on 03000 65 3000.

The multi-agency response to this incident has involved the following organisations: NRW, Pembrokeshire County Council, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, Milford Haven Port Authority, Marine and Coastguard Agency, Public Health Wales, Food Standards Agency.

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Fishguard: Sex offender caught trying to flee to Ireland

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A sex offender from Bow Street near Aberystwyth who tried to move to Ireland without telling anyone has been jailed.

Dennis Bull, aged 67, was caught trying to drive a van onto the Fishguard–Rosslare ferry with his belongings in the back ready for a new life in the Republic.

Bull, of Nirmit, admitted failing to comply with the conditions of registration as a sex offender and was jailed for 16 months.

Dyfed Thomas, prosecuting, told Swansea Crown Court it was the third time he had breached the order, imposed at Caernarfon crown court in February, 2016, for possessing indecent images of children.

That conviction was on top of earlier offending in New Zealand that included indecent exposure, outraging public decency and gross indecency with a child.

Mr Thomas said Bull had been jailed for 16 months in 2016 and ordered to register with the police. The restrictions imposed included a requirement to tell the police if he intended to change address.

On November 13 last year police at Fishguard harbour became aware of a Ford Mondeo registered to Bull.

A few minutes later Bull was arrested as he attempted to drive a van onto the Stenna ferry, which was loaded with household items.

Bull told the police he had made arrangements to move to Ireland “lock, stock and barrel” because he understood the monitoring of sex offenders was less strict.

In particular, said Mr Thomas, Bull did not like prospective employers being told about his convictions.

Judge Geraint Walters told Bull, “This was a planned and determined attempt to avoid detection. It was only the eagle eyes of the authorities that brought you to book.

“Your record is troubling and you present a risk of committing more offences of a sexual nature.

 “You are defiant of court orders that are there to protect others and it is truly disturbing that you are so keen to breach them.”

Bull was warned that the 2016 order remained in place for a further seven years.

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