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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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Ambitious councillor calls for the regeneration of Pembrokeshire

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‘IT IS IMPORTANT for us to be ambitious; it’s even more important when the future success of Pembrokeshire depends on the changes we are driving to deliver.’

That’s the view of Cllr Paul Miller, Pembrokeshire’s Cabinet Member for Econony, Tourism, Leisure and Culture, who has made unequivocal his commitment that Pembrokeshire County Council will spearhead a programme of widespread regeneration across the county.

The splendour of Pembrokeshire, its celebrated beaches and its spectacular National Park coastline – the only one of its kind in the UK – cannot be questioned. To many, it is place of unparalleled beauty and the 4.2 million tourists per year are testament to a destination that consistently draws and delights visitors from all over the UK and abroad. But the notion of
Pembrokeshire as a modern business hub that is ripe for investment and development, allied with home-grown, dynamic talent ready to realise this ambition has not been a conversation on many people’s lips…until now.

‘The Regeneration of our County is long overdue. It is my commitment to get the wheels of progress turning in a way that the public are able to see and believe in,’ said Cllr Miller. ‘There has been significant change already during my time as a Cabinet Member, but I accept that’s not been very visible to date. We are perhaps, only now, beginning to see tangible progress but I am absolutely determined we build momentum around a programme that will create exciting, lasting change for Pembrokeshire. I am ambitious about what our county can be and our vision is based on an realisable agenda for regeneration that creates jobs and a thriving region in rural west Wales.’

Though Haverfordwest and Pembroke will be priorities for the town-centre regeneration programme, the public will benefit from projects throughout the whole of Pembrokeshire.

Pembrokeshire County Council’s proposals for Haverfordwest will look to re-establish the county town as a destination of choice for residents, tourists and business, providing an attractive proposition for investment. A number of ‘flagship’ projects are now tabled and the first phase of this work has already delivered Glan-yr-afon/The Riverside, a new library, tourist centre and gallery which has brought a 10% increase in town centre footfall since opening earlier this year. Amongst a number of other exciting schemes nearing fruition, phase two of the Riverside project – the redevelopment of the former Ocky White department store building – is now at an advanced stage. There is now the required political appetite alongside a robust business case to see these projects assist in repositioning Haverfordwest as an exciting place to work, live and build a business.

With rail and road infrastructure strategies well underway, alongside a desire for highspeed fibre broadband throughout the county, Cllr Miller talks candidly of a mission to make Pembrokeshire ‘the best connected rural county in the UK.’

Plans for the redevelopment of South Quay in Pembroke are beginning to come together and the decision on the appointment of the architects for the scheme will be made imminently.

While Cllr Miller is careful to acknowledge that progress will be measured on results, he is determined that the next few years will demonstrate a sea change in Pembrokeshire’s drive towards regeneration and he is clear about how he sees this being realised: ‘We’re going to show some leadership and that’s going to prove the catalyst for bringing partners, investors and businesses to the County. With connectivity at the heart of our programme we are going to invite the nation to embrace the attractive possibility of living and working in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. Pembrokeshire is a dynamic, connected, ambitious place and we’re open for business!’

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Could Haverfordwest Youth Club’s puppet project help you find happiness?

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AN EXCITING creative project has been launched by Haverfordwest Youth Club giving young people the chance to create a large-scale puppet exploring what makes them feel happy.

Youth workers, together with local Artist Di Ford will deliver five workshops, during which the young people will create the puppet. The final creation will be exhibited at the Haverfordwest Summer Carnival on Sunday 28th July 2019.

“Project Puppet will be an expression of what matters collectively to the young people – how they exercise their desire to be happy, to feel a sense of wellbeing and to stay safe,” said community youth worker Steve Lewis from Pembrokeshire County Council.

The first workshop will be on Wednesday 19th June at St. Martin’s Hall, Haverfordwest. The workshops, each lasting two hours (7pm to 9pm) will encourage ideas about what the puppet represents to the participants as well as teaching them the skills required to create it.

The funding for the project has come from the Patricia May Memorial Grant which was awarded to the West Wales Branch of The Arts Society.

  • If you are aged 11-25 and would like to participate in Project Puppet: Looking for Happiness, please contact Steve Lewis on 07810 681746.
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Pembrokeshire Liberal Democrats wants more pensioners to keep their free TV Licences

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Pembrokeshire Liberal Democrats have expressed their concern at the decision taken by the BBC to save £450m a year from 2020, to remove the free TV licence for those over 75 years of age from those pensioners not in receipt of Pension Credit.

This could see 3.7m pensioners currently benefitting from a TV licence, having to start paying from 2020. The decision was made by the BBC following the government’s decision to transfer the funding of licences from the government to the BBC.

Liberal Democrat Department of Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson Jane Bonham-Carter said “Concessions for over 75’s are a social cost which should not be paid from the licence fee, but from central Government funding.

Government, not the BBC should be responsible and accountable for their social policies. If the Conservative Government does not want to pay for free licences for over 75’s then they should be upfront about their policy. However, passing the buck onto the BBC is underhand and risks undermining the BBC’s financial viability to provide what the license fee payer expects.”

Age UK have said that 1 in 4 over the age of 65 say that TV is their main form of companionship.

Alistair Cameron, the Welsh Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire said “There has been much coverage of this issue on TV and social media since the BBC made the announcement that it was withdrawing free TV licences from all pensioners except those on Pension Credit.

Many pensioners over the age of 75 are not able to get out a lot. For them, the TV is a really important part of their lives.

A lot of pensioners have to survive on a low income, including those who do not claim pension credit. Having to pay for a TV licence will be very hard on them.”

Andrew Lye, the Chair of Pembrokeshire Liberal Democrats said “Many people are annoyed at the decision and rightly so.

I can appreciate that the wealthy over 75 currently receive a free TV licence as do those on a basic state pension. We must remember that there are many pensioners not in receipt of pension credit and struggle to manage on their pension. MP’s need to remember that the Conservative 2017 Manifesto committed them to free TV licenses for the over 75’s for the duration of this Parliament, and the ‘grey vote’ will remember this broken promise at the next General Election.”

Andrew Lye went on to say, “Of course with the latest released figures showing £3.1bn of unclaimed Pension Credit in the UK, I would call upon pensioners in Pembrokeshire to phone 0800-991234 as the website https://www.gov.uk/pension-credit/how-to-claim states that phoning them is the quickest way to find out if you qualify. Who knows, you may get money that you are entitled to”.

Andrew Lye added, “We call upon the Government to resolve this issue as it is unfair that it will affect millions of pensioners and we hope that Pembrokeshire MP’s, Stephen Crabb and Simon Hart will make representations to the Prime Minister. Just because you do not claim or get Pension Credit, you cannot automatically assume that they are all well off on their pension. With the growing problem of loneliness in the elderly, especially where a partner has died, the TV is a vital lifeline and we should treat our pensioners better”.

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