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‘Abandoned communities’ need answers from Port, says MP

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STEPHEN CRABB MP has called for answers to ‘very serious’ questions after a flood devastated homes in the communities of Havens Head and Lower Priory two weeks ago.

At a meeting on Friday (Nov 23) outside the flood-damaged Priory Inn public house, displaced residents – some of whom are not insured – explained to their Member of Parliament that they firmly believed that the Milford Haven Port Authority was to blame for the flooding of their homes.

Mr Crabb said that questions raised about the adequacy of the pipes and culverts leading to the docks and their maintenance ‘deserve full answers’ and said that he felt that those affected felt ‘abandoned’.

The Port, however, denies that it is responsible for the incident. Tim Bownes, Engineering Director at the Port, released a statement last week saying that the flooding was not caused by any failure to act. He said it was caused by ‘two days of heavy rainfall, combined with extremely high tides combined with a tidal surge of up to half a metre.’

Mr Bownes also said that water was ‘flowing as expected’ down the Port’s culvert system on November 8

Some of the residents were clearly emotional showing their MP around their wrecked homes. The landlady of the local pub, where water levels reached the ceiling, said she could not handle going inside to see the devastation.

“Nobody from the Port gives a shit about us,” landlady Glenda German told Mr Crabb.

She added: “I’ve lost everything in this flood, and we need to get to the bottom of who is to blame.

“Someone has got to pay for this; my whole life is on stop.”

Ian Banister said that he felt that lack of maintenance was the cause of the problem, and he wanted to see records and logs to prove that the Port was telling the truth. He showed Mr Crabb several classic cars which were submerged; including a rare 1930’s Singer Le Mans sports car, and a recently rebuilt Austin A35.

Another resident pointed out that the Port was not bound by the Freedom of Information Act and information could be difficult to obtain.

Flood was deep: Stephen Crabb MP with Cllr Viv Stoddart and property owner James Kershaw (Pic Herald)

James Kershaw who lives at Pill Priory, just behind the pub, said that the culverts were either blocked, or if they were not, then they were clearly inadequate.

“Either way the Port are to blame,” he said. 1.5m of sewerage contaminated flood water has destroyed his ground floor furniture and kitchen. A lorry used for his gardening business has also been written off.

Following a tour of damaged properties Mr Crabb told The Herald: “What this group of families has been through is heart-breaking.”

He went on: “People have literally lost everything as a result of the flooding and now face many months of living in temporary accommodation waiting for their homes to dry out and repairs to be done.”

Mr Crabb addressed the accusation from many residents that Milford Haven Port Authority had contributed to the flooding by not properly maintaining the culvert which runs under Haven’s Head Business Park and into Milford Dock.

Emotional moment: Ian Bannister from Lower Priory clearly upset by the damage caused (Pic: Herald)

He told this newspaper: “The questions being raised by the residents of Lower Priory and Havens Head about the adequacy of the pipes and culverts leading to the Docks are very serious and deserve full answers.

“The speed and severity of the flooding has raised questions about whether the infrastructure has been maintained properly by the Port Authority to allow water to run out in the Dock and not build up in the way it did.”

Mr Crabb added: “These communities currently feel abandoned. It is a bewildering and stressful experience to suddenly lose your home and possessions.

“It is entirely fair for these residents to demand a full explanation as to how this happened and what can be done to prevent it in future. I’m committed to bringing together the relevant authorities to ensure that some answers can be found.”

Stephen Crabb MP visits flooded resident (Pic: Herald)

High tide mark: The level of water in James Kershaw’s home (Pic: Herald)

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Protest over animal welfare concerns at Bramble Hill Farm

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LOCALS held a peaceful protest at the site of a Pembroke Dock farm, where over 200 animals were removed after a multi agency response to animal welfare concerns last month.

Around 100 worried locals from Pembroke and Pembroke Dock gathered at the entrance to Bramble Hill Farm last Friday (Feb 15) at 4pm. Those present believed the farm owners are still in possession of dogs, which they cited as the reason for the protest. Head of Environment and Public Protection at Pembrokeshire County Council, Richard Brown later confirmed that there were two dogs left on the farm, but explained they were elderly and looked after. Locals hoped the protest would mean the removal of any animals still left at the property and a ban imposed to prevent any further animals being kept at the property or by the owners.

Officers from Dyfed-Powys Police were present, with the Herald reporter in attendance being told that the police were ensuring it remained peaceful and to keep traffic congestion to a minimum. There was evident hostility towards to the local authorities and RSPCA amongst the protesters, with many feeling that their concerns about the farm were not dealt with soon enough by the relevant organisations.

Speaking to the crowd, Richard Brown said: “So the idea of what we do is, we are proceeding with our enquiries and get the case together. If we get a successful conviction, it’s an opportunity to get a ban on keeping animals. Without that conviction we can’t get a ban.”

He was challenged numerous times on whether Sean Burns, owner of the farm, has been prosecuted for animal cruelty. Mr Brown then confirmed that ‘he has been prosecuted previously’.

He added: “We have to be careful not to prejudice any case. All of our interests is animal welfare. We can’t just go in and remove animals because people want us to. We don’t have those powers.

“There is a range of offences being investigated and a range of individuals being investigated.”

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Neyland woman imprisoned for driving while disqualified

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A 35-YEAR-OLD woman who was caught driving while disqualified twice in four days days has been sentenced to six months in prison.

Victoria Anne James, of College Park, Neyland, was stopped by Dyfed-Powys Police roads policing officers in Johnston on Friday, February 15. She was reported for the offences and her Alfa Romeo car was seized.

James was stopped a second time by police on Monday, February 18, for driving while disqualified while driving another car.

She was arrested and charged with two counts of driving while disqualified and two counts of driving without insurance.

She was convicted at Haverfordwest Magistrates’ Courts that same day and received a six month prison sentence, and received a further 24 months Driving Disqualification.

Sergeant Justin Williams said: “Police intelligence led officers to stop Victoria Anne James on February 15 where she was reported for offences and her car was seized. For her to commit the same offence two days later shows her disregard for the law.

“I hope this targeted, swift work from roads policing officers and the courts, which has resulted in a prison sentence serves as a stark warning to James and others considering flouting the laws on our roads. We are monitoring our roads and we will take robust action to ensure we keep other drivers on our roads safe by upholding the law.”

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Boy took his own life after failure to refer him for psychiatric support

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THE INQUEST into the death of 14 year-old Derek Brundrett, who was found hanged at Pembroke School in December 2013, has found that there were individual failings in efforts to get psychiatric support for the teenage boy – who then went on to take his own life.

Derek had seven different social workers and record keeping by social services was in a “shocking state of affairs” leading up to his death.

Returning a narrative verdict, the Assistant Coroner, Paul Bennett, said: “That Derek Brundrett took his own life and intended to do so in circumstances where, despite efforts to refer him for psychiatric support there was a failure to do so.”

Although no systemic failures were found, the Assistant Coroner ruled that there was a failure to refer by a social worker, a failure by a GP to provide extra information when referrals in 2012 and 2013 were declined, and a further failure to provide the relevant information on the appropriate referral form of a Looked After Child.

Derek’s death was in the context that he had been returned to foster care and was concerned about a return to the Pupil Referral Unit.

Derek’s actions were not considered to be a cry for help but rather a deliberate attempt at self-harm, the Coroner’s report stated.

The inquest had previously heard there were numerous failed attempts to refer him to mental health services.

A social services referral plan was not completed by Derek’s social worker because “she believed him to be happy”.

The inquest also heard Derek’s GP had made “routine” referrals for mental health treatment in 2012 and 2013.

Angela Lodwick, head of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) for the Hywel Dda University Health Board, said they had to “prioritise children with severe mental health disorders”.

She added requests for more information about Derek’s condition went unanswered.

But she told the inquest that, at the time, CAMHS was not proactive in seeking more information.

Ms Lodwick said CAMHS would have probably “taken him on referral and made an assessment” if they had known about Derek’s risk-taking behaviour and talk of suicide in 2013, such as when he climbed onto the school roof.

She told the inquest the system had been inadequate and “the position was that everyone sat on their hands waiting” but CAMHS has since made improvements.

A spokesman for the Pembrokeshire County Council said: “The death of a child is a profound loss and all the professionals involved in this tragedy feel great sympathy for Derek and his family and friends. We would like to repeat our sincere condolences to them at this time.

“Derek’s loss is deeply felt by those individuals who had formed close and caring relationships with him.

“We would like to thank the Coroner for his thorough investigation and consideration of the case.

“We will, of course, reflect upon all of the issues that have been raised during the Inquest, and consider what lessons can be learned with a view to continuing to ensure the safeguarding and well-being of all children and young persons served by Pembrokeshire County Council.”

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