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Members ‘encouraged’ after Riverside purchase call-in

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MEMBERS of the Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee have been reassured following the call in of a Cabinet members’ decision to look into the purchase of Haverfordwest Riverside.

A number of councillors had been concerned about the decision to appoint a consultant to develop and evaluate proposals for the site’s redevelopment because of the Council’s budgetary position.

Cabinet member for Economy and Tourism, Cllr Paul Miller, made his decision at the end of April as part of wider council plans to revitalise the Town of Haverfordwest.

However, on May 3, that decision was called in by Cllrs Jamie Adams, David Pugh, Brian Hall and Di Clements.

A special meeting of the Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee was called for Tuesday, May 14.
During the meeting a number of points were raised but it was highlighted that the money for the consultants would not be coming out the tax payers money.

At this stage the Council would only be looking at whether or not they should purchase the site and are asking consultants to look into it.

Members were reassured by what they had heard and asked for an update at their September meeting.

Cllr Jamie Adams said that there needed to be some understanding of the desire of the people to see council tax money well spent and added that his worry was that they would be further burdening tax payers.

Cllr Miller said he was very concerned that the Pembrokeshire was becoming a disconnected retirement county but highlighted his strategy for improving the county.

He added that he wanted to get Pembrokeshire better connected in terms of broadband, ensuring that Pembrokeshire has an offer adding that although they were ‘well endowed’ with natural assets, it wasn’t enough ‘on its own’.

His third point was to make sure that the county is discovered and said: “Let’s appoint the right people to guide us through this.”

Cllr Bob Summons asked a number of questions including what due dilligence had been done.

Cllr Miller said some had already been done but added that the majority of it would come when the business case would be considered.

Cllr Summons said that town centres were dying because of online shopping and asked what could be done.

Cllr Miller outlined that the area being considered included Haverfordwest Castle, Bridge Street, the Ocky White building, the Riverside Shopping centre and that redeveloping the multi-storey car park was an area of interest.

He went on to say they would be relying on external consultants as they didn’t have the in-house resources to do so.

A report to the committee stated that finance officers had not been involved but when challenged, Council Leader David Simpson said that they had been involved in discussions over the last two years, just not on the specifics of the project.

Cllr Adams added that the meeting to discuss the concept had only happened on Monday, after the call-in, and asked was it a case of the ‘stable door being bolted after the horse is out’.

Cllr Bob Kilmister said a meeting had been scheduled but because he was away it was put back to Monday.

Cllr Adams asked if it had also been discussed at a meeting of the Strategic Asset Management group.

Cllr Paul Miller said it hadn’t but added that when the business case was made they would be involved.

Cllr Adams also asked about further investment in Bridge Street and Cllr Miller said there would be as part of the Castle project.

He went on to say that the Welsh Government were also involved in this and that they had been asking for all sorts of information.

Cllr Brian Hall warned the Cabinet to ‘be cautious’ or risk the situation coming back to bite them.

After hearing what had been said a number of members were reassured by what had gone on and Cllr David Pugh said he admired the Cabinet’s ambition.

Cllr Simon Hancock asked what the consequences would be if they did nothing adding that he was supportive of the Council trying to do the right thing.

Cllr Tony Wilcox added: “To not engage specialists would be remiss of us. We’ve got to at least go through this process.”

Cllr Tim Evans added he was ‘really encouraged’ by what he had heard and added the consultants would tell them whether this was right or wrong saying: “It’s something we’ve got to go through with.”

Members agreed that an update report should be presented to them at their September meeting.

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Crabb backs veterans of Irish Troubles

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VETERANS of the Northern Irish Troubles have been backed by Preseli MP Stephen Crabb during votes in the House of Commons.

In the absence of a functioning administration in Northern Ireland, Members of Parliament have been voting in an effort to keep Northern Ireland running.

Stephen Crabb co-sponsored an amendment put forward by Johnny Mercer MP which passed. The Secretary of State must now report on the options available to allow veterans of the Troubles to assist in a truth recovery process, for the benefit of bereaved families, without fear of prosecution.

Commenting following the vote, Stephen Crabb MP said: “This is a positive step towards ensuring the hounding of veterans is stopped. The proud, local veteran community, along with myself, have been deeply troubled by the ongoing pursuit of current and former British Soldiers for actions carried out while under orders on active service.

“I have made the point previously to Ministers that we risk a serious breach of trust with our Armed Forces by opening the door to such prosecutions. The pressures placed on a solder in conflict situations are enormous and it cannot be right that actions carried out in these circumstances are re-opened decades later by people with no understanding of what happened on the ground.“

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Identical ‘call-out’ within three days for Fishguard RNLI lifeboat

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FISHGUARD RNLI inshore lifeboat launched on Thursday evening 18 July to the very same inflatable dinghy they rescued on Monday July 15

The inshore lifeboat and three volunteer crew launched at 8.45pm after the inflatable was reported drifting out to sea from Fishguard harbour. The flimsy inflatable and the young men onboard were taken under tow back to the area of Goodwick beach and they were again spoken to regarding the dangers of inflatable craft. On this occasion there was an off-shore wind and an ebbing tide which potentially presented much more dangerous conditions for the persons onboard.

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Rosslare ready to go it alone

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THE UK Government stands ready to revoke legislation governing the relationship between the ports of Fishguard and Rosslare.

The abolition of the current arrangements is a step closer according to Irish newspaper reports of a recent meeting between Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and Fianna Fáil’s transport spokesperson Robert Troy and Wexford TD James Browne.

According to the reports, Mr Grayling told the Irish politicians that the UK has ‘no strategic or economic’ interest in keeping the ports’ governance structure.

The Irish Government, meanwhile, regards Rosslare as a major part of its Brexit plans and has acquired further land to provide additional facilities there.

The ports are governed by a UK Act of Parliament from 1888, which created the Fishguard and Rosslare Railways and Harbour Company.

The Act continued to govern the relationship between the Ports, even after most of Ireland secured its independence from the – then – British empire.

However, the old legislation has – in the view of Irish TD James Browne – hindered the Irish Government’s ability to expand activities at Rosslare to the benefit of the local and Irish economies.

Stena Line: Looking at the long term development of both ports

Fishguard and Rosslare ports are part of the one company, namely the Fishguard and Rosslare Railway and Harbours Company set up by an Act of Parliament.

Mr Browne explained to The Herald: “In effect, ownership of the port lies with UK government. But in turn the ports are effectively run as private companies: Irish Rail control and operate the Rosslare end and Stena control and operate the Fishguard side and there is an agreement in place as to the division of profits of the company.

“In Ireland, this complex and archaic ownership model has regularly been cited as an inhibiting factor in the development of the port. In short, no one will invest in a port whose ownership is unclear.”
The opportunity is not, however, all on one side, says the Wexford TD: “The decoupling of the two ports, and the transfer of Rosslare to Irish state ownership would free up both ports from this complex ownership model and allow investment in the ports.”

Mr Browne also highlighted the potential for growth in economic activity in West Wales’ closest trading neighbour: “Dublin Port is so busy that it is turning away business. Rosslare Port is in an ideal geographical location to attract shipping business and to take the pressure off of Dublin. Port. It, in turn, would act as an economic driver for the entire South East of Ireland.”

Preseli Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb told us: Stephen: “The importance of the Fishguard – Rosslare ferry connection is unquestionable with 80% of all goods from Ireland passing through Welsh ports.
“However, the historic legal framework for the ports is outdated and does not give either side the freedom they need to develop and innovate. I can well understand why change is being sought at this time.

“I have met with the management on both sides of the Irish Sea to discuss Brexit planning and other aspects of the industry and will continue to do so.”

Ian Hampton, Chief People and Communications Officer, Stena Line said: “Stena Line hopes that by removing the historical legislation that governs the status of The Fishguard Rosslare Railways and Harbour Company it will enable Stena Line and the Irish Government to work closer together creating greater opportunity, such as the options for the long term development of both the respective ports.”

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