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Cabinet member commits to improving broadband

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COUNTY COUNCIL Cabinet Member for Economy, Paul Miller, has pledged to improve Pembrokeshire’s  digital connectivity so that it becomes the best in Wales.

And he’s willing to commit Council money in order to achieve the ambition.

Councillor Miller said he agreed with the recent statement by the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, that every household in the UK should have access to a full fibre broadband connection by 2025.

“Sitting on the very western tip of Wales it is obvious to anyone that we’re never going to be the best connected county in terms of road or rail – that we accept”, said Councillor Miller.

“We could, however, be the best digitally connected place in Wales, maybe even the UK. That’s our ambition.”

Councillor Miller said the issue was the scale of the challenge facing those trying to provide it.

He went on: “When I arrived behind the economic development desk in Pembrokeshire I quickly realised that there weren’t many things I could do, that would have as big an impact on the Pembrokeshire economy as dramatically improving our digital connectivity. I also realized that it was just too important to rely on someone else doing it for us.

“In Pembrokeshire right now 88 per cent of households and businesses have access to 30 Megabits per second (Mbps) – the EU’s definition of Superfast. That not terrible, actually, by UK standards but fewer than 6 per cent of premises have access to Ultrafast (100 Mbps) and 2.5 per cent of our households are still stuck with less than 2 Mbps.

“The story in a nutshell? If you are in a town or big village, broadband speeds are, for the most part, bearable but perhaps not for long. Just outside those areas and you are probably pulling your hair out.

“The economics of rural broadband mean that without intervention, providers aren’t going be doing much to improve that position anytime soon.

“Our challenge is how we intervene in a way that actually starts to fix the problem and in Pembrokeshire we have come up with a plan that we are convinced can make a difference.

“Step one: we’re going to intervene where we can easily do so.

“We’ve applied for funding under the Department for Culture Media and Sport’s (DCMS) Local Full Fibre Networks Programme (LFFN). We know the outcome of that application, but I cannot yet say. Let us assume though that we will be successful.

“That funding enables us, by 2021, to connect up a large number of public sector buildings – GP surgeries, libraries, leisure centres to full fibre broadband. It creates a great base from which suppliers will make full fibre connections available to the homes and businesses nearby.

“Step two: we have divided the county into eighty, loosely defined, project areas that cover the whole of Pembrokeshire We’ve invited providers to give us an indicative price to connect every property in those areas to full fibre.

“We’ve had some big numbers back, but, based on what we’ve seen so far, we believe it can be done.
“Step three: we’ve employed a team, funded by the Council, specifically to work with communities in those zones to draw down as many funding vouchers as possible.

“Vouchers are a UK and Welsh Government initiative that provides funding of up to £1,500 per household and £5,500 per business to support the build of fibre infrastructure.

”Step four: Cabinet will soon be considering a proposal to create a £2 million pot of Council funding to top-up the voucher money where it isn’t enough to complete a zone.

“£2 million will not be enough, but it’s a start. If the Prime Minister really wants to deliver by 2025, we will be looking to him for more. On top of that direct intervention, I am determined that we do everything in our power as a local authority to ‘get out of the way’ as we seek to have fibre provided across the County.

“Our property team have been tasked with ensuring we never refuse permission to broadband providers to use our land.

“Our highways team are exploring innovative ways of using the highways and footpaths criss-crossing Pembrokeshire to bring fibre cables to people’s front doors and our planning team are working out how we best ensure that all new development in Pembrokeshire incorporates a direct fibre connection.

“This is a big undertaking. It is going to require commitment from all levels of government but it can be done.

“I am making a start on getting the message out there – we are absolutely determined to deliver a step-change in digital connectivity in Pembrokeshire.

“I want our residents to know we are on the case. I want government to know that we are ready to get stuck in. I want business in Pembrokeshire to know that we are determined to get them better connected.

“And perhaps most importantly, I want businesses all over the UK to know, that there’s a dynamic, forward-thinking county on the tip of West Wales that’s getting itself connected and which is open for business.”

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Launch of Haverfordwest Castle Conservation Management Plan

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MEMBERS of the public are being asked to help shape the future of Haverfordwest Castle as a draft Conservation Management Plan (CMP) is launched.

One of Pembrokeshire’s most important historical assets, the Castle is owned by Pembrokeshire County Council, which has produced the CMP.

The plan:

▪ sets out the significance of the castle and describes how the building will be protected with any new use, alteration, repair or management; 

▪ will help with the planning of maintenance, conservation and repair work and adaptation of the site to meet new or changing uses; 

▪ will help promote understanding of the site and look at improving public access and activities for local people and visitors; 

▪ will support proposals to conserve the castle and adaptations of the site in response to climate change; 

▪ and underpin funding applications to support improvements

An engagement exercise has been launched alongside the Plan, giving members of the public with an interest in the historic and/or environmental significance of the castle an opportunity to comment on the document and share their views.

To take part in the engagement exercise, please click on the following link: 

https://haveyoursay.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/regeneration-communities

The deadline for responses is Sunday, March 28, 2021.

 

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Natural Resources Wales approves Ireland-UK interconnector licence

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GREENLINK INTERCONNECTOR LIMITED says it welcomes the decision by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to approve its application for a Marine Licence for the Greenlink electricity interconnector project, which will link the power markets of Great Britain and Ireland.

An important project for Pembrokeshire, and the UK as a whole, NRW’s go-ahead is one of several consents required for the construction of the project and covers installation of the marine cable in UK waters.

The approval is a major milestone for Greenlink and joins the onshore planning consents granted unanimously in July last year by Pembrokeshire County Council and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority.

Greenlink’s proposed 190km subsea and underground electricity cable will run beneath the Irish Sea to connect National Grid’s Pembroke Power Station in Wales and EirGrid’s Great Island substation in County Wexford, Ireland. It will have a nominal capacity of 500 MW.

The Wales-Ireland link is just one of four interconnectors being installed

Nigel Beresford, CEO for Greenlink Interconnector Limited, said: “We are delighted by Natural Resources Wales’s decision to grant this licence. This marks a significant milestone for Greenlink and another important step towards project construction, which we expect to commence later this year.

“The Greenlink team has worked constructively with Natural Resources Wales and Welsh marine stakeholders to find workable solutions to the many technical and environmental challenges facing a large infrastructure project like this, and this has been reflected in the quality of the final proposal.

“The thorough environmental and technical assessments we have undertaken, supported by the practical and value-adding feedback we have received from key marine stakeholders, have ensured that we move forward confident that we are delivering a well-designed project with the interests of the Welsh marine habitat at its core.”

The subsea section of the cable will be approximately 160km in length and uses high voltage direct current (HVDC) technology. The preferred route and installation methods were chosen following the conclusion of subsea surveys and consultation with key stakeholders.

In Ireland, a Foreshore Licence application was submitted to the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (Foreshore Unit) in 2019 and the onshore planning application was submitted to An Bord Pleanála in December 2020.

Greenlink is one of Europe’s most important energy infrastructure projects and brings benefits on both sides of the Irish Sea for energy security, regional investment, jobs and the cost-effective integration of low carbon energy. The project will offer important local supply chain opportunities and plans are being drawn up for ‘meet-the-buyer’ events in the local area prior to construction.

Once fully consented, Greenlink is expected to have a three-year construction programme, with commissioning planned by the end of 2023.

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Appeal from Fire and Rescue Service to install working smoke alarms

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AT 01:17am this morning, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, crews from Milford Haven were called to a property fire in the Hakin area of Milford Haven.

The fire was confined to a pan on a stove in the kitchen area and extinguished by firefighters using two breathing apparatus, a hose reel jet and a thermal imaging camera.

Crews also ventilated the property and fitted smoke alarms within the property.

The Fire Service left the incident at 02:00am.

Watch Manager Alun Griffiths, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said “This fire was the result of cooking left unattended. It is so important to remove all pots and pans from a heat source when you are called away from the cooker.

“Thankfully, the occupiers of the property managed to exit the property before our firefighters arrived, but it could have ended very differently as there were no smoke alarms fitted in the property.
“I cannot stress enough the importance of installing working smoke alarms in your homes and testing them regularly. In the dreadful event of a fire, they can alert you to the danger sooner and could mean the difference between life and death.

“As a Fire and Rescue Service, we provide Home Fire Safety advice which is free of charge. We also offer Safe and Well Visits which you can arrange by phoning us on 0800 169 1234 or by visiting the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service website.”

For further Home Fire Safety advice or to talk about the possibility of a Safe and Well Visit by Fire and Rescue Service personnel, please phone us on 0800 169 1234.​​​ Alternatively please complete an online Request a Safe and Well Visit​ form on the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service website: https://www.mawwfire.gov.uk/eng/your-safety/in-your-home/

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