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Council criticised over delays to One Planet Developments

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL has come under fierce attack for how it handles One Planet Developments, one of the Welsh Government’s schemes to promote a greener rural economy.

WHAT IS A ONE PLANET DEVELOPMENT?

The Welsh Government defines a One Planet Development as “development that through its low impact either enhances or does not significantly diminish environmental quality. One Planet Developments should initially achieve an ecological footprint of 2.4 global hectares per person or less in terms of consumption and demonstrate clear potential to move towards 1.88 global hectares over time”.
Planning Policy Wales goes on to say that One Planet Developments “should be able to support their inhabitants in terms of income, food, energy and waste assimilation over no more than five years from the commencement of work on the site.”
The key element is that the policy allows new land-based live-and-work enterprises in the countryside provided that strict rules are followed.
The policy has received criticism from planning committee members across West Wales, particularly from those connected to farming areas or who are farmers themselves. They claim the policy is unfair to agricultural families who want to build homes for their children on their land.
As we shall see below, Pembrokeshire’s councillors also grind that particular axe.

Huw George

A READER WRITES

Tesi Delaney has made an application for a One Planet Development. She contacted us recently and told us of her problems in navigating the choppy waters and conflicting agendas of planners who are supposed to assess applications on clear statutory grounds and county councillors determined to block One Planet Developments because ‘Maenclochog’.
She writes: I remember when The Herald published its original article because I was one of the people quoted in it. I had just been refused OPD for my site in Rhosfach, in the Mynachlogddu ward of North Pembs.
My local councillor, Huw George, had been on the BBC, telling the nation that OPD was not fit for purpose.
When I made my second application, Cllr George and I had a meeting along with some other people to discuss my application. He said he would help me, and in the case of a second recommendation for refusal, would insist that the case was taken to the committee to be heard democratically.
Last Friday (November 8), I received my second recommendation for refusal. I am now waiting for a reply from Cllr George, having messaged him the same night to ask if he is still willing to support me.
Cllr George has the power to put my case in front of the planning committee, who have shown themselves largely in favour of OPD applications. This way, my application would be assessed by the committee, and not just be judged on the opinion of one delegated planning officer. In effect, then, my fate lies largely in the hands of someone who is a self-professed opponent of OPD. Tricky.
So we come to our first problem. Why is it that a decision that impacts someone’s life so completely, can be taken by one delegated member of the council planning team?
OPD is still in its infancy, and there are questions on both sides which need ironing out. It seems, however, that the planning officers do not wish to undertake such complicated matters.

Erica Thompson

A TICKING CLOCK

Which takes us to my next point. Why did it take five months to refuse me last time, and nearly seven months this time? The planning schedule is supposed to give you a decision with eight weeks.
If they fail, they are supposed to request an extension before the deadline and ask for more time. On my first application, my planning officer was extremely late asking for an extension and then went over the new deadline anyway.
The second time, I was not even asked for an extension.
Such a long wait has you phoning up in desperation, just to be number 500 in a queue. When you get through they’re “not in the office”.
So you email, and they ignore you. I was asked to not to contact my planning officer. I was expected to be left hanging for months on end, waiting for my life to begin and losing seasons. All while, I felt they put OPD applications aside and dealt with easier matters.
It’s not just me. Local businessman, Daniel Badham – a tree surgeon of high repute in the area, born and bred in Pembrokeshire – applied for OPD on his site in Reynalton last March.
That’s right. Nine months ago.
He feels he has been constantly fobbed him off, just the same as me. Excuses, delays, avoidance.
Daniel has been living away from his daughters the whole time, staying in a caravan on his dad’s farm for what he thought would be about eight weeks. He’s now heading into his second winter. His kids are growing into teens and losing interest in the whole idea; feeling, no doubt like, it’s all some big lie.
And they’d be right.
Not a lie from their dad; a lie from the council about how long they expect these things to take, and as to whether or not it might happen.
Another local, Stephen De-Waine, a fisherman of the Haven since he was a young man, sold everything he owns, including his fishing boat, and purchased a plot of land to do an OPD.
“The thing that worries me,” he said, “is that the council seem to stall OPD for as long as they can get away with it. I’m 54. I can’t waste time waiting for them to decide if it’s going to take me a year”. And he has a point. Unnecessary stress is not something welcome in his life.
And why should it be? It’s only a planning application.
We’re not asking to bring back hanging, although, from the level of vitriolic response to applications, I’m not sure some locals wouldn’t welcome such a thing.
Young people watching my progress on social media, who are thinking as they watch OPD could be of interest to them, must see the aggro and decide firmly not to bother. I know, given my time again, that I wouldn’t. And I’m nearly at the stage where I’d say to anyone, don’t do it.
It’s a nightmare. That’s hardly a good advertisement for a Welsh Assembly policy that intends to do all it can to promote greener, more self-sufficient living.

 

CRISIS, WHAT CRISIS?

Back in May PCC declared a climate emergency. Since then, they’ve been doing everything in their power to make the greenest policy they have as impossible as they can make it.
I still have no idea why I’ve been recommended for refusal, as my planning officer has made a decision, but hasn’t done the report yet. And I don’t get this information sent to me personally; it’s posted online for me to read in public along with all my objectors.
This is my third point. To apply for OPD you have to present a 50-100 page document, outlining every single detail of your plans, your life, your outgoings, everything – some of it very personal information. This information is then published online. If the council ask you a question and you answer it, they also publish that; which resulted in the council plastering my mental health issues all over the internet.
A quick gander at some of the objections to OPDs and you begin to realise the level of prejudice we’re up against. Everyone panics.
“We’ve got hippies!” They cry.
I used to be a lecturer at the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David, but they see muddy boots and recycled items and they think the brew crew have moved in.
Applicants Rose and Mike Quirk, who own a site in Llangolman, have stated how alien it is for them to be perceived as such ne’er do wells. “We’ve always been respected before!” said Rose, who has degrees in both nursing and psychology. Mike is a traditional timber builder. Their application is currently at the five-month mark. Again, not even close to eight weeks.
So why the lies about the timescale?
Why not admit that they don’t have the resources and tell you you’re looking at around six months, minimum for a decision?
And that’s the fourth point. Lies.
I was told by my planning officer that I wasn’t allowed to see my objections. I have since found this not to be the case. In the end, a friend put in a freedom of information request and got them for me.
Why did that have to happen?
I should have been able to see the objections. How come the objectors get such privacy when my life is laid bare for all to see?
Objectors are usually people who have seemingly wonderful lives, but who somehow have nothing better to do than to constantly complain about everything and anything. They’re the same people who used to phone up DVLA when your tax disc was a day out.

 

THE COST TO THE COUNCIL

So what happens now? Well, I go to appeal; a very expensive undertaking for the council, and risky for them, as most OPDs are granted permission at appeal, making the whole exercise a waste of everyone’s time and money.
An appeal will take 6- 8 months. If I win, the council have to pay all my costs. They say the applications are taking so long because they’re under-resourced, yet they can suddenly rustle up twenty grand to defend their shortcomings.
And then, are they’re going to take Rose to Appeal? And Dan? And Steve? How many of us are they going to make an example of before they just accept that this is an Assembly initiative which local council politics and nimbyism should have no part in?
OPD is capable of answering legitimate housing and working need for many people in this county, where jobs and affordable homes are few. Farmers are having to diversify. Why shouldn’t they raise a few quid for their retirement by selling a few acres to a couple of young ‘uns, or not so young ‘uns, to create a life for themselves, to provide themselves with jobs, a roof over their head, and be a burden to nobody, doing their bit for climate change?
There’s nothing stopping farming families taking advantage of the policy, enabling them to split farms between family members, and each has their start and chance.
When I first bought my land I tried to find a house to rent locally. So many empty houses, not one for rent. All the little croft cottages are now holiday cottages. So where are we supposed to live?
OPD isn’t for everyone. It’s not an easy life. All the more reason why the people attempting it should be supported in their attempts to create a less consumerist world, planting trees and plants for pollinating insects, growing food and being as self-sufficient as possible, on natural land, that is balanced, cared for and not smothered in pesticides. Soon it may be a lifestyle that everyone has to undertake. That’s worth thinking about.
Even if you get your OPD over the line, it doesn’t stop there. You need to do yearly monitoring reports. If you’re not complying or succeeding as much as they want you to, planners can make you take down everything you’ve worked for, and you’ve got five years to do it all – build a home, a business, and prove your worth. So much for “getting away with it”.

 

COUNCIL’S PLANNERS AT ODDS WITH OWN POLICY

You can’t incite a revolution if you’re not prepared to fight, as they say. So some of us have to be the ones to get through these early processes. Perhaps don’t have the energy of the guys at Lammas, or Charlie and Meg at the Roundhouse, or Tony Wrench. That’s yet to be seen.
But ultimately, it’s still my land. I have options. But it’s pretty crazy to disallow me to make a home and living for me and my son. The real stinger is that my first refusal said that I hadn’t done enough to start my business. So I’ve been doing loads, setting up stuff, only to be told now that they’re going to refuse me. Not only that, they intend to pretty much immediately enforce my workshop that doubles as somewhere to keep baby goats when it freezes and is where my cats and dogs live.
Pretty soon, all homes will have to be eco homes. The council said this themselves at a meeting in May. The next LDP will contain such policies as all new builds being eco builds. That includes those of Mr George’s farmers he says think developments like mine are unfair to them.
I’ve planted hundreds of trees on my site. I’ve planted hundreds of trees in pots. They’re growing happily on a site the council say can’t grow trees.
My business plan is for a tree nursery, with trees grown with local seed and cuttings, and not imported.
All we see is that governments are encouraging tree planting. As ash die-back decimates our county, the council see fit to refuse an application for a tree nursery. Do you understand? Because I don’t.

COUNCIL SAYS OPD TOO COMPLICATED

Cllr Huw George did not respond to our request for answers to criticisms of him made in this article.
Pembrokeshire County Council told us that OPDs should be regarded as special cases.
“There are significant demands on the local planning authority in terms of resources (time, cost, expertise) not only in assessing applications for One Planet Development but also through monitoring and enforcement.
“The level of detailed evaluation that OPD applications require and the need for clarification or the submission of additional information can lead to applications taking longer than the standard determination period of 8 weeks.
“Retrospective applications can be used as a way of retrofitting unauthorised residential development in the open countryside to One Planet Development policy as a way of obtaining planning permission rather than a genuine desire and commitment to One Planet Development and a low impact lifestyle.”
That got short shrift from Dr Erica Thompson, Chair of the One Planet Council.
“It is disappointing that some applications do take a very long time to reach a decision. We recognise that One Planet Development applications are complex and that there are other planning considerations beyond the “One Planet” nature of the development – and indeed the incredible strain at the moment on council services including planning.
“However, the One Planet Development Practice Guidance published by the Welsh Government assesses whether or not an application conforms to the requirements relatively simple once an officer is familiar with the requirements. The One Planet Council can offer professional training to planning officers by request.
“In approving one recent application, Carmarthenshire Council’s planning committee mentioned their declaration of a Climate Emergency and their commitment to taking commensurate action. Promoting and enabling One Planet Development, though not the whole solution, is one way that councils can take action towards the challenges that the climate crisis presents for us in Wales.
“Pembrokeshire has been leading the way in One Planet Development and we hope that the council will continue to assess applications as fast as is reasonably possible, with fairness against the criteria, so that those who want to take up this opportunity can do so without having to put their lives and businesses on hold.”

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Eligible unpaid carers encouraged to register for COVID-19 vaccine

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UNPAID carers in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire who are not already registered as a carer with their GP practice are being asked to complete an online registration form if they wish to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended that unpaid carers are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine as part of priority group 6, subject to certain eligibility criteria.

Revised national guidance from the JCVI describes unpaid carers as those who are eligible for a carer’s allowance, or those who are the sole or primary carer of an elderly or disabled person who is at increased risk of COVID-19 mortality and therefore clinically vulnerable.

Those clinically vulnerable to COVID-19 include children with severe neuro-disabilities, those who are designated Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV), adults who have underlying health conditions, and those who need care because of advanced age. Eligible carers should be vaccinated in priority group 6.

Anna Bird, Assistant Director of Strategic Partnerships at Hywel Dda UHB, said: “Unpaid carers play a vital role offering care and support and it is in everyone’s interest that they are supported.

“For many years now, the health board has built strong links with unpaid carers across our three counties through initiatives such as our Investors in Carers scheme, designed to help organisations focus on, and improve, their carer awareness and the help and support they give to carers.

“There are over 10,000 unpaid carers registered with GP practices or the local authority across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire but we know there are many more people out there who may not recognise themselves as an unpaid carer and are unaware that support is available for them, including their eligibility for a COVID-19 vaccine.”

If you believe you may be eligible, are aged 16 or over and are not registered as an unpaid carer with your GP, please complete this online form https://hduhb.nhs.wales/healthcare/services-and-teams/carers-information/covid-vaccine-for-unpaid-carers/covid-vaccine-for-unpaid-carers/ to register your details. People without internet access can contact the health board on 0300 303 8322.

Those already registered as an unpaid carer with a GP will be contacted directly to receive a COVID vaccination and do not need to do anything further.
Please wait to be invited for your vaccination and do not contact your GP or health board to ask about your vaccine appointment. You will be contacted when it is your turn, thank you for your patience and understanding.

To find out more about the support available for unpaid carers in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire please visit https://hduhb.nhs.wales/healthcare/services-and-teams/carers-information/

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Welsh pet food company launches new pet store in Haverfordwest

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FRIDAY (March 5) Carmarthenshire based pet food company, Burns Pet Nutrition, launched a brand-new pet store in the stunning town of Haverfordwest. The new shop will sell a variety of pet goodies, such as food, toys, and accessories, and even provide a wellness service offering advice and guidance to local pet parents.

The Haverfordwest location will be the sixth pet store to-date for the beloved Welsh pet food brand, who are known for their award-winning, natural and healthy pet food, along with their generous support of rescue centres and shelters, charitable donations and community projects.

The shop launched officially on March 5, as a welcome addition to the personality of the local area. Haverfordwest Mayor, Alan Buckfield, says: “I’m very pleased to welcome the opening of the Haverfordwest Pet shop. This new business in Withybush Road adds to the range of shopping available in our Town and obviously fills a gap in the market as well as providing new job opportunities.”

Burns Haverfordwest store offers toys, treats and accessories, and of course, plenty of Burns Natural Pet Food to keep local pets happy and healthy. Burns pet food is renowned for its use of natural, holistic and simple ingredients in hand-cooked recipes, which is why they’ve sold over 2 billion bowls to date and received numerous awards and accolades, including an incredible 92% in the latest Which? Consumer poll of best pet foods.

With stores in Llandeilo, Carmarthen, Cardigan, the new shop is a benchmark in the efforts of the company to champion the local high street and support communities in Wales. The company has launched a variety of charitable campaigns and initiatives in Wales over its long history, mainly to support community initiatives, help local rescue centres and give back to pets and their owners in every part of Wales and beyond. On the launch of the new store, John Burns, veterinary surgeon and founder of Burns Pet Nutrition, says:

“Launching a sixth pet store in the stunning location of Haverfordwest is very exciting for us. We believe it’s important to invest in our highstreets and communities, as they can be the lifeblood of a local community. We hope that the new Burns Haverfordwest Pet store will become a favourite amongst local pet owners.”

Burns new shop has opened on The County Showground, Withybush Road in Haverfordwest, and for one week only lucky customers can get a free 2kg bag of dog food for every 12kg bag they purchase.

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No deaths of people with coronavirus in Wales in the last 24 hours

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THERE have been no further deaths of people with coronavirus in Wales reported in the latest 24-hour period, Public Health Wales (PHW) has confirmed.

A further 164 positive cases were also reported.

The total number of PHW reported deaths remains at 5,403.

Dr Giri Shankar, incident director for the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak response at Public Health Wales, added the dashboard is designed to be a “rapid reporting tool which is subject to ongoing reconciliation” and that “official data are provided by the Office for National Statistics”.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said stay at home rules could be revised, following a review of lockdown measures this week.

Wales’ overall case rate has fallen to 45 cases per 100,000 people.

PHW said it should be noted there is often a lag in reporting deaths following the weekend.

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