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Council commissions report into flooding at Lower Priory and Havens Head

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL is to spend £40,000 on a feasibility study investigating alleviating the risk of flooding at Lower Priory and Havens Head in Milford Haven.

The local authority has included the cost in its capital budget for consideration at Monday’s (Jan 13) Cabinet meeting.

The £40,000 cost of the feasibility study will be met through a £38,000 grant from the Welsh Government. The Council will contribute £2,000 towards the study, although the report accompanying the budget notes that funding may be secured from alternative sources.

Lower Priory and Havens Head were both subject to flooding in November 2018.

The flood at Lower Priory was catastrophic, causing damage to properties and inundating the Priory pub, causing its closure for many months.

Residents of Lower Priory pointed the finger at the massive amount of infill work on land leading from watercourses passing through the area towards Havens Head and the docks beyond. They also claimed failures of maintenance had blocked the trash screens on culverts.

Stephen Crabb MP visited flooded resident last year (Pic: Herald)

Natural Resources Wales observed at the time: ‘The area affected contains two smaller watercourses that flow through a small valley through a culvert under a road/railway and into Milford Haven marina. The bottoms of the valleys are always wet and one has also been partially impounded to form a lake, which means the area can become tide-locked during high tides.
‘That coupled with the rain meant lots of water coming down the valley and lots coming in via the tide’.

While maintenance of the two minor watercourses is the responsibility of the County Council, once the watercourses pass on to land owned by Milford Haven Port Authority, responsibility passes to it to ensure its culverts are maintained and trash screens kept clear.

The Council does not have any powers to make landowners amend existing culverts to increase their capacity.

New developments have to comply with specific planning guidance from the Welsh Government. That guidance means surface water from an impermeable area created by a development (ie at Haven Head) must be dealt with through sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) which allow water to seep out via soakaways.
That standard has applied to all new developments for several years now.

The current situation, in which a large area of land is concreted over at the end of a watercourse, would no longer be permitted.

Following the flooding in November 2018, both the Port Authority and the Council tried to blame each other for the flooding.

A large amount of work subsequently took place to clear the areas around the affected culverts, including the removal of a significant amount of fallen trees and other vegetable debris.
In June last year, the Port Authority claimed that it was not liable for the flood damage and said the major factor in the flooding was a large increase in levels of silt in the lakes at Havens Head and Lower Priory combined with high tides and unprecedentedly levels of rainfall.

Emotional moment: Ian Bannister from Lower Priory clearly upset by the damage caused in 2019 flood (Pic: Herald)

However, under questioning before a Council Committee, a Port Authority representative conceded its electronic flood warning system had been a casualty of the flooding and had stopped recording the water volumes at Lower Priory well before the peak of the inundation.

Information about how much infill was used around the watercourses is unavailable.

A recommendation in a report by contractors Atkins, who proceeded only based on information provided by the Port Authority, recommended the culverts should be increased to handle three times the volume of water they dealt with currently.

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Two arrests following disturbance inside Penally Asylum Accommodation Centre

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THERE was a large police presence at Penally Asylum Accommodation Centre on Tuesday afternoon, after what police are describing as a ‘disturbance involving a small group of people.’

The emergency call went out at lunch time, and thirteen police vehicles responded to the incident, a resident of Penally confirmed.

At first the police said that one person had been arrested, but later on Tuesday evening the police released a second statement saying that two people had been taken into custody.

It is understood that both the persons arrested are asylum seekers staying at the former army training camp.

A spokesperson for Dyfed-Powys Police told the Herald in it’s latest emailed statement: “We were called to a disturbance involving a small group of people within the Penally Asylum Accommodation Centre at around 1.45pm on Tuesday (Oct 20).

“Two people have been arrested, a 22 year old man and a 25 year old man. The 22 year old was arrested on suspicion of affray, and the 25 year old was arrested on suspicion of assault. No one was taken to hospital.

“The investigation is ongoing.”

Our reporter was at the scene just after 7pm on Tuesday and the area was quiet.

There was no visible police presence remaining outside the former army camp, and just a handful of protestors outside the main gate.

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Follow lockdown rules, public leaders in Pembrokeshire urge

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PULBIC leaders in Pembrokeshire are urging people to comply with the latest measures introduced by the Welsh Government under its ‘firebreak’ scheme.

Councillors David Simpson and Paul Harries – Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council and Chairman of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority respectively – have echoed the sentiments of First Minister Mark Drakeford’s “come together” call.

“It is imperative for the safety of all of us that we follow the regulations which come into effect on Friday” Councillor Simpson emphasised.

“Although the number of coronavirus cases in Pembrokeshire is relatively low compared with other areas across the nation, the figures here are on the rise. Undoubtedly measures would have to be taken sooner or later in our county to halt that increase.

“The thinking is that introducing a 17-day long ‘firebreak’ now and across the nation will slow the spread of the virus and prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed with Covid-19 cases.

“This could potentially prevent hundreds of deaths.

“So I appeal to everyone to comply with the restrictions being introduced and follow the safety advice of wearing face coverings in confined public spaces, observe social distancing and regularly wash your hands.

Councillor Paul Harries said : “We appreciate that people will want to access the National Park and the outdoors more than ever as we head into the firebreak lockdown, but we are asking people to follow the guidance and only exercise from home, whilst following the Countryside Code.

“We understand that the restrictions are challenging for people, but keeping Pembrokeshire safe is our utmost priority and we will do all we can to support Welsh Government in following the guidance.

“When the time is right we look forward to welcoming visitors back to Pembrokeshire and most importantly doing this at a time when we can keep everyone safe. For now, we urge everyone to follow the firebreak guidance and stay home to stay safe.”

For a list of Frequently Asked Questions go to: https://gov.wales/coronavirus-circuit-break-frequently-asked-questions

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Pembrokeshire lockdown ‘disproportionate’ as cases locally were below trigger-point

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PEMBROKESHIRE was plunged into the Welsh Government’s ‘fire-break’ lockdown even though the County does not meet the criteria for a local lockdown.

The Welsh Government’s Technical Advisory Cell, which advises it on responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, published the information and data relied upon to support the lockdown on Monday, October 19.

The paper highlights that Wales has crossed the threshold of circuit breakers agreed ahead of summer’s easing of restrictions. It expresses high confidence that others will be breached in the next 2-3 weeks.

It states: ‘The Welsh Government aim of protecting both lives and livelihoods requires a balancing of harms, and action is now required to maintain the balance’.

However, Pembrokeshire – along with Ceredigion and Powys – are below the threshold for restrictions’ imposition. Pembrokeshire, in particular, not only has a low incidence of cases but also consistently low positive tests.

Paul Davies MS, the Leader of the Opposition in the Welsh Parliament and Senedd Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire, called the lockdown “not-proportionate”

He said: “The impact on businesses in areas such as Powys, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion, who have the lowest rate of Covid-19 cases in Wales, will be severe at a time when they are desperately struggling to recover from the pandemic so far this year.”

In Pembrokeshire, there are 33 cases per 100,000 of population. In Cardiff, that figure exceeds 250 per 100,000. When the Welsh Government imposed local and hyperlocal lockdowns in other local authority areas, the basis for imposing them was a persistent and rising infection rate over 50 per hundred thousand.

In Carmarthenshire, the number of cases had begun to decline following the local lockdown in Llanelli.

In Ceredigion, the rate per 100,000 of population is even lower than in Pembrokeshire.

All Welsh local authorities are above 5% positivity, apart from Pembrokeshire (3.7%).

The rate of incidence is rising fastest in over-60s.

Pressed on why the Welsh Government imposed a national lockdown at a press conference on Monday, First Minister Mark Drakeford said controlling the virus’ spread was a national priority and that the Welsh Government had taken into account a shortage of intensive care beds in all areas of Wales.

Although the number of COVID cases in hospital is not above expectations, because of underlying critical care needs there is an insufficient number of critical care beds and/or staff to handle a large COVID outbreak, and maintain existing non-COVID intensive care treatments.

The Welsh Government is also contending with a critical shortage of Intensive Care staff as it approaches its busiest period of the year.

The Welsh Government faces an avalanche of criticism from business groups and Conservatives who claim that while a lockdown might be the only option in urban areas in South Wales and North

East Wales, there is no need for one across rural Wales, where local economies took a massive hit from the loss of tourism during the summer season.

Stephen Crabb MP said: “The scientific evidence for so-called circuit-break or firebreak lockdowns is pretty weak. When it comes to locking down Pembrokeshire and other parts of Wales where rates of infection are low, I think the Welsh Government have not made a very strong case at all.

“Local people have worked incredibly hard to follow rules and keep infections low but we are now paying the price for the fact that Welsh Government lost control of the virus in the Valleys and South East Wales.”

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