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Outcry as castle sale nears

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hwest castlePEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL has confirmed the sale of the old Records Office at Haverfordwest Castle, causing an outcry from many residents, organisations and Haverfordwest Town Council.

Confirming the County Council’s position on the future of the historical site, a spokesperson said: “The former Records Office at Haverfordwest Castle was put up for sale two years ago. All offers were considered and a sale was agreed. However, the Town Council then applied to have the area surrounding the former Records Office formally registered as a town or village green.

PUBLIC INQUIRY 

“This led to a public inquiry which ruled that the Castle was not capable of registration as town or village green. While the application was being determined the proposed developer stood back. Now that the application has been determined he has reopened his interest and the sale is proceeding.” Though the County Council would not directly confirm the name of the buyer, The Herald was told last October by Councillor Mark Edwards that the purchaser was the developer Griffith-Roach Foundation. When asked how much the buyer was offering for the property, and how this compared to the £50,000 offer put forward by the Town Council, the spokesperson declined to comment, saying it was confidential, but did confirm the developer’s offer was ‘considerably higher’ than that of the Town Council. They were also asked if the market value for the property was being demanded, to which they said it had been offered on the open market and a decision was taken to ‘sell for best consideration’. However, in 2006, a Notice of Motion was considered by the Council relating to the General Disposal Consent (Wales) which came into force on December 31, 2003. The Motion specifically sought to recognise that in circumstances which benefited the promotion of social economic and environmental well-being, property or land can be released to community organisations at less than the best consideration. Lesley Turner of Haverfordwest Civic Society said: “The proposed sale, without public consultation, would deprive Haverfordwest of its heritage. We believe that this location should remain for the Town’s community use and for the benefit of tourism”. Barbara Shone, Deputy Chair of Trustees Board of Haverfordwest Museum, said: “In 1996 the County Council leased the Governor’s House to the Town Council on a 40-year lease, which doesn’t end till 2036. The Trustees of the Museum were formed in 1996 and they have a license to operate the Museum until then.”

CABINET MEETING

 However, during a Cabinet meeting of January 9, 2012, the issue of the museum was discussed. In the Cabinet minutes it was said: “The County Council acquire the Haverfordwest Town Council’s lease of the Governors House on terms acceptable to the Directors of Development and that County Council officers be authorised to use compulsory purchase powers to achieve the acquisition should this prove necessary.” Haverfordwest mayor Roy Thomas also spoke with The Herald about the manner in which the County Council are pursuing the sale: “Frankly it comes as no surprise. The County Council, despite promises for greater transparency, remain secretive; they also appear to have disregarded the Town Council’s offer. “All I can say is the County Council have shown no improvement in their ability to look after the cultural well-being of our town. One has to hope that the Assembly Government and the National Audit Office is keeping a watch on this affair.” Haverfordwest Town Councillor, Sarah Llewellyn, summed up the feelings of many who are angry about the sale ‘behind closed doors’, and said: “We were obviously very disappointed by the Inspector’s decision. However, what became clear during the hearing was the strength of local feeling, and resentment at the high-handed manner in which the County Council chose to deal with an application that merely sought to secure free and unlimited public access to the Castle grounds for future generations. “I will be very interested to hear more regarding any further proposals to dispose of the old prison building, and anything else inside the Castle walls. It seems the County Council is keen to off-load a number of old, and currently empty buildings within our town, including the old prison building and Foley House, seeing them only in terms of their financial burden. “Both the County Council and the prospective developer need to be more up front this time round. People deserve to know about any proposals beforehand, and how plans are likely to affect them. It is not acceptable for the County Council to present matters such as these as ‘done deals’, and to be anything less than wholly transparent about how much money will be changing hands, and on what terms.”

The Council says in response to these concerns, and specifically the question of public access to the Castle grounds, the County Council said that this consideration was part of the on-going negotiations with the developer. Town Councillor, Thomas Tudor, said: “I would not support selling the Old Records Offices under market value, especially if the asking price had already been offered. And I would support the T o w n Council’s offer for the property bearing in mind that it has been the only offer for some time and when no one else was interested. “Taking advantage of the Town Council’s offer would have been a far more positive move rather than allowing the property to rot and decay and become more of a burden to the tax payers. If I cannot find out what the architect and developer is offering, I would then have to try to obtain the information by using the Freedom of Information Act.” One area of concern for taxpayers was how much the County Council had spent in opposing the Town Council’s application for village green status. When asked for a figure, the County Council said: “Our engagement with the Town Council on the vast majority of issues is very positive. However, different tiers of Government will occasionally have different views on matters. This is a matter which is now resolved”. The Herald understands, however, that a deal for the sale of the Castle has been discussed secretly in Cabinet and a decision reached.

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Pembrokeshire cottage letting agency offers free holidays to NHS heroes

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PEMBROKESHIRE-BASED holiday letting agency St Brides Bay Cottages has teamed up with its property owners and Operation Recuperation to offer free holidays to frontline healthcare workers. The family-run firm has announced the scheme to say thank you to the healthcare heroes who are risking their lives to keep the UK safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

The generous initiative will see healthcare professionals enjoy a well-deserved break in picturesque St Davids, Solva, Newgale or Porthgain, after the crisis is over. The scheme is part of Operation Recuperation, a UK-wide campaign launched to gift future stays in beautiful places to frontline healthcare providers.

Sam Sibbald, manager of St Brides Bay Cottages, based in Solva, said: “This is our way of showing our dedicated healthcare workers that we appreciate everything they’re doing in such difficult circumstances.

“I saw first-hand the pressure the NHS is under, when my dad had a stay in hospital last year. I could tell how pushed they were on a normal day-to-day basis, let alone with having COVID-19 to deal with. Now my dad is at home, needing carers every day, and I can see, more than ever, how much we rely on the people who look after us.

“We’re taking part in Operation Recuperation thanks to the generosity of our cottage owners. By gifting stays to these dedicated workers, we’ll be helping them to recover from the fight against coronavirus.”

Several cottage owners, whose properties are let by St Brides Bay Cottages, have come forward to donate stays in their holiday homes.

Among them is Sheila Morgan, who together with her husband Chris, owns The Anchorage, a two-bedroom apartment in Solva. She said: “As a retired nurse with medical staff in the family, I can fully appreciate the strains and stresses all NHS staff are going through at present. Thank you all for your sterling work. Hopefully the peace, quiet and Pembrokeshire air will aid recuperation.”

Debbie and Patrick Bowie-Moore, the owners of five-bedroom holiday home Mount Pleasant, in Solva, said: “The healthcare workers have offered their all, and it’s our privilege to give a family – who may have been kept apart – the opportunity to stay in Mount Pleasant as a massive thank you.”

Simon Baker, who owns Cefn y Mor, a four-bedroom property in Solva, said: “We are backing the Operation Recuperation project because we have family members on the frontline of the NHS, and know what risks they are taking, and what effort they are putting into saving lives. Our only effort is to stay at home and avoid infection. A small price to pay.”

Jim and Maureen Dale, whose three-bedroom holiday home, May Cottage, is situated on a grade II-listed farm, near St Davids, said: “Rarely do we get an opportunity to say thank you to the staff at the NHS – we tend to take the service so much for granted. Now the chips are down and there they all are, on the frontline looking after us all. Thank you all at the NHS.”

David and Judith James, who are offering a free stay at their converted watermill, Melin Llanrhian, near Porthgain, said: “We’re delighted to be able to support Operation Recuperation as a very small thank you to everyone in the NHS who has worked so hard in such challenging circumstances.”

Operation Recuperation is collecting donations – in room nights and cash – to give free stays to frontline healthcare staff, once the virus restrictions have been lifted.

Rachel Sherwood, who launched Operation Recuperation, said: “A huge thank you to St Brides Bay Cottages for proudly supporting Operation Recuperation and to the cottage owners who have donated stays in this stunning part of Wales, despite very challenging times.

“Sometime in the not-too-distant future, a number of our frontline healthcare staff will be enjoying long clifftop walks, fresh seafood, lazy days on the beach and cosy evenings in sea-view cottages.”

To find out more about St Brides Bay Cottages and Operation Recuperation, visit: https://www.stbridesbaycottages.com/, email enquiries@stbridesbaycottages.com or call 01437 720027.

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Council pays out £2.5m in business grants to date

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL has revealed that since Wednesday, 1st April, it has already paid out £2.5 million in grants to local businesses.

The Authority’s Cabinet Member for Economy, Paul Miller, said Council staff had been working hard to make the Covid-19 business grants payable as soon as possible

Explained Councillor Miller: “Payments started on Wednesday this week for those who qualify for grants linked to the National Non-Domestic Ratings (NNDR) system. We have already paid out around £2.5 million in grants to local businesses.

“Daily payment runs are being made in order that these can get into business bank accounts as soon as possible.

“We cannot unfortunately acknowledge receipt of applications but, once authorised, businesses will be emailed and the grant will be paid within two to three working days.”

Councillor Miller added: “If there are any issues with a grant application, or information is missing, a Council officer will be in touch to discuss the matter. A dedicated team has been set up to do this.”

For further business advice refer to the Council’s Business pages which can be accessed via the following link: https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/business-advice-and-support

This will enable access to the application form for the above grants, provide answers to frequently asked questions and links to further sources of advice through HMRC, Welsh Government, Department of Work and Pensions, Public Health Wales and other organisations.

For further enquiries not answered through the business pages, email: covid19@pembrokeshire.gov.uk and an officer will respond. Please view the business pages first.

For those who don’t qualify for the grants, Welsh Government will soon be making details available of how business can access other funding through an Economic Resilience Fund.

Details will be available on the Council’s business pages as soon as they are released by Welsh Government.

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Man issued with two COVID-19 fines in 24 hours as police thank those following new legislation

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A man has been issued with two fines in 24 hours for flouting Coronavirus legislation, as police thank those who are following the new rules.

Dyfed-Powys Police officers in Carmarthenshire stopped the 22-year-old from Llanelli twice for being out of the house without a reasonable excuse.

A report was made on April 1 that three men were breaching the COVID-19 legislation by gathering in Llanstephan. A woman who had attempted to film the men reported that they had stolen her phone and driven away.

Officers quickly linked the car to a suspect and traced it driving towards Carmarthen and then Llanelli, and a roads policing unit was directed to the area.

The car was stopped, and the two occupants – a 22-year-old from Llanelli, and a 18-year-old from Carmarthen – were arrested on suspicion of theft. They were also both issued with tickets for COVID-19 offences.

T/Chief Inspector Tom Sharville said: “We are taking the new legislation seriously, and would like to thank the majority of people who are staying home to keep others safe.

“The measures are difficult to adapt to, but it is important that we stay at home to save lives.

“However, there is a minority out there who are under the impression the legislation does not apply to them, and are flouting the law.

“This was the second fine one of these men was issued with in 24 hours, after he showed a clear disregard for all guidelines.”

The men were arrested on suspicion of theft of a mobile phone, and were released under investigation pending further enquiries.

For information about the COVID-19 legislation, and answers to many frequently asked questions, visit https://bit.ly/DPPCovid19

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