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Welsh Government releases additional £100M business support

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The latest phase of the Welsh Government’s Economic Resilience Fund has benefited from the release of a further £100million from ministers within 72 hours of launch, due to a massive demand.

More than 6,000 grant applications from small and medium sized businesses and social enterprises were received within 24 hours of the launch on Friday – an unprecedented response, revealing the scale of the challenges facing Welsh businesses.

The Fund aims to complement and fill the gaps left by UK Government schemes such as the Job Retention Scheme, with grants of up to £10,000 for micro-enterprises and up to £100,000 for SMEs and a light touch appraisal system designed to get money to businesses with the minimum of delay – as well as a new loan fund administered by the Development Bank of Wales.

Less than three weeks since the First Minister announced the intention to create the Fund, the Welsh Government has released a further £100 million, taking the grant fund to £300 million. This will supplement this latest phase of support, providing non-repayable grants to microbusinesses, SMEs and those large businesses of critical, social or economic importance to Wales.

The Fund has been warmly received by trade union and business organisations, with the Institute of Directors calling it ‘very welcome news for business owners and managers who are desperate for all the help they can get at this difficult time’. The South and Mid Wales Chambers of Commerce has called ‘the rapid response to date’ of the Welsh Government in supporting the economy of Wales ‘impressive’. The Wales TUC welcomed ‘additional funding to address the gaps’.

Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales Ken Skates said:  “We knew that even with the help offered by initiative such as the Job Retention Scheme, there was a massive need for quick access to grant funding if Welsh businesses were to survive this unprecedented economic shock. Whilst in order to make the scheme quick and simple we needed to take tough decisions over eligibility – like requiring businesses to be registered for VAT as a way of having to check on their trading history – it is clear from the level of response received that the Economic Resilience Fund is plugging a gap in UK Government support and providing much needed financial reassurance to many businesses at this challenging time. We will continue to review support and consider how we can develop it over the coming days.

“The rate of applications has been massive and unprecedented. This is the second time in a matter of weeks that access to Welsh Government funds aimed at easing cash flow pressures for Welsh business have quickly reached capacity, and we have responded with pace to release a further £100m into this phase of the fund.

“In these difficult and demanding economic times we have worked hard to free up resources to create such a large Fund despite the huge demands on our budget, and to strike a balance between supporting as many enterprises as possible and making a meaningful contribution to each one’s survival, as well as asking each recipient to sign up to the principles of the economic contract.

“Though we applaud much of what the UK Government has done, there is an urgent need to see more of the promised lending guaranteed by the UK Government getting to the front line. The UK Government must continue to support and press the high street banks to be much more responsive to the needs of our businesses at this difficult time.”

Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said: “The Economic Resilience Fund is part of more than £2bn of support that we have made available to help businesses and charities during these incredibly difficult times.

“We know that support for business is crucially important but whilst we are doing everything we can in Wales to plug any gaps and provide the best possible financial support to businesses, it is clear there are further steps that the UK Government needs to urgently take.”

The Economic Resilience offers financial support to help businesses, charities and social enterprises deal with the coronavirus crisis and will be vital in helping organisations manage cash flow pressures. It is a unique additional funding stream for Wales and was designed to address gaps not currently met by schemes already announced by the UK Government, Welsh Government and Development Bank of Wales.

The first stage of the Fund saw the £100 million Development Bank of Wales’ loan scheme fully subscribed in little more than a week. Applications are currently being processed and some businesses have already received funding. It is anticipated that the Development Bank will have processed all applications received within the month.

To ensure that money reaches businesses as quickly as possible more than 120 additional Welsh Government and Business Wales staff have been diverted onto processing applications and supporting businesses and organisations in this latest stage of the Fund.

Business

An experimental nuclear fusion reactor could be built in Pembrokeshire

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PEMBROKESHIRE could be the location of an experimental nuclear fusion reactor, which could produce abundent clean energy, if the council backs plans for a site on land owned jointly between Valero oil refinery and Pembroke Power station.

Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet will be asked next week (May 17) to support the project, which it is hoped could create limitless energy.

The officers of the council are recommending to Cabinet that members approve the nominated site being included on the list of UKAEA candidate sites.

Elsewhere in Wales, the Vale of Glamorgan Council is bidding for it to be built at the Aberthaw power station site.

Communities had until the end of March to nominate locations.

If approved the nuclear fusion station, the council’s officers say, could position Pembrokeshire at the international forefront of the clean energy revolution, bringing visibility to the community on a global stage. It was also recommended that the project will bring long-term and enduring environmental, employment, skills and economic benefits to the host community.

However, Greenpeace believes that nuclear fusion is an expensive distraction from the real agenda of providing environmentally benign, reliable energy supply. The campaign group gas also written to Parliament saying that the deuterium-tritium (D-T) fuel mixture used in nuclear fusion produces four times as many high energy neutrons per kilowatt-hour of energy produced than sandard nuclear fission.

Council officers recommend approval for a nuclear fission reactor near Valero refinery (pictured)

Nevertheless the government has a concept programme called STEP, which is an ambitious programme for the conceptual design of a fusion power station. It is a UKAEA administered programme, currently with £220 million funding to produce a phase 1 concept design by 2024.

Beyond 2024, it is claimed, phase 2 intends to move into the engineering design and build phases to deliver the prototype of a commercially viable fusion plant. The prototype will hopefully demonstrate the commercial viability of fusion. The learning from this will enable the future development of a UK fleet of commercial fusion plants, the government said. The target date for the first fully operational plant will be 2040.

In November 2020, the UK Government released an open call to communities across the UK to identify sites that could accommodate a STEP power station, with the site near Valero being chosen.

A report to councillors sitting on the Cabinet states that unlike with conventional nuclear power, there is a benefit of limited risk of nuclear materials proliferation. This is because nuclear fusion doesn’t employ fissile materials like uranium and plutonium. There are no enriched materials in a fusion reactor that could be exploited to make nuclear weapons.

The STEP programme said that it seeks to maximise the recycling and re-use of materials and only use disposal routes where there is no other option.

It said to this end research is being carried out on suitable materials to minimise decay times as much as possible. Any radioactivity of the components in the tokamak structure is classed as low level and relatively short lived.
Fusion is regarded by Government as being carbon free, safe, low land use, low, manageable waste, reliable energy baseload with unlimited fuel.

Paul Miller, Cabinet Member for Economy, Tourism, Leisure and Culture on Pembrokeshire County Council said: “The Haven Waterway has provided livelihoods, underpinned by fossil fuels, for thousands of Pembrokeshire families, mine included, for more than 50 years.

“Its my job to help ensure the waterway continues to provide high skilled, engineering, science and technology jobs for the next generation of this county and so linked to our focus on climate change (and in addition to our existing multi-million pound commitments to supporting wind, wave and tidal clean power generation) my team have been exploring whether we can also support the development of clean, green fusion technology.

“It very early days in the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s site selection process but we’ll provide regular updates as things progress.”

What is nuclear fusion?

Fusion is the process that takes place in the heart of stars and provides the power that drives the universe. When light nuclei fuse to form a heavier nucleus, they release bursts of energy. This is the opposite of nuclear fission – the reaction that is used in nuclear power stations today – in which energy is released when a nucleus splits apart to form smaller nuclei.

To produce energy from fusion here on Earth, a combination of hydrogen gases – deuterium and tritium – are heated to very high temperatures (over 100 million degrees Celsius). The gas becomes a plasma and the nuclei combine to form a helium nucleus and a neutron, with a tiny fraction of the mass converted into ‘fusion’ energy. A plasma with millions of these reactions every second can provide a huge amount of energy from very small amounts of fuel.

One way to control the intensely hot plasma is to use powerful magnets. The most advanced device for this is the ‘tokamak’, a Russian word for a ring-shaped magnetic chamber. CCFE’s goal is to develop fusion reactors using the tokamak concept.

Advantages of fusion power

With increasing concerns over climate change and finite supplies of fossil fuels, we need new, better ways to meet our growing demand for energy. The benefits of fusion power make it an extremely attractive option:

  • No carbon emissions. The only by-products of fusion reactions are small amounts of helium, an inert gas which can be safely released without harming the environment.
  • Abundant fuels. Deuterium can be extracted from water and tritium will be produced inside the power station from lithium, an element abundant in the earth’s crust and seawater. Even with widespread adoption of fusion power stations, these fuel supplies would last for many thousands of years.
  • Energy efficiency. One kilogram of fusion fuel could provide the same amount of energy as 10 million kilograms of fossil fuel. A 1 Gigawatt fusion power station will need less than one tonne of fuel during a year’s operation.
  • Less radioactive waste than fission. There is no radioactive waste by-product from the fusion reaction. Only reactor components become radioactive; the level of activity depends on the structural materials used. Research is being carried out on suitable materials to minimise decay times as much as possible.
  • Safety. A large-scale nuclear accident is not possible in a fusion reactor. The amounts of fuel used in fusion devices are very small (about the weight of a postage stamp at any one time). Furthermore, as the fusion process is difficult to start and keep going, there is no risk of a runaway reaction which could lead to a meltdown.
  • Reliable power. Fusion power plants will be designed to produce a continuous supply of large amounts of electricity. Once established in the market, costs are predicted to be broadly similar to other energy sources.
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Business

Pembs Pet Supplies & Spa gets tails wagging

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LAUREN KIMPSON has an immense love for pets, that much is clear.

From humble beginnings running Woofers Dog Groomers on Charles Street in Milford Haven, Lauren has now expanded her business into a fabulous pet supplies and spa out on Thornton Industrial Estate. The Herald popped up there to have a nose around and, even from the outside, we were impressed.

Pembs Pet Supplies & Spa: A brand new local business

As we stepped inside it became clear that Lauren has a love and a vision for what she wants to create for pets in Pembrokeshire.

From the gorgeous finish of the main desk to the light, airy feeling of the grooming salon, Pembs Pet Supplies & Spa feels like a much more modern, easy-going place to get anything your pet might need.

The beautiful, spacious interior

My first question to Lauren was simply ‘What made you want to expand your business? ”We had lots of people, and pets, coming into Woofers who had lots of different needs” She said. “Now we have so much more space to stock the things that our four-legged-friends need. Not just dogs or cats, we even stock Horse food too!”

Looking around the shop, it’s clear that Lauren and her team are putting people’s safety first, there are clear floor markings, masks are mandatory and the shop is big enough to easily social distance, but I wanted to know what else Pembs Pet Supplies & Spa are doing to give their customers a stress-free shopping experience.

“We know peace of mind is important too, especially at the moment, so we’re offering a local delivery service on the products we sell and we have no problem popping out to peoples cars and picking up their pet if they’re booked in for a grooming!”

The passion Lauren has is clear, the walls have countless certificates and awards that she has earned over the years and the amount of happy Woofers customers speak for themselves.

Exciting times: Lauren now has space to stock pet products and to expand the services she offers

I asked Lauren how the first month has been out in Thornton, I imagine it’s a tricky time for new businesses what with this global pandemic still knocking about, but Lauren’s infectious excitement for her new premises is clearly driving her forward.

‘It’s been really good so far’ she said “It’s been really positive and people seem to like having a one-stop-shop for pets and their needs. People can pick up a lead or some dog food when they’re dropping their pooch off for a pampering.”

And it’s clear that people do, whilst I was there a steady stream of customers were coming through the door, all socially distanced and wearing masks of course.

Pembs Pet Supplies & Spa offer a laid-back, friendly, personal service, the type of service only small, independent local businesses can provide.

Add Lauren’s pet passion to the mix and we’re sure that she’s on to a winner.Lauren needed to finish grooming a dog when I was there so I decided to have a browse, what with being a dog-owner myself.

The shelves are stacked with everything you might need for your dog or cat, from chew toys to bowls or beds, every pet need is catered for and its a shop clearly designed to bring your pet in to, it’s not cramped or over-filled which really makes shopping there a delight.

Once Lauren was done, I popped my head into the grooming salon and saw a newly pampered pooch proudly sporting a great new trim and looking fancy.

My last question to Lauren, who has clearly limitless enthusiasm, was “What next?” She smiled and said: “Well, doggy-day-care is definitely on the horizon now we have all this room to expand.”

It’s an exciting time for pets in Pembrokeshire because Lauren’s passion and imagination knows no bounds, best of luck from all at The Herald!

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New businesses open for trade at Milford Waterfront as Covid lockdown eases

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MILFORD WATERFRONT, the hidden gem within Pembrokeshire’s tourism crown, has even more to offer visitors now that retail, hospitality, and tourism has reopened, with lots of new businesses opening their doors for the first time and some existing businesses having expanded since the pandemic.

From independent restaurants to barbers and environment friendly fashion shops, there’s plenty to eat, shop and enjoy at Milford Waterfront.

The Green Genie is a vegetarian and vegan bistro set overlooking Milford Marina. The only one of its kind at Milford Waterfront with its vegan offering, the bistro is family and dog friendly.

The Green Genie offers visitors a nutritious and flavour-packed menu with dishes including Asian style vegan noodles, vegetarian tacos, traditional English dishes and gluten free options as well as a selection of vegan wines, beers and ciders.

Delicious vegan and vegetarian food @ Green Genie Bistro

Madison’s Bar and Restaurant is the Green Genie’s sister restaurant. A unique dining experience is on offer at Madison’s; the vintage themed restaurant and bar transports you back to the 1920s and 30s. The food encapsulates contemporary and classic options from the land and sea, including steaks and lamb as well as fresh seafood such as their tender scallops using locally sourced produce. The Green Genie’s menu is also available for vegetarian and vegan diners.

Madisons Bar & Restaurant

Talouies opened in the summer of 2020 and adds to the growing café culture at Milford Waterfront. Open 7 days a week and dog friendly, Talouies offers visitors afternoon tea as well as homemade light bites, cakes and desserts, along with a wide selection of loose-leaf teas and fresh, aromatic coffees.

Talouies

Sister company to resident restaurant Foam, Sugar Loaf Deli & Bakery are on hand to provide sandwiches, toasties, paninis, pastries, salads, soup and extravagant doughnuts. Everything on offer at Sugar Loaf is baked at their Bake House, which is based at Milford Waterfront as well.

Sugar Loaf offers Pembrokeshire produce, including jams, marmalades, chutneys, pates, cheeses and fudge from local suppliers. Sugar Loaf are also fully licensed supplying a wide range of wines, local ales, cider and spirits. 

The Sugar Loaf team are not only passionate about artisan bread and baked goods, they care about the environment too, sourcing supplies locally to minimise their carbon footprint, and providing biodegradable/compostable packing for their takeaway products with the business looking to work towards being plastic free.

Grab a bite at Sugar Loaf

Established in early 2020 by owners Lee and Nic, CUB3D is an independent clothing brand which started selling environmentally-friendly fashion online and due to a successful start, CUB3D opened their store here later that year, adding to the great range of independent shops at Milford Waterfront. CUB3D does their branding and design work in-house to provide a quality service. All of the products that they design and create are moving more towards recycled and carbon neutral garments. They are also hoping to expand their ‘Earth Positive and Salvage’ recycled clothing range in 80-90% of their product offering by summer 2021. They offer products including t-shirts (which are 100% recycled), hoodies, jumpers, bobble hats, knitted hats, caps, belts, wallets and iPad cases too.

CUB3D

Opening its doors in March 2021 by owner Owen Grey, OG Barbers is the only dedicated barbershop at Milford Waterfront. Confident in all aspects of barbering, they provide a wide range of professional services including standards cuts, fades, skin fades and beard trims too. OG Barbers also offers top-of-the-range products used to style your hair, including Dapper Dan, Black Label and Fudge.

OG Barbers

The Scoop Ice Cream Parlour and Coffee Shop has been serving ice creams from its kiosk next to the Pier Head since 2016, but this year due to its popularity, the business has developed and brought ice cream making back to Milford Haven with the addition of their own new ‘Ice Creamery’, based just over the road at Neptune House. This means that the ice cream served at the The Scoop is made at Milford Waterfront, with milk from Steynton Farm.

Looks lush!

Coco’s Restaurant was taken over by new owners James and Phil in August 2020, offering a great selection of food and drinks in an informal, relaxed city-style venue. COCO’s home, ‘The Sail Loft’ is a Grade II listed building, which was once used to service the Nantucket Whaling ships and is now home to this vibrant restaurant serving yummy meals, decadent cocktails and coffee and cake every day from 11am.

Coco’s the hotest decor in town!

Steve Edwards, Commercial Director at the Port of Milford Haven commented: “We are so delighted to have welcomed all these exciting new businesses to Milford Waterfront. It was reassuring to see non-essential businesses reopen earlier this month and now outdoor dining returning as well. Given the challenges that the pandemic has presented, as a destination we really are bucking the trend, with new businesses choosing to be based here at Milford Waterfront! Developing hospitality and tourism in the area is an important strategy for the Port, and with the addition of the new 100 bedroom Tŷ Hotel, which will be opening in spring next year, we really are achieving the ambition to make Milford Waterfront a must-visit destination in Pembrokeshire. We have so many fantastic businesses here that offer a variety of services to visitors, and we cannot wait to see everyone enjoying themselves as lockdown restrictions ease.”

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