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Socially distant but always on duty – using technology to catch waste criminals

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Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is using high-tech surveillance techniques to tackle unscrupulous waste operators seeking to take advantage of the Coronavirus crisis.

Government guidelines on social distancing mean NRW officers are unable to use their usual investigation methods. As such, they have turned to sophisticated drone technology and satellite cameras to help in the tracking of waste criminals.

The new approach includes:

• Using drone footage to investigate illegal waste disposal.
• Participating and benefiting from research and tools created in partnership with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency through the Life SMART Waste Project.
• Trialling the use of satellite imagery obtained from the European Space Agency, as well as high resolution commercial satellite data.
• Adrian Evans, head of NRW’s Tackling Waste Crime initiative, explained:

“Social distancing is impacting on how companies supplying goods and services operate and waste criminals are taking advantage of this.

“We have had to modify our ways of working by developing technological solutions to support our work and ensure that waste operators comply with environmental regulations.

“This technology will ensure the environment of Wales is protected for the people who live here and for legitimate waste operators who abide by the rules and work in a responsible manner.

”Those hoping to exploit the lockdown restrictions to commit waste crime should think again. We have the capability and technology to continue to identify and pursue those that flout the law.”

This type of surveillance is already underway in south east Wales, where NRW and Gwent Police are using drones to investigate illegal activity.

PC Matt Andrews, who, as part of Gwent Police’s Rural Crime team, is the embedded officer with NRW and assists the South East Wales Operations team in tackling all types off illegal activity, said:

“During lockdown our waste team continues to have close communications with permitted waste sites, but we’ve also strived to find alternative ways to having boots on the ground.

“Drone work has helped us investigate illegal activity in remote locations while adhering to the social distancing guidelines.

“For example, the imagery can be used to identify the extent of illegal tipping on land which would normally take two NRW waste officers to physically investigate.”

The public and businesses can help by reporting any suspected illegal waste activity on our hotline 0300 065 3000.

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Storm Christoph set to batter Wales says Met Office [Video]

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STORM Christoph will cause heavy rain and flooding in Wales on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, the Met Office has said.

Forecasters are warning that there could be up to 200mm in some parts of north Wales and say that the heaviest and “most persistent” rain will be in Wales.

The warning states: “Several days of persistent, and occasionally heavy, rain are expected to affect the region as Storm Christoph affects the UK.

The heaviest and most persistent rain is likely to be across Wales and the high ground of northern England.

“By early Thursday, 30-60 mm of rain is expected to have fallen widely across the warning area, with 100-150 mm over the high ground of Wales and northern England.

“Up to 200 mm is possible across parts of north Wales and northwest England.

“Melting snow across higher parts of the Pennines may exacerbate the potential for flooding. Strong winds will also accompany the rainfall and may add to travelling difficulties across areas higher and more exposed routes.”

The warning is in place from midnight on Tuesday until noon on Thursday (January 21).

Welsh forecaster Derek Brockway says: “Large rainfall totals on high ground in south and northwest Wales.

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Enabling works start at regeneration site in Pembroke

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WORK has started on the highly anticipated South Quay regeneration project in Pembroke.

Ambitious plans by Pembrokeshire County Council will see the site next to Pembroke Castle developed into a Visitor Centre, celebrating the town’s history and heritage and incorporating a new Library and Café.

The scheme will also include major enhancements to the public realm and landscaping improvements and public access to the building’s gardens at the rear.

Cllr Paul Miller, Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Economic Development, welcomed work starting on site.

“I’m delighted to see work getting underway. These buildings, right in the heart of Pembroke, have been left to rot for more than a decade by previous Council administrations but thankfully no longer. I am committed to Pembroke and am personally determined to help the town see a brighter future.

“Our investment in South Quay is just the first and most visible part of our commitment to the future of Pembroke and I’m looking forward to engaging with the community on the next steps over the coming months.”

The enabling works, undertaken by contractors Lloyd and Gravell are to ready the site for the development contract. They include the clearing and preparation of the site ready for the stabilisation of derelict buildings in Castle Terrace.

The South Quay project has secured £901,590 of Welsh Government Transforming Towns funding to support delivery of the first stage enabling works.

Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government Hannah Blythyn said: “The regeneration of South Quay is a fantastic example of how support though our Transforming Towns programme can be used to breathe new life into an old building to create a centre that will become as asset to the local community and celebrate the town’s history.  I look forward to seeing how this work progresses.”

Cllr Aaron Carey, County Councillor for Pembroke St Mary South, said it was good to see progress on site.

“No amount of plans or drawings can prepare you for the huge task at hand when the project is seen up close,” he said.

“We as a community are putting our generation’s mark on a thousand year old town and it’s really exciting to see the work being started on site after so many years as an eyesore in the castle’s shadow.”

(Pictured are Cllr Paul Miller and Cllr Aaron Carey at South Quay in Pembroke, where work has started on a key regeneration project.)

 

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Stephen Crabb MP to defy whips on Universal Credit uplift

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PRESELI MP Stephen Crabb will defy the Conservative whip for the first time today.

The former Work and Pensions Secretary will ignore an instruction to abstain on a non-binding Labour motion to keep the £20 uplift to Universal Credit beyond March 31.

In his Spending Review last November, Chancellor Rishi Sunak refused to commit to keeping the £20 payment. The Chancellor introduced it last year to compensate families of the unemployed or
those on low incomes for the extra costs they incur during the Covid pandemic.

Stephen Crabb has repeatedly made it clear that he wants the £20 top-up to continue to give the poorest and most vulnerable at least some cushion from the effects of the deepening recession.

Although the Westminster Government claims it is optimistic about the economy’s future, the short-to-medium term looks grim.

Many businesses have closed and are unlikely to reopen. Not all of those who lost their jobs will get back into employment. It is likely any jobs on offer once the economy picks up will be low
paid and leave many still dependent on Universal Credit in some form.

Speaking on Times Radio this morning, Mr Crabb said: “No one can say we have a generous benefits system. We don’t. The unemployment component of benefits is at its lowest for a generation.

Withdrawing that additional £20 per week at the end of March will cause hardship. I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.”

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