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Ferries cancelled as freight down 70% at Fishguard following Covid travel restrictions and Brexit

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THE LARGEST Irish Sea ferry operator has cancelled 12 sailings over the coming five days due to travel restrictions, a post-Brexit decline in freight volumes and problems in supply chains.

Stena Line has reduced its Dublin-Holyhead and Rosslare–Fishguard schedules, saying that problems caused by new customs and regulatory checks have significantly reduced freight traffic.

Trade volumes have fallen significantly since the UK’s departure from the EU came into effect on January 1st as importers struggle with the customs, regulatory and agricultural border controls applied to all goods arriving into Irish ports from Britain in the past week.

Eight sailings between Rosslare and Fishguard and four sailings between Dublin and Holyhead have been cancelled between Friday night and Tuesday morning.

These mostly off-peak sailings, including late-night departures, are not regarded as viable currently given the low freight volumes and the restrictions on passengers who must produce a negative Covid-19 test on their arrival into Irish ports from Saturday.

Stena said that freight volumes are slowly starting to creep back up and that it was keeping a close eye on the figures..

It is currently reviewing schedules and may reduce some crossings on a temporary basis.

A spokesperson for the company said: “Our freight volumes are currently down approximately 70% on the same time last year, which is also the position at Holyhead Port.”

“To a certain degree this has been expected given the volume of stock piling which occurred prior to Christmas.

“Freight volumes have slowly started to return this week and we are monitoring developments closely.

“In addition to the fall off in freight volumes, with the Irish Government imposing virtually a complete travel ban resulting in almost no passengers travelling, we are currently reviewing our sailings and schedules and may reduce some sailings on a temporary basis during this unprecedented time.”

Mid and West Wales MS, Eluned Morgan also voiced concerns. She met with local management of Stena Line and Irish Ferries before Christmas.

“January is quieter time for ferry services but as we know, commercial freight sustains these important links all year round,” said Eluned.

“This is the first time that an operator like Stena has admitted the very real impacts of Brexit has forced them to cut services.

“Huge quantities of trade is now bypassing Fishguard and Pembroke because it is easier to meet deadlines by avoiding Britain altogether. The Tories hailed Brexit as a way of cutting red tape, instead it has created barriers, more paperwork and economic uncertainty.

“Regardless of the views of some Brexiteers, our ports are important gateways to Europe. For Wales, Pembrokeshire must remain a gateway to Europe for trade, tourism and all of the jobs linked to these ports.”

Jackie Jones, Labour MS candidate for Preseli Pembrokeshire, who was also one of the last members of the European Parliament added:

“This is a very disappointing announcement and one that does not need to be repeated. Daily ferry services have operated between Fishguard and Rosslare for the last 115 years, through pandemics, wars and great economic uncertainty.

“We must not allow Brexit to take this important transport link which has put Fishguard on the map to disappear.”

There has been no word yet from Irish Ferries, who operate from Pembroke Dock on the impact of Brexit, so far the firm has decided to to comment.

Earlier this week local councillors expressed their concern over the future of Fishguard Harbour, which employs 150 people, with Cllr Pat Davies saying that there was “real concern in the community.”

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Brand new features unveiled at Scolton Manor Park

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ONE of Pembrokeshire’s best-loved family destinations has announced it will be unveiling several new attractions in June, ready for the summer holidays.  

Among the new features at Scolton Manor are an eco-explorer village, a 1.2km woodland cycle track, an outdoor pirate ship play area and a dedicated railway attraction complete with steam train locomotive ‘Margaret’ and ‘Scolton Express’ play train.

Mark Thomas, manager of Scolton Manor Park, said the team were looking forward to showing visitors the new attractions.

“We’re delighted with our new facilities and believe they will perfectly complement the attractions we have here already at Scolton,” he said.

The woodland eco-explorer village aims to give children more opportunities for outside play and spark their enthusiasm to discover more about the natural world.  

Cllr Paul Miller, Cabinet Member for Economy, Tourism, Culture and Leisure, said the village is perfect for all young explorers from toddlers right through to older children.

“Children love playing outside and we want to inspire them through their play to not only find out more about biodiversity and the environment but also how to care for it,” he said.

“As well as eco-explorer areas, games and activities there will be fun tips on how they can reuse, reduce and recycle more and protect the environment.”

The eco-explorer village is funded by a £50,000 grant from the Landfill Disposals Tax Community Scheme and £25,000 grant from Community Facilities Programme (Welsh Government), in partnership with the Pembrokeshire Beekeepers’ Association.

Mark Thomas said the current attractions at Scolton have also proved very popular since the outdoor areas at the park re-opened to the public earlier this spring.

As well as an adventure play area for older children which includes a 30-metre zip wire, a spinning climbing web and ‘super swings’,  younger visitors can enjoy the wooden playground, sensory musical play area and woodland play features.

“The many and varied attractions at Scolton enhance its role as a community facility while providing a wide range of countryside experiences at a lower cost,” said Mark.

“The new features in particular will also help to continue the development of the site into a must-visit tourist attraction within mid and North Pembrokeshire.”

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Public engagement exercise over new hospital between St Clears and Narberth

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HYWEL DDA is asking the people of Pembrokeshire to help it further shape and deliver future services by taking part in a six-week engagement exercise.

Since the publication of its strategy, A Healthier Mid and West Wales: Our Future Generations Living Well in 2018, the health board has worked with partners to provide care and develop services. However, the coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on health and care services. As a result, the health board now wants to learn from the public about how the pandemic has affected their health and care, and access to it.

This week, Hywel Dda UHB has been distributing a discussion document for the public to consider, along with a questionnaire for completion.

Hywel Dda UHB is also asking for the public’s feedback in relation to its long-term strategy to develop and build a new hospital in the south of the Hywel Dda area, somewhere between and including St Clears, in Carmarthenshire, and Narberth, in Pembrokeshire.

This location is the most central for most of the population in the south of the Hywel Dda area, and it was determined through the public consultation held in 2018.

The public is also being asked to nominate sites for a new hospital based four criteria:

The nominated site must be within the zone between and including St Clears in Carmarthenshire and Narberth in Pembrokeshire. This location is the most central to most of the population in the south of the Hywel Dda area.

The nominated site should be a minimum of 35 acres of reasonably developable land.

The nominated site should have realistic prospects of obtaining planning permission for a new hospital.

There should be appropriate transport infrastructure for a major hospital site.

Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda UHB, said: “The global pandemic has had a major impact on all areas of our lives so it’s crucial that the health board considers, reflects and learns from this extraordinary period. This engagement exercise will allow the public to tell us in their own words how COVID-19 has affected their health and care, and access to it.

“I would encourage as many people as possible to participate because the feedback we receive will play a major role in helping shape future services. This in turn will allow us to deliver on our long-term commitment for a healthier mid and west Wales.

“I would also stress that this engagement exercise is part of an ongoing process. Over the coming months and years, we plan to engage with the public, stakeholders and partners on a wide variety of issues, such as service models. Everyone will have their chance to give their views and opinions because we are committed to continuous engagement with the public to ensure we provide the best possible care.”

The engagement exercise will run until Monday June 21.

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Paul Sartori taking action to support climate with National Lottery grant of nearly £14,000

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LOCAL hospice at home charity, Paul Sartori Hospice at Home, is taking action to support the climate with the installation of solar panels at its main head office in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire.

The charity which delivers end of life care services across Pembrokeshire, has been awarded a grant to fund the purchase and installation of solar panels at Paul Sartori House, Winch Lane. This investment is part of an ongoing commitment to address the climate emergency and the charity joins many others who are taking action. Paul Sartori was one of 35 community groups, who were selected to take part in the Climate Action Boost scheme, funded by The National Lottery Community Fund.

Working alongside Renew Wales, a partner in the initiative, the group explored methods to help tackle the causes and consequences of climate change, and to operate more sustainably. A number of options were discussed to reduce their impact on the environment and Renew Wales helped the charity to develop an environmental action plan, which is to be implemented over the coming months. The scheme available to cover a variety of environmental reduction activities, including renewable energy, reducing consumption, local food and reduced or less impactful travel.

Paul Sartori Hospice at Home wouldn’t normally be associated with environmental activity. Through regular consultation over many months, the charity has been really encouraged by what they have learnt.

“We have invested a lot of time in developing the plan; discussed a number of alternatives along the way, but feel that the solar panel installation will have the biggest impact for the charity in the long term”, said Sandra Dade, Charity Manager. “The National Lottery Climate Action Boost has really inspired our charity to minimise our impacton the environment and we will continue this journey,” added Sandra.

Jemma Nurse, Funding Manager at The National Lottery Community Fund said, “The climate emergency is everyone’s business, which is why The National Lottery Community Fund is acting to support and inspire communities to minimise their own impact on the environment. We are proud to be a significant funder of environmental projects and Paul Sartori Hospice at Home, along with the other groups participating in Climate Action Boost, will play a valuable part in building our knowledge so we can share our learning with other funders across Wales and the UK.”

The services provided by the Paul Sartori Hospice at Home enable people in the later stages of any life-limiting illness to be cared for and to die at home with dignity, independence, pain free and surrounded by those they hold most dear, if that is their wish.

All of the services are free of charge, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, thanks to the generosity of the Pembrokeshire Community. Further information on the charity and its services can be obtained by visiting their website www.paulsartori.org, or by phoning 01437 763223.

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