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Home Office to operate Penally asylum seeker camp without planning permission

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL has said that it is ‘disappointed’ after learning of a Home Office plan which will see it running the former Penally Training Camp for asylum seekers without planning permission. The news follows confirmation last month from the Home Office that the camp was being wound down, with asylum seekers being moved into alternative accommodation, such as hotels.

A council spokespersons said: “We acknowledge this latest update is unsettling and we will continue to work to ensure community cohesion can be restored following this disruptive decision.”

But the Home Office has confirmed that it is preparing a planning application to allow the temporary use of the camp, which has housed up to 250 male facility users, to continue for a further six months.

The current six months permission for use – granted under the Town and Country Planning General Permitted Development Order – expires on March 21, but application for the next consent is not due to be submitted until mid April.

As the site would be in use without the planning consent, the council would have the power to take enforcement action, but the Authority has not yet confirmed its intentions.

A spokesman for the council, said: “The Home Office has recently re-confirmed to the Council that they are preparing a planning application to allow the temporary use of Penally Training Camp to continue for a further 6 months (beyond 21st March 2021).

“However, the Home Office have now made it clear that any planning application will not be submitted to Pembrokeshire County Council until around mid-April 2021.

Police and protestors in stand off in Penally in 2020 (Pic: Herald)

“The Home Office advise that their appointed consultant are working to complete the majority of the technical reports, including a Phase 1 Ecological Survey, Noise Assessment, Heritage Report, Transport Report and Flood Risk Assessment.

“The Home Office have advised that they will begin the required pre application consultation, a formal 28-day period for public consultation process, in mid-March.  Following the consultation period, the responses will be collated and the Pre-Application Consultation (PAC) Report prepared.

“This means that the site will therefore be under occupation, but without the requisite planning consents being in place, whilst the application process is followed.

“The Council have been in continual contact with the Home Office and their planning consultant over the last 5 months, seeking clarification around their planning intention. This recent correspondence confirms their intention to progress a planning application.

“We are disappointed that the Home Office have only now made their intent clear. It is of concern that they have not been able to submit a planning application within the required timescale.

The cost of policing the camp has been higher than expected, running into millions of pounds (Pic Herald)

“The Council has always challenged the Home Office as to the suitability of the accommodation. We have also always tried to work with key bodies involved to ensure those in the camp and the surrounding community are kept safe, treated with dignity. We acknowledge this latest update is unsettling and we will continue to work to ensure community cohesion can be restored following this disruptive decision.”

PRESTON PUSHES HART FOR ANSWERS

County councillor for Penally, Jonathan Preston, is pressing a local MP for answers to many still unanswered questions for surrounding Penally Training Camp; stating that it appears that the Home Secretary is unaware of how the Home Office took control of Penally camp last September.

In a charged letter, Cllr Preston is pushing for Simon Hart MP, Secretary of State for Wales, to clarify points following The Home Secretary’s promise to engage.

The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, said in Parliament: “We will consult with everybody; I can give that assurance.”

Mrs Patel added: “In the broadest possible sense, we cannot have this situation where local authorities literally refuse to engage with us, while at the same time saying that consultation is not taking place.”

Writing to Mr Hart MP, Cllr Preston said: “I am confident that PCC have not refused to engage on this issue with the Home Office, however given that you, along with Welsh Government and Pembrokeshire County Council were not consulted prior to Penally camp being repurposed, it appears that the Home Secretary is unaware of how the Home Office took control of Penally camp last September.

He added: “Please could you advise why the Home Secretary believes that consultation has taken place and if this assumption provided the basis on which the Home Office proceeded to repurpose Penally camp last September?”

The Pembrokeshire Herald has approached the Home Office for comment.

Home Secretary Priti Patel is facing calls to close former barracks in Penally and Folkestone

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Pembrokeshire County Council bills Home Office for Penally camp costs

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THE COUNCIL has sent an invoice for more than £80,000 to the Home Office.

It is to cover some of the costs that the local authority has incurred in connection with the Penally Asylum Seeker Centre, near Tenby.

Following a question on the issue from Cllr Jonathan Preston at Full Council the Council have confirmed that a bill has been sent.

The Member for Penally ward asked: “Please can the relevant Cabinet Member provide a breakdown of all costs to this authority which have been incurred in providing staff, services and other associated resources to Penally camp since its re-purpose by the Home Office last September?”

Council leader Cllr. David Simpson confirmed that on February 22 Pembrokeshire County Council submitted an invoice for £83, 858 which includes £65,564 in staff costs, £12,799 of specialist support and £5,495 for works such as barriers.

Pembrokeshire County Council is currently awaiting payment, the Authority confirmed.

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Hospitality sector welcomes Budget boost

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IT HAS been so long it seems since we could stand at a bar and enjoy a well-earned pint, but now we are on the road back to normality, the Herald has spoken to some of those in the hospitality sector who have been asked to close. We wanted to know what the owners in businesses in these sectors locally thought of the budget and if Rishi Sunak had done enough to help them.

We first spoke to a Milford Haven restaurant business. Owner of Martha’s Vineyard in Milford Haven, Dan Mills said that the budget was not a silver bullet to fix all problems but said that the budget had gone a fair way to delivering what many in the Pembrokeshire hospitality sector have been calling for in recent weeks.

Dan Mills said: “The biggest risk many of us were facing was the cliff edge of a VAT increase, the end of the Furlough Scheme and a return to full business rates, I’m pleased that the Chancellor has recognised this and taken action on all fronts.

“With talk of the Welsh Government restricting us to outside trading for an initial period, the flexibility that the Furlough Scheme brings will be a huge help to ensure staff retain their jobs.

“I was also delighted to see that the Chancellor has provided funding to Wales to ensure that we benefit from a further 12 months of Business Rate Relief here in Pembrokeshire, that’s money that many of us can instead invest into restarting our businesses.

“I hope that the conversation that unfortunately began due to Covid between politicians and the Pembrokeshire hospitality and tourism sector can continue long beyond this crisis, it seems that through some open and honest feedback we are making real progress.

Award winning gastro-pub The Griffin Inn is well known throughout Wales and has received many national reviews. Their reputation puts them in a strong position once they are allowed to re-open. We spoke to Sian and Simon Vickers about the budget.

Simon Vickers, co-owner is also a director of Visit Pembrokeshire. He told The Herald: “I think the budget was very positive for the hospitality industry with the reduction in VAT being the biggest help.

“Overall I feel the government have supported the industry amazingly

In regard to tax on alcohol, Simon said: “Duty has been frozen It would have been nice to have seen a cut in it. Whether there’s a cut or not the breweries always increase their prices so in all honesty it never affects us.”

The ongoing financial support has been welcomed by industry group CAMRA, The Campaign or Real Ale, but the organisation said that the Chancellor had missed the opportunity to lower beer duty to save our pubs.

Their national chairman Nik Antona issued a statement to The Pembrokeshire Herald saying: “Freezing alcohol duty is obviously better than a rise. However, CAMRA had hoped to see the Chancellor announce a cut in duty on beer served on tap in pubs and social clubs to benefit consumers and help the great British pub recover and thrive in the difficult months and years ahead by being able to compete with supermarket alcohol.

“The Government’s commitment to review alcohol duties in the coming months is welcome. CAMRA will continue to call for a lower rate of duty for beer served in pubs – an option available to the Government now we have left the European Union.

“Reducing tax on beer served in pubs and social clubs would encourage responsible drinking in a supervised, community setting – as well as boosting jobs and local economies, helping consumers and benefiting pubs and licensees.”

On financial support announced, Nik commented: “Cutting VAT as pubs begin to reopen, and reducing it until April next year, means they can now start benefiting from that cut – but CAMRA believes this VAT cut should be extended to alcohol so that traditional locals that don’t serve food can benefit too.

“The extension of furlough until September and new grants of up to £18,000 are very welcome. However, pubs are unlikely to be able to fully reopen at pre-COVID trading levels due to outside space and then table service only indoors. The beer and pubs sector will need further support over the coming months, over and above new loans, to help them get back on their feet until there is a full and proper re-opening and they can trade at full capacity.

“Extending the business rates holiday until the end of June will help keep the wolves from the door for many English pubs, with the two-thirds reduction for the rest of the financial year a welcome step. However, given how tough it will be for many pubs we believe the 100% cut in business rates needs to be extended for a full 12 months as has already happened in Scotland.”

Picture: Simon Vickers, Griffin Inn, Dale

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Milford Haven-bound ‘flying oil tanker’ hits the national news

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A MILFORD HAVEN bound oil tanker has made the national news, after a photograph taken off the Cornish coast made it look like the ship was flying.

An optical illusion caused the ship to appear as though it was floating above the horizon

The ship is believed to be the Hafnia Malacca Oil/Chemical Tanker which is heading to Pembrokeshire from Primorsk, Russia via the English Channel.

David Morris, from the hamlet of Gillan, near Falmouth took a photo of the ship near Falmouth, Cornwall, the BBC have reported.

On the BBC news website, meteorologist David Braine said the “superior mirage” occurred because of “special atmospheric conditions that bend light”.

He said the illusion is common in the Arctic, but can appear “very rarely” in the UK during winter.

Mr Morris said he was “stunned” after capturing the picture while looking out to sea from the hamlet of Gillan

Mr Braine said: “Superior mirages occur because of the weather condition known as a temperature inversion, where cold air lies close to the sea with warmer air above it.

“Since cold air is denser than warm air, it bends light towards the eyes of someone standing on the ground or on the coast, changing how a distant object appears.

“Superior mirages can produce a few different types of images – here a distant ship appears to float high above its actual position, but sometimes an object below the horizon can become visible.”

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