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Fire service ‘in disarray’



fire serviceCONCERNS have arisen this week over potential safety risks posed to Pembrokeshire’s refineries, as the Fire and Rescue Service for Mid and West Wales announced a possible budget cut of up to £4 million.

The proposed cut backs could mean that every full time firefighter employed at Pembroke Dock, Milford Haven and Ammanford fire stations would be replaced by part-time staff, sparking fears of compromised safety, of which the Fire Brigades Union secretary for Mid and West Wales, Barry Davies, said:

“These cuts will put the lives of the public and firefighters at risk. The Welsh Government must recognise fire services now face a severe funding crisis.”

Paul Miller, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Preseli, said of the crisis: “Milford Haven and Pembroke Dock Fire Stations have already been downgraded more than once.

“Last week’s proposal from the Fire Authority will mean we have no whole time firefighters on station in Milford Haven. Coupled with the same in Pembroke Dock, that’s two LNG terminals, two oil refineries and one, soon to be two, power stations, whose nearest Fire Station will be home to zero full time fire-fighters.

“People in and around Milford Haven will be put at risk and all to maintain less critical services elsewhere. The Tory and Plaid members who run the Fire Authority, plan to make savings in Milford Haven and Pembroke Dock (whatever the risk) to ensure their areas are protected.”

Mid and West AM, Simon Thomas of Plaid Cymru, said in response to Mr Miller: “I am obviously concerned about the proposals. I’ve already called on the Labour Minister to intervene, but she has refused to do so. I will be making strong representations to the Fire Authority to ensure Pembrokeshire is protected from cuts imposed on the authority by the Labour Welsh Government.

“The Labour candidate forgets that it his own party which is responsible for any changes in the fire service locally. I will be also urging the Fire Authority for their assurances that public safety will be met at all times.”

Cllr David Howlett, Leader of the Conservative Group on the County Council, had this to say in response to Mr Miller’s statement: “With Milford Haven being the energy capital of the United Kingdom it is vital that we have a fire service that is able to cope with any incidents that may occur. I am amazed at the comments of Cllr Miller who claims ‘Tory and Plaid members who run the Fire Authority’. In fact, Labour have 11 members on the fire authority compared with four from Plaid Cymru and only one Conservative.”

Delyth Evans, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, added to her colleague’s concerns, saying: “To remove full fire response cover from Pembroke Dock would expose this community to unnecessary risks. Labour will be launching a campaign this week to ensure that we are not put at risk by the worst kind of political decision making by the fire authority.”

William Powell AM, Liberal Democrat for Mid and West Wales, commented: “I am aware that the proposals are causing considerable anxiety. Clearly, there are essential services across the area which need fire and rescue coverage. There are now genuine questions over whether that will be possible should the proposed reconfigurations take place.”

However, Wynne Evans, councillor for Narberth Ward and Chairman of the Resources Management Committee, said: “We have some very difficult decisions to make. This will have implications across all six local authority areas. All that has been discussed are options, not decisions.”

The Herald contacted LNG and Valero to enquire as to what safety implications any reduction in service may have, but both companies declined to comment.

However, a spokesperson for the Murco refinery explained that, along with the other refineries, they had their own equipment and fire crews which made them self-contained operations.

Only this week the Fire Brigade Union held a one-day strike across the country. Haverfordwest firefighter and watch manager, Chris Collins, speaking on behalf of FBU members, said: “The strike is an ongoing dispute. The Government have increased our pensions contributions from 11% to 14.2% of our salary. The Government wants us to work beyond the age of 55 and, with the job and its physicality, we do not think that is a feasible way to go. The FBU have said we are going for a second ballot, but we are trying to get an agreement beforehand.”

On the issue of the potential cuts in services, Mr Collins added: “One of the initial proposals to the Fire Authority was to save £4 million over two years. The only way to do this is the downgrading of stations or maybe redundancies. A retained only station would mean that personel would be alerted from their home address, creating a delayed response.”

Milford Haven Fire station watch manager, Andy Syme, added to Mr Collins’ comments: “Firefighting is a physiologically strenuous job which necessitates firefighters retiring earlier than the majority of the workforce. Milford firefighters realise the concerns of the public and we urge them to remain vigilant and to protect their families during this difficult time. But we hope that they can find some degree of empathy towards our current situation.”

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Heatherton expansion approved



• Committee overturns officers’ objections

• Economic benefits outweigh other impacts

Conditions must not delay development

THE COUNCIL’s Planning Committee voted to approve plans to extend holiday accommodation at Heatherton at its meeting on Tuesday (June 15).

Officers recommended refusal of the plans.

During their discussions, the Committee’s members noted the reasons for refusal detailed by the planning report. They concluded, however, with appropriate conditions in place, the economic benefits of the development outweighed the bases outlined for refusal.

Addressing the meeting, the applicant, Charlie Davies, told Committee members that the changing holiday market meant Heatherton and the area around it would miss out on opportunities to meet the demand for holidays in Pembrokeshire. He added that the planned expansion – to include a further twenty holiday lodges – would secure year-round jobs at Heatherton and have a positive impact on the local rural economy.

Mr Davies said the existing lodge development, approved by the authority seven years ago, improved the viability of Heatherton as an enterprise and would further strengthen the business’ finances.

Officers objected to the plans because they said the development would be outside settlement boundaries and run contrary to environmental policy. 

The report, presented by the Head of Planning David Popplewell, set out a series of concerns regarding the lodges’ visual impact, a lack of screening, and the lack of detail about landscaping plans and construction controls during development.

However, addressing the Committee as one of the local members whose Ward would be affected by the development, Cllr Phil Kidney said St Florence Community Council vigorously supported the application as being of direct benefit to businesses in the village. 

He pointed out that the economic benefits were not only Tenby centric but affected businesses elsewhere in the County.

Phil Kidney told the Committee his visit to a laundry in Pembroke Dock, by chance, revealed that laundry he delivered would be delayed because of laundry being done for the accommodation already on site. 

Cllr Kidney added that, bearing in mind the current furore over second homes, the provision of holiday accommodation on sites such as Heatherton could reduce the demands on local housing and open-up opportunities for local people to live locally.

He fully endorsed the proposal and said he could see no downside to permitting further expansion of a business that delivered jobs to local people, especially young people entering the jobs market for the first time.

Cllr Jonathan Preston agreed with Cllr. Kidney. 

He observed that the regulations regarding what constituted ‘a caravan’ were out of date and out of touch with reality. 

Although the proposed lodges were technically caravans; they were a world away from what most people would expect a caravan to look like and beyond the vision that informed the current rules regarding the term.

Cllr Mark Carter said the problems identified in the planning report could be addressed through the imposition of conditions on the development to offset them.

Mark Carter pointed out issues regarding the detail of landscaping works and lighting could be subject to conditions drafted by officers.

His opinion was warmly welcomed by both Cllrs David Pugh and Vice-Chair Tony Wilcox.

David Pugh said Heatherton was a successful business, employing local people and should be encouraged to continue to offer job opportunities for locals.

Tony Wilcox said Heatherton was one of the three main jewels in Pembrokeshire’s tourist crown. 

He noted the other two destinations – Folly Farm and Bluestone – both recently applied to extend their facilities, and he could see little or no difference between what Heatherton proposed and what officers were prepared to accept elsewhere.

Cllr Tim Evans developed Cllr Wilcox’s theme, observing that officers barely raised an eyebrow about a further eighty pieces of holiday accommodation at Bluestone, which he said had ‘whizzed through’. 

Subject to conditions being brought back to the Committee, he fully supported the application.

Cllr Jacob Williams, Chair of Planning, asked whether the proposed conditions would be back before the Committee for its next meeting in July. 

Having received an equivocal answer he moved that if the Committee approved the scheme, with the proposed planning conditions to offset officers’ objections must come before the Committee on July 27.

Cllr Pugh endorsed that approach by saying nobody wanted the proposal kicked into the long grass.

Councillors approved the plans unanimously by 14 votes to nil, and officers must prepare conditions to attach to the planning permission ahead of the Committee’s next meeting.

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Milford Haven: Christmas cosmetics thief caged



A MIDLANDS shop lifter caught stealing £2200 worth of cosmetics and skin care products from Boots in Milford Haven just before Christmas, has been jailed.

Magistrates sitting at Haverfordwest Court on Tuesday (Jun 15) accepted a guilty plea from 53-year-old Ion-Gabriel Maimut of Perrott Street, Birmingham.

He was jailed for what the bench described as “offending so serious because the defendant has a flagrant disregard for people and their property.

“And because of the high degree of planning and the high value of the theft.

“And because the theft was aggravated by the defendant’s record of previous offending.”

Maiumut, bang-to-rights, pleaded guilty at the first opportunity to a single theft of goods from Boots to the value of £2204.91 on December 4, 2020.

The court confirmed that the defendant’s guilty plea was considered when imposing sentence.

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Blue Gem Wind begins digital aerial surveys for 300MW Valorous floating wind project



BLUE GEM WIND, the joint venture between TotalEnergies, one of the world’s largest energy companies, and Simply Blue Energy, has begun offshore digital aerial surveys for a proposed 300MW floating wind project.

APEM Ltd have been chosen by Blue Gem Wind to deliver 24 consecutive monthly bird and marine mammal surveys of the early-commercial scale Valorous site. The high resolution data obtained will support baseline environmental characterisation of the site and environmental impact assessments for key ecological receptors.

The survey programme commenced in March 2021 and four of the 24 monthly surveys have been completed
to date.

Sean Evans, Environmental Specialist at Blue Gem Wind said, “It is important for us to begin long-lead in items
such as bird and marine mammal surveys as early as possible. These surveys will provide crucial species specific
data on the number, spatial distribution and activity of individuals across the Valorous site. This enables us to
undertake robust environmental impact assessments ahead of our planned consent application submission in

Matt Rohner, Senior Consultant at APEM, “APEM Ltd are delighted to be able to support Blue Gem Wind’s
proposed Valorous offshore wind farm with our best-in-class survey design approach. Imagery captured using
state-of-the-art cameras is of ultra-high (1.6cm) resolution, providing industry leading image quality that is
essential for species level identification.”

The Celtic Sea is poised to play a key role in Net Zero, the Committee on Climate Change’s 100GW offshore
wind target, and crucially, the UK Government’s target of 1 GW of floating wind by 2030. The ORE Catapult also
estimated that the first GW of floating wind in the Celtic Sea could potentially deliver over 3,000 jobs and
£682m in supply chain opportunities for Wales and Cornwall by 2030.

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