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Green project cancellation could be an ‘opportunity’

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Years of protests: Powys locals did not want windfarm

Years of protests: Powys locals did not want windfarm

A CONTROVERSIAL plan for a multi-million pound wind farm in Powys has been scrapped by a power company in a move welcomed by anti-turbine campaigners. Scottish Power are ditching proposals for a £64m wind farm at Dyfnant Forest, at Lake Vyrnwy, after working on the proposals for six years. Company chiefs said the reasons were the length of time for the planning process and a need to modernise the grid, for pulling the plug on the project to build 35 x 600ft wind turbines there.

The company had said the scheme would have provided power for up to 65,000 homes. Campaigners had protested against the plans with concerns over the damage to tourism. Simon Christian, UK Managing Director of Scottish Power, told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “Unfortunately, with anticipated lengthy planning processes and major grid modernisation required, we are not confident the project can be delivered in a time frame that would make it financially viable for us. “We are currently seeking to replace our turbines at Llandinam in Mid Wales, and we await a planning decision following a lengthy Public Inquiry.

We have decided to focus our onshore wind efforts in Wales on this project. “We have been an active wind power developer in Wales since 1992, and we hope that our association with renewable energy in the country will continue for many years to come.” Concerns had been raised by residents it could have harmed the horse-riding tourism there, where there was a network of trails. Scottish Power had said the development of 35 turbines of up to 185m – costing around £2m per turbine – would have a generating capacity of up to 120 megawatts (MW).

Glyn Davies, Conservative MP for Montgomeryshire, has welcomed Scottish Power Renewables’ decision. He said: “It is a wonderful Christmas present for the people who live near Lake Vyrnwy and who share my love for the wider Dyfnant Forest area. Scottish Power Renewables’ plans were in my opinion ecologically and environmentally disastrous for a beautiful part of mid-Wales.” The scrapping of the scheme throws Pembrokeshire’s potential as a mecca for green energy projects into sharp relief. There has been a massive increase in the number of applications for wind turbine construction in Pembrokeshire in recent years.

There has also been increasing public opposition to wind turbine developments which disfigure previously unspoiled rural vistas. While smaller developments abound, larger developments that have been occasionally mooted have not progressed very far. A look at the number of proposals for wind turbine construction in Pembrokeshire reveals that until 2012 there were very few applications indeed. Between 2007 and the end of 2014 in excess of 450 developments have applied for planning consent from the local authority including wind turbine or wind farm provision, the vast majority of those made since the beginning of 2012.

Those developments have ranged from the controversial single turbine slated to provide energy to Prince’s Gate Water in Tavernspite, to the current wind farm proposal at Rhoscrowther that ties into extant infrastructure from the nearby refinery. The tension between the Council’s need to protect Pembrokeshire’s tourism offer and to obtain even short term jobs in an area of high unemployment is perhaps best demonstrated by reference to the conduct of one planning committee member from the local authority.

Herald readers will recall the tale of the proposed wind turbine development at Mathry that was opposed by everyone but Council planning officers. That planning committee member refused to inspect the location of a proposed development near Mathry, despite being transported to the site at public expense. His conduct suggests that some councillors take their planning duties lightly.

One member of the planning committee, Cllr Brian Hall, has even been alleged to have canvassed local support for a controversial scheme to burn oil waste on reclaimed land that needs to be raised above the level of an existing flood threat identified by Natural Resources Wales before construction can take place. Ambitious solar farm projects have received approval from the Council’s planning officers and Pembrokeshire’s importance to the Welsh Government’s green energy policy is highlighted by the Welsh Government’s endorsement of a plan to build a biomass power plant on the Blackbridge site.

Ambitious schemes to harness the power of the tide are also well underway. Invented by Pembrokeshire engineer Richard Ayre, the DeltaStream device is the first project to receive precautionary ‘deploy and monitor’ environmental consent in a designated Marine Special Area of Conservation’, having incorporated a number of design features to minimise any potential impact on the surrounding environment. An extensive suite of monitoring equipment will be installed on and around the device in Ramsey Sound. The £3.5m of public money announced to cushion the blow of the Murco takeover deal’s collapse, could be used to seed smaller enterprises focussed on supporting or developing the nascent green energy sector in our county.

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Welsh Guards sergeant shot dead during Castlemartin live-fire training exercise

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A BRITISH ARMY sergeant was killed on Thursday night (Mar 4) in a shooting accident at Castlemartin Training Area, The Herald can confirm.

The solider was training with live ammunition, ahead of a planned deployment to Iraq this summer.

Five police cars and an ambulance were seen screaming through Pembroke towards the incident at approximately 10pm towards the incident.

A coastguard helicopter, CG187, was scrambled to the scene, and hovered near Bosherston for a while, but was stood down and returned to base.

The Herald has contacted the MOD for a comment, who said: “It is with great sadness we can confirm the death of a soldier on the 4th of March.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this tragic time.

“The circumstances surrounding this death are being investigated and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

THIS STORY IS UPDATING

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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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