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Successful 40th year for North Pembrokeshire Grassland Society

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successful yearTHE annual meeting of the North Pembrokeshire Grassland Society included a summary from the Chair person, Joy Smith, of an organised visit made earlier in the year to agricultural units in Yorkshire, and from Will Prichard who used a bursary from the Society’s Rex Patterson fund to see some of the latest dairy technology being applied in Australia.

Reporting on a hugely successful 40th year programme for NPGS, Joy remarked that the farm tour had included a business who had visions of becoming the most successful integrated animal breeding and farming company in Europe.

Having the business was now one of the largest private, familyowned farming companies in Britain, with a reputation for producing and marketing high yields of quality produce and livestock that achieve very acceptable returns on capital.

Founded just over 50 years ago the company has an annual turnover in excess of £20 million and employs over 220 full-time staff, included are three core businesses –arable farming, pig production and genetics-overseen by a corporate centre comprising 6 directors, 3 of whom are non-executive.

The arable side of the business, she said, which is fully underpinned by technical, marketing, financial and administration support, are responsible for 16,000 acres, either owned or tenanted by the company, or farmed for clients under a farm management agreement. The land grows a variety of crops including cereals, oilseed rape, vining peas, sugar beet, potatoes, and onions.

The pig 18 units, which include the UK’s largest and most environmentally conscious pig genetics base, has 7,800 breeding sows producing 150,000 breeding and slaughter pigs annually sustained by a sound research base dedicated to customer service, veterinary health monitoring and technical support.

Other visits on the 5 day itinerary included a unit where three brothers -who had previously owned 100,000 acres in Russia –now farmed 2,600 acres running a dairy herd of 900 pedigree Holsteins with an annual lactation yield of 9,600kgs, several other dairy farms, a cheese plant and a number of livestock breeders including a 2,000 head beef unit dedicated to using stabilizer bulls and finishing all stock at grass.

Will Prichard presented some fascinating details of the World’s first proto- type commercial robotic milking rotary presently being unveiled by the Swedish dairy equipment company, de Laval, at an al grass pilot farm with 1,300 cows in Tasmania.

The technology has been developed by the FutureDairy project in Australia, a collaboration between de Laval, Dairy Australia, NSW Department of Primary Industries and the University of Sydney. Featuring five robots, the rotary has a capacity to milk up to 90 cows per hour, and is based on 24 -unit internal, herringbone rotary that enables the robots to reach the cow from the side. With the use of laser technology, the robots focus red light to determine the location of the cow’s teats, clean them and attach the cups.

The first two robots clean and prepare the teats for milking, the second two attach the cups to the teats, and the last robot sprays the teats to disinfect them before the cows leave the platform.

Design of the dairy yard plays an important role in the AMR’s operation – the yards have a series of smaller yards, divided by automatic gates known as smart selection gates (SSGs), which can guide cows in two or three different paths after the milking.

Will assured his audience that the cows wear automatic identification collars or transponders, and when the cows approach the SSG, the system reads the transponder and guides the cow in the direction set in the DELPRO herd management software.

Mrs Smith was warmly thanked for ensuring another successful year for the Society which remained, by far, the largest in Wales and also, last month, hosting –for the first time in Wales -a meeting of the British Grassland Society.

Elected chairman for the coming year was Meurig S Harries with Peter Smith as vice –chairman. The secretary, Cheryl Codd, and treasurer, Dyfrig Davies, were re-elected. Delegates reappointed were Neil Perkins (British Grassland Society) and Jeff Evans (to the Welsh Federation of which he is current chairman).

Awards: Member of the Year, 2013 –Roger Jones, Trenichol, Grassland –Will Prichard, Escalwen and Gerwyn Williams, Swmbarch, New leys – Jonathan and Christopher James, Trefaner (at Trevigan), Clamp Silage –Tim and William James, Farthing’s Hook, Round bales, Roger Jones, Milk production, Roger Ridgway, Clovers and Jeff Evans, Broadmoor.

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Heatherton expansion approved

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• 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

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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

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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
2023.”

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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