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‘Rubber-stamp process’ criticised

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COUNTY HALL planners have come under fire after claiming that an extension to an existing housing development in the picture-postcard village of St Florence does not breach planning rules.

In 2011, the council approved planning permission – at the second attempt – for new houses to be built on land south of Longstone. That development, of 14 houses known as Woodland Close, completed in 2014.

In January, the same developer applied for permission to build eight further bungalows on a green field site immediately adjacent to the previous development. While the plan claims to fulfil a need for affordable bungalows, local residents have noted that the existing affordable bungalows in Longstone could not be filled by elderly or disabled residents and have instead been let to families.

In addition, residents point out that an area allocated for residential development in St. Florence in the Local Development Plan has not yet been built on, of which the affordable housing requirement is 8 houses.

Residents have claimed that the council is bending over backwards to facilitate the development by twisting the rules regarding affordable housing and claiming that the proposed development is an exception to the bar on building on green field sites.

Belinda Goslin told The Herald: “The application has faced objection from many local residents on the grounds of highway safety and noise, loss of privacy and amenity as well as non-compliance with the council’s own procedures.”

She continued: “The council appears prepared to ignore serious road safety implications. The exit to the proposed site is on a blind bend where traffic from Manorbier, for the village shop, post box and post van converges. Vehicles, including the bus, turn there. Children play there on their bikes and scooters. It is already a hazard without an increase in traffic.”

Accusing the planning decision process of being rubber stamp, Belinda concluded: “The building material is all in the field ready to start phase 2 and contractors are talking about digging out the footings in the next few weeks. That implies they believe that the planning process is a mere formality and that the development will definitely be approved. Without having any documented evidence of what was discussed during the pre-planning stage we will never know why they are so assured of its approval.”

The Herald asked the council to comment and whether the local member, Phil Kidney, had exercised his right to have the application called in before the full Planning Committee instead of being decided by officers.

A spokesperson told us: “The planning application is for affordable housing on an exception site (this is land which may not have been allocated for housing development).”

The spokesperson concluded: “Consideration is currently being given to whether or not this should be referred to the Planning Committee.”

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Park Authority Committee tours successful carbon reduction projects

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MEMBERS of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund (SDF) Committee made a tour of local projects recently that have benefitted from SDF funding.

Since 2000, over 200 projects have been supported by the Fund. Over the past year, the Fund has changed its focus to support community-led projects that mitigate the climate emergency by contributing to a reduction in carbon.

Coppicewood College, which promotes and supports sustainable woodland management, was one of the successful applicants visited by Committee Members. After entering into talks with the West and South Wales Wildlife Trust and securing a new home in Pengelli Forest on a 25-year lease, an application was made for SDF funding to build a workshop using sustainable building methods. Both the College and the Wildlife Trust will benefit from this new partnership, as the College now has a brand new home in a prestigious SSSI woodland and the Trust will be able to have a programme of woodland management tailored to the needs of local wildlife.

SDF Committee Members also paid a visit to Clynfyw Care Farm, where funding has been used to pay for equipment, set-up costs and training in a new vermicomposting (worm composting) project. This creates a sustainable and high quality compost, which can be used to improve soil conditions organically for local vegetable produce growers, while sequestering carbon during the process.

Bwlch-y-groes village hall also formed part of the itinerary for Members, who were shown where the SDF-funded photovoltaic panels and electric vehicle charging point, which are set to complement the new building, will be positioned.

The tour came to an end with a talk from the Cwm Arian Renewable Energy Project, which has received an SDF cash injection to help with the Pembrokeshire Energy Efficiency Programme (PEEP) – a project that aims to engage with communities across North Pembrokeshire in order to understand behaviours in energy reduction.

Jessica Morgan, Funding and Grants Officer for the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Trust, said: “It’s been hugely rewarding to see so many innovative climate solutions coming to fruition as a result of SDF grants.

“We are now inviting applications for the next round of funding. If you are part of a community-led group or organisation based in or around the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and have a project that would help reduce carbon and/or respond to climate change, please consider applying.”

Projects can include:

·       Installing renewable energy generation facilities, such as solar panels, to a community building

·       Transport initiatives that promote reduced carbon emissions

·       The installation of community facilities that minimise waste, such as water fountains

·       Any other community-based carbon reduction initiatives.

The deadline for applications is 12 noon on Friday 10 September

Further information on how to apply and an application form can be found at www.pembrokeshirecoast.wales/sustainable-development-fund/.

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Firefighters respond to industrial unit fire at Rope Walk, Hakin, Milford Haven

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EMERGENCY SERVICES are responding to a fire at an industrial unit off the Rope Walk in Hakin, Milford Haven this morning (Tuesday, July 27).

The fire broke out just after 10am. Witnesses at the scene told our reporter that they beleived the fire was linked to welding work which going on a the time on the premises.

Three fire applicances are engaged with fighting the fire.

Another person close to the scene said: “Black smoke could be seen from quite a distance, and there were popping sounds and small bangs coming from inside the warehouse as the fire took hold.”

No injuries have been reported.

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Trial bathing water testing project makes a splash

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A TRIAL project is making waves in the way the quality of bathing water is recorded and how that information is presented to those thinking of taking a dip.

Launched during the baking hot weather and at the start of the school holidays, the project run by Pembrokeshire County Council aims to develop an information platform for local people, visitors and activity groups to detail the bathing quality away from Blue Flag beaches.

As an Authority, Pembrokeshire County Council is very proud to have the most Blue Flag beaches in the whole of the UK, and this is testament to the fantastic water quality that we have.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that all of the coast is blessed with these conditions and water quality can change on a regular basis

For the project, Pembrokeshire County Council’s Pollution Control Team will take up to six samples, across the period of the school summer holidays.

The team will then provide weekly information on bathing water results, framed against the EU Bathing Water Standards.

Pollution Control Lead Officer, Nathan Miles, said: “To achieve Blue Flag status, it is pretty well known that beaches must meet strict criteria on bathing water quality.

“But we understand that people like to swim right around our coast, not just at Blue Flag beaches, so we thought this trial could provide the bathing water quality information where there’s interest in open water swimming.

“The project is centred around water quality and water safety and linking up with local community councils and interested groups such as the Bluetits Chill Swimmers.

“We are looking for community partners or local councils to develop signage and noticeboards as well as use social media to provide information on water quality and safety in their area.”

Members of the Bluetits were on hand this week to launch the project as Council Pollution Technician Scott Findlay took a sample from Solva Harbour.

That sample will be analysed in the lab and the Bluetits informed of the water quality at the harbour.

Bluetits Chill Swimmers Director Sarah Mullis, said: “We as an organisation believe in giving swimmers the information and tools to increase their knowledge of their local waters in order for them to make choices and take responsibility for their own safety so that they can access all of the benefits that we know open water swimming brings. 

“Up until now this has been in the form of short films on rip currents, waves, tides etc. The data that has already come from this water testing scheme, and talking to Scott about what affects the readings has been fascinating, and we are learning new things about the water we swim in every day.

Pollution Technician: Scott Findlay takes a sample for testing from Solva Harbour (Pic PCC)

“We intend to share this knowledge with our community of 15,000 Bluetits, so this scheme won’t just help Solva Bluetits, but those worldwide to be aware of what may affect the quality of the waters that mean so much to us.”

Cllr Mark Carter, County Councillor for Solva added: “It is great to see this initiative between PCC and the community of Solva that gives local and visiting open water swimmers the information and confidence to make the most of the beautiful area that is Solva harbour.” 

Bruce Payne, Clerk of Solva Community Council said water is the driving force of nature and Solva’s bathing water is precious and must be protected.

He added: “The water testing scheme is very important to the community council. It helps safeguard the water quality for everyone.

“Water sports is also a vital component of village and harbour life. We care about our shared harbour environment and want everyone to be safe and to enjoy the clean seawater of Solva.”

For more information and to get involved in the trial project, contact Nathan Miles on 01437 764551.

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