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Traffic problems leave locals livid

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Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 10.10.18ANGRY residents of Lower Thornton in Milford Haven fear for their safety because of the heavy volume of traffic travelling at speed near their homes.

Lower Thornton has no pavements and properties face out on to the narrow stretch of carriageway. Residents complain that between 6.30am and 9am every day, the road through the small village is being used as a ‘rat run’ by drivers, and has been since the closure of Murco Refinery.

After consulting Pembrokeshire County Council (PCC) and Dyfed- Powys Police, they feel as though they still have not got anywhere with the issue, and instead turned to The Herald for help.

The Herald spoke with many residents from Lower Thornton, who are very angry with the local authorities. One of the locals, Mr Sam Hassan said: “The measures in place to reduce the speed of vehicles through the village of Thornton are ineffective.

“There are speed bumps along the road that have been there for around eight years, and they are very worn, and they are so small that vans can pass over them without their wheels touching.

“The bumps do nothing, and the speed the vehicles are travelling at is a hazard, and I feel our only solution is to have a speed camera.”

Mr Hassan added: “I bought myself a high visibility jacket, because I was frightened of being hit by a car when I walk my dog. The price is that someone needs to be killed before action will be taken.”

The speed that vehicles should be travelling at through Thornton is 20 miles per hour, although it is not illegal for people to drive faster than that, as it is only an advisory speed. However, the 30 miles per hour limit is compulsory.

And, with the mistake of the houses in Lower Thornton being placed too close to the road, the issue of having no pavement is a difficult one.

The residents say they understand that a footpath is difficult, but wish to receive some sort of traffic calming measures that would be effective for the village. Resident Glen Gale told The Herald that he even witnessed one of his neighbours being hit by a speeding car in Thornton when on her way to the cemetery, to take flowers to her recently deceased husband.

Mr Gale said: “People are speeding with elderly people around and children walking to school. There’s no refuge and there’s no respect for anybody.”

ARE SPEED CAMERAS AN OPTION?

The Herald contacted Dyfed- Powys Police to ask whether introducing speed cameras was an option. They said that the issue of speeding in the Lower Thornton area has been raised with police and has been a PACT priority.

They also said that officers have conducted speed checks at the location on a number of occasions with no one found to be over the speeding limit to date.

However, after contacting PCC, it came to light that the latest traffic count was conducted in October 2013, before the closure of Murco and before the opening of the new bypass from Tiers Cross to Johnston.

A spokesperson from PCC said: “A 20 mph zone was introduced in the village of Thornton in February 2008 following concerns raised about refinery traffic using the road through the village. The zone includes 11 pairs of traffic calming cushions spaced at regular intervals through the village.”

Resident, Hazel Davies and her husband, Tony, said they had even seen arctic lorries passing through the village, who were also paying no attention to the traffic signs, or the 7.5tonne weight limit for the bridge over the village.

PCC said that in addition to the 20 miles per hour zone, the County Council introduced a weight restriction on the road in June 2002. This restriction prohibits goods vehicles exceeding 7.5T except for access.

In response to claims of an increase in traffic since the closure of Murco, PCC said: “The refinery has now closed with the facility being used for oil storage purposes. As a consequence, this should have had an impact on traffic flows through Thornton. The completion of the nearby Bulford Road should also have had a similar effect on local traffic flows through the village.

“Pembrokeshire County Council has undertaken a number of traffic flow counts in the village with the last one carried out in October 2013. At that time the average 24 hour 2-way flow was 1132 with average daytime flows in the region of 100 vehicles per hour.

“The survey recorded average traffic speeds within the zone of 22.0 mph towards Old Hakin Road and 19.4 mph towards Steynton.

“The County Council has arranged to repeat this count to provide an indication of flow and traffic speed changes resulting from the closure of the refinery and the opening of the improved Bulford Road.

“This will help determine whether there is any justification to modify or amend the existing traffic calming measures through the village.

“The County Council has a proposal for a footway through the village in its forward programme pool. Unfortunately the character of the road is such that a facility of this nature would require extensive land acquisition and accommodation works.

“It is unlikely therefore that such a footway will be provided in anything other than the longer term, especially considering the fiscal pressures currently facing the Authority.”

Mrs Davies said: “We know there’s not enough room for a footpath, but anything is better than nothing.”

FEARS THAT CONCERNS ARE BEING IGNORED

Hazel’s husband, Tony, suffered a stroke around seven years ago and fears that his and neighbours’ concerns are being ignored.

When this was put to Dyfed- Powys Police, Sergeant Terri Harrison said: “I would like to reassure the residents that police take all calls seriously, especially those that impact on public safety, such as speeding.

“We have responded to concerns raised by the public either in person or by phone. We will in the near future be piloting a Community Speed Watch in Johnston and, if successful, this could be rolled out to neighbouring villages including Thornton.”

However, there is still no mention of the proposed speed cameras. It came to light that Mobile Speed Enforcement Cameras are the responsibility of the Wales Road Casualty Reduction Partnership which has a set of criteria that has to be satisfied before they can designate a site for enforcement.

This criteria involves a site assessment which considers a number of factors including speed and accident data; built environment including schools, shops and other facilities, pedestrian activity, and road function at any given location.

Requests for a site to be considered for enforcement are normally addressed to the Council who will then collate the relevant speed and accident data. This information is then passed onto the Partnership who will undertake a comprehensive review in accordance with their criteria.

The Partnership failed to reply to The Herald directly, and instead forwarded our questions to Dyfed- Powys Police, who had already spoken with us.

COULD THE ROAD BE CLOSED?

Mr and Mrs Davies said that if all else fails, then they would like to try to persuade PCC to consider closing off the road, due to the village now being used as a “thoroughfare.”

Mrs Davies said: “I don’t know where the traffic is coming from. I’d like to ask them where exactly they are going! However, I did notice that when the Cleddau Bridge was closed due to th bad weather, the volume in traffic definitely increased, which tells me the people driving must be going to and from Pembroke Dock. But why are they using Thornton?

“I think the only way to solve this is to close the road.”

Mrs Davies also said that she “knows” that large vehicles can turn around within the village, and that there should be “no reason” as to why it couldn’t be closed off like neighbouring streets, just like Bulford Road.

After leaving PCC alone for a few weeks, The Herald contacted them again to see if any progress had been made, with regards to finding out exactly how much traffic is passing through the village, and whether or not they have decided to do anything about it.

We also asked whether the proposed closure of the road, could be an option.

A spokesperson from PCC said: “A traffic survey is programmed which will enable the Authority to evaluate the current level of traffic and vehicle speeds through the village.

“The information will also enable a comparison to be made in respect of the impact the new Bulford Road scheme has had volume.

“In terms of closing the road to through traffic, the practicalities of such a proposal would need to be examined in detail and a full consultation exercise undertaken before a decision is made.

“Consideration would need to be given to a number of factors such as the impact on journey time and distance the closure would have on residents. The question as to how large vehicles – such as refuse lorries – accessing the village would u-turn would need to be addressed.”

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Education

Styling their way to the top

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(Left to right) Level 2 - Festival theme - work by Holly Mathias and Celebration of Colour - Level 2 and 3 – work by Leah Rees

FOUR hairdressing learners: Holly Mathias, Jenna Kilgallon, Helaina Thomas and Leah Rees, recently earned themselves a place in the next stage of the Concept Hair Magazine Learner of the Year Competition.

The candidates were invited into the College to show their fully presented entries as evidence and then submitted them remotely to the Concept Hair Magazine judges in December.

The categories for the competition were: Festival Hair, Red Carpet, Old School Barbershop, Celebration of Colour and Safari.

The unique styles allowed the learners to show off their creative hair styling skills from plaits to updos, to bold colour creations.

Charlotte Jones, Hairdressing lecturer was over the moon with the learners’ success; “We were all so impressed with the creativity, dedication and enthusiasm of all the students who took part in the competition. Also, the students who supported the entries during the day and the models who gave up their time to be involved. They should all be very proud of what they have achieved. The results were amazing!”

The students worked to COVID regulations ensuring all the correct PPE and procedures were followed.

Finalist, Holly Mathias entered three categories which included; Styling Level 2 – Festival Theme, Hair Up Level 2 – Red Carpet and Avant Garde – Safari.

Holly shared her experience; “Taking part in the Concept Hair competition, has really boosted my confidence and proved that hard work really does pay off. The support from the staff at Pembrokeshire College is outstanding. I would recommend everyone to take part in this competition as not only is it an amazing experience, but it really allows you to think outside the box and be as creative as you can! I would 100% take part in this competition again.”

Holly plans to go into full-time employment when she completes her course and hopes to one day work on cruise ships or even own her own salon.

The next stage involves the candidates submitting photographic entries on the 12th March where six will be shortlisted for the national finals which is set to take place virtually in April.

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Community

Environmental projects supported by Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund

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PROJECTS involving worm composting, community planting and solar panels were just some of the projects that recently received support from the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund.

More than £140,000 was awarded to eight projects at the committee’s January meeting with the next deadline for applications set for 12 noon on 23 March.

Clynfyw Care Farm was successful with an application for a vermicomposting project, which will create a quality rich sustainable compost that can be used to improve soil conditions organically. This will support local vegetable producers and sequestrate carbon in the process.

The Newport Area Environment Group will receive funding to lead a community planting project promoting decarbonisation through biodiversity.

Cwm Arian Renewable Energy secured financial support to research a Pembrokeshire-wide Energy Efficiency program, with the aim of reducing energy use and tackling fuel poverty by increasing and normalising the uptake of low carbon life choices.

Funding for photovoltaic (PV) panels was agreed for projects submitted by Herbrandston Sports and Recreation Association, South Ridgeway Community Association, Neuadd Gymuned Bwlchygroes Community Hall, Ramsey Island Nature resort and Visitor Centre, and Crymych Rugby club, who all received funding to help harness solar energy.

Directors from Clynfyw Care Farm said: “Thanks to funding from SDF, this worm composting project will be a useful tool for engaging with people, reducing CO2 and teaching a simple sustainable process with important stages in a safe, supported environment. Once established, vermicompost will be available for purchase in local outlets, providing an environmentally-friendly alternative for local growers.”

Applications for funding are encouraged from not for profit groups, including village halls, community councils and environmental groups in the county who have a project that will contribute towards a reduction in carbon and help respond to the climate emergency.

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News

Council: Despite a rise Pembrokeshire still has lowest council tax in Wales

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCILLORS have voted to back a recommendation of a 3.75 percent increase in Council Tax for the coming year.

The increase equates to an extra 82p per week for Band D properties.

Pembrokeshire will still have the lowest Council Tax in Wales with Pembrokeshire Band D Council Tax payers paying £214.11, or £4.11 per week, less than the average across the country.

Cllr Bob Kilmister, the Cabinet Member for Finance, said the increase had been reduced from a proposed 5 per cent to 3.75 per cent to reduce the impact on Council Tax payers.

Introducing the budget to members, Cllr Kilmister said to go for a figure below 3.75 per cent would inevitably lead to much higher rises in future years.

Falling below 3.75 per cent would also lead to cuts in Council services, Cllr Kilmister said.

He added: “A reduction in services and staff numbers will affect the poorest in our communities the most. I believe we have a duty to these people.”

Councillors also voted for Council house rents to be increased by 1.5% for the coming year plus increases of up to 50p per week where properties are not at target rent levels.

The votes were taken at the full meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council held on Thursday, March 4.

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