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Will Lower Town be abandoned to the sea?

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Lower Town Fishguard

Lower Town Fishguard

CHAIRED by AM Paul Davies, residents of Fishguard and Goodwick attended a meeting to address representatives from the Pembrokeshire County Council and National Resources Wales, about the flooding issue which has long plagued Fishguard Lower Town.

The meeting was scheduled to discuss a Flood Investigation Report brought out by PCC on the topic of the serious flooding which occurred in 2014.

In 2014 the tidal surge saw water not only come from the sea to flood properties, but also up through drainage systems beneath houses, which proved an impossible force to tackle.

Starting off with Richard Wicks, Flood risk analysis team leader for the NRW speaking about the responsibilities NRW has and then going onto PCC’s Darren Thomas who explained the councils responsibility for the roads, highways and coastal protection constructions. Also attending was PCC’s Emyr Williams one of the coastal engineers and Pauline Louchart the emergency planning officer for the council.

What do the people of Lower Town think of the report?

In Mayor Richard Grosvenor’s absence, town Cllr Alex Allison spoke on behalf of the town and said: “One of the things I noticed in the report, I think on behalf of both agencies, it is a total abligation of their responsibilities, and that they’re passing this responsibility directly onto the local residents.

“The other thing that concerns me about the report is that you keep talking about projected frequencies, we know that in the last 10-15 years your projected frequencies have been blown right into the air.”

Also criticising the councils emergency efforts Cllr Allison said: “I also have to criticise the county council directly, in the actions they take when there is flooding.”

He continued: “To turn around and tell residents that if they want sand bags, they will have to buy them for themselves is again, a total abligation of their responsibilities.”

How does the report help the residents of Lower Town?

Getting down to the main issue the residents have with the report he also brought up the fact that, the report does not shed any light on future plans to tackle the flooding issue.

Alex Allison also brought up something mentioned in the report, which said that the cost of the properties has to outweigh that of the works being completed.

Following on from this he questioned how the works at Newgale were financially justified, where there is only ‘One pub and a field’ and not to save ‘125 houses in a historic village.’

He said: “I know a lot of people in the village feel the same way, that we are going to be abandoned in the long term.

“All we ask for is for you to tell us what plans you’ve got to stop it happening.”

Paul Davies then once again took the floor to highlight they key issues and possible ways to tackle them, which were brought up in the meeting directly following the 2014 flood crisis.

He also mentioned about the second flood which occurred just a month after the main issue which sparked the initiation of the report happened.

Some of the discussed flood defences included a “flood gate, and improvement to the old quay”, however he said: “No immediate solution was found, thus creating the need for the report.”

What do the locals think of the report?

Darren Thomas briefly explained the report: “We looked into what happened with the flooding, its causes, a summary of the incident, the responsibilities of those involved, and the conclusions and recommendations.”

“The report also includes technical details about the flooding for how our findings came about.”

He then welcomed questions from the attending audience. One man stepped up and began picking apart the report, he said: “In the conclusions and recommendations section you reference the operatives, who you say are trained, but it seems they need some guidance on where to place sand bags.”

He continued to explain an example where those placing sand bags had used ‘no common sense’ when placing them in non-strategic way.

Questioning the qualifications of those who wrote the report he also spoke about one possible flood defence strategy listed, and he himself being an engineer with over 50-years experience explained how the solution would make the flooding worse.

He then also stated that it was obvious that no public consultation had taken place when writing the report, because it was written from an unfamiliar perspective.

One lady asked why the report had taken two years to write, and questioned a point in the report which stated the sewage systems beneath the homes were deemed satisfactory following the January 2014 flooding.

She then went on to quote the report which said that no immediate action was needed in order to tackle the flooding issue, which she followed up by asking the rhetorical question: “What about the flooding which then occurred just one month on from that flood?”

Darren Thomas addressed the issue of the time it took to release the report and said: “This hasn’t just been sat on a desk waiting to be issued, it has gone through a process of consultation with stake holders and being drafted.”

Henry an attendee of the meeting began by stating he could match the engineering qualifications of those talking about the report and continued: “They built a refinery from scratch to produce oil in 18 months and you’ve taken two years to write a report which should have taken four at most.”

What is going to be done for the future?

Henry then proposed an idea and finishing with the question: “Are you going to do anything about the flooding or not?”

Bruce, another local, then picked more problems and issues with the plan when he was interrupted by Darren who said: “We’ve come along tonight to try and constructively discuss the issue, it is not constructive to keep just slagging off the report.

“We are here to go through the report and its findings.”

Richard Wicks added: “We do want to stop the flooding in Lower Town Fishguard and on the Abergwaun.”

He continued: “The first stage is to map where we actually are with the flooding, which we are doing, so please don’t think we don’t consider your small town here worth looking at.

Bringing up a few of the suggestions and problems with the proposed plans, Richard said about how Lower Town doesn’t just face tidal flooding but fluvial flooding from the river, he noted: “The last thing you want from us as engineers is to stop one type of flooding and leave you exposed to the other.”

Talking about more of the suggested solutions, he said that the cost would be very high for any considerable works and went on to explain the priority ranking system in place, which they advise the Welsh Government on.

Richard said: “Fishguard is about 400 on the list. Cardiff with it’s high population is top, as they are at risk of flooding with rising tide levels.

“Money would be much more wisely spent on areas like this with a high population. In time we will look at flood defences for Lower Town.”

Deputy Mayor, Mike Mayberry then spoke about Fishguard being so low down the list, and said about how places like Newgale where there are no residents effected have already had work started.

Darren went onto say that the work at Newgale isn’t about protecting houses or residents but is ‘managerial alignment’ after a ‘vulnerability survey’ showed the trunk road had only 10 years left before it was lost to the sea.

What was the final conclusion of the meeting?

More discussion about strategies to solve the problem, including short term suggestions about stopping traffic took place which Emyr said would be ‘extremely difficult to police’. The meeting continued to heat up and a local man left the meeting through frustration, of not hearing any actual solutions from the report which took two years to complete.

Highlighting that the meeting had started to snow ball and cross topics set out for discussion, Paul Davies pulled the meeting back and asked the panel to answer the question: “What solutions can you bring forward to start alleviating the issues?

“Because so far I am not hearing any.”

Richard from the NRW said that before work could be started, time has been taken to map the area and it’s specific issues, but further studies would need to take place to more studies and surveys would need to be completed.

He expressed that because it is a small harbour there are limits to what can be done, and lots of this they cannot do as it would spoil the scenery.

Paul Davies asked him to confirm: “Are you saying that further studies will need to be done?”

To which Richard replied: “Studies will be done, but I can’t promise you when they will be done, as any public funded body, we have to do things in a prioritised way.

“We have done what we can for Lower Town Fishguard.” He continued: “at the moment we have done what we can for residents in the short term.”

A local woman stood up and said: “So basically what you are saying is that you will not be doing anything!”

He responded: “I didn’t say that.” another man jumped in and said: “If it’s already taken two years to get this report, how many more years will it take for the next?”

Richard responded: “It really depends on availability of funds.”

Asked if they will be consulting the locals in any further reports, he replied by saying that they would. At which point several locals raised their voices and stated that is was not done with the current report.

The meeting closed with Richard saying that in the short term nothing will be done for Lower Town, and after being questioned as to how long ‘the short term’ was, he responded by saying it all depends on fund.

Richard then spoke about some solutions and concluded by saying: “If the cost of the measures are not much less than the damages that it is stopping, the works will not be allowed to go ahead.”

A local man asked: “I’ve got a simple question, give us a clue when it is going to start?”

Richard replied: “It is not in the short term, that is all I can say. It is all a question of resources and priority.”

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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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