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Penally: Whitehall at loggerheads over camp’s future

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Penally training camp - main photoTHE HOME OFFICE was left ‘extremely surprised’ and ‘annoyed’ by the Ministry of Defence’s public announcement that plans to accommodate asylum seekers at Penally Army Camp have been ‘shelved’.

The government said that plans are still very much at ‘an early stage’ and ‘no decisions have been taken by the Home Office regarding the future use of Penally Camp’.

Since The Herald broke the story after receiving information from a senior source within the Ministry of Defence (MoD) that the camp was part of plans to be used as a reception centre for asylum seekers, other local media outlets have reported the story as ‘rumours’, but there can be no denial that these are real plans. The MoD do not comment on rumours, and they certainly do not announce that rumours have been ‘shelved’.

These are plans that have been discussed between government officials at the highest level.

Whilst it is true that the Penally councillor Jonathan Preston has reported that the Ministry of Defence has recommended to the Home Office that the site of the Penally Army Camp is unsuitable to become a holding camp for individuals and families who are waiting for their asylum applications to the UK to be processed, it is not true that plans have been ‘shelved’ completely as the Home Office still needs to find a location and their decision will be final.

After holding lengthy discussions with Home Office Minister James Brokenshire, MP for Carmarthenshire West and South Pembrokeshire Simon Hart revealed that, “the process of identifying a site is at an early stage and it is still subject to consultation with the MoD – although the MoD have been saying publicly today (Mar 16) that the deal is off, which has left the Home Office surprised and annoyed.”

Mr Hart continued, “The MoD have been asked to assess the suitability of sites and their input will be critical in the final decision. It is correct that they have told the Home Office that Penally is unsuitable as far as they are concerned.

“However we do as a country have an obligation when it comes to asylum seekers, as we have for generations, and there will need to be temporary housing somewhere.

“So, although it is true to say no final decision has been taken, and won’t be for some time yet, it is also fair to say that I think it highly unlikely that Penally will end up being a preferred site.”

County Councillor for Penally Jonathan Preston announced on Tuesday (Mar 15) that he had received a statement from the MOD that read; “You are advised that the proposal to house Asylum Seekers in PenallyTraining Camp has been shelved,” but when contacted by The Herald, the MOD said ‘that no decision had been taken’ and that this was incorrect.

The worrying language that the news would ‘obviously come as a relief to the local community’ allegedly followed the statement that Mr Preston has received. Whilst many people have indeed voiced their anger over the plans, many have also pledged their support and it is extremely presumptuous to assume that it is a relief to all in the community.

Mr Preston added, “I have asked the MOD if I may reveal the source of the message but as yet I have not had permission to do that. All that I can say at this time is that the information has come from a person who would be ultimately responsible in overseeing such a proposal going ahead.

“Yes, I agree that decisions can be overturned and that there is still work to be done in Pembrokeshire in relation to the resettlement of refugees, cabinet member Cllr. Alison Lee holds that responsibility at Pembrokeshire County Council.

“However, it has been clear throughout that the camp at Penally is not suitable for many reasons for the purpose of holding large numbers of people with very specialist needs.”

In December 2015 the government shelved plans to house up to 1,500 migrants at a huge centre near the village of Littleton-upon-Severn in Gloucestershire after a barrage of complaints from local residents, many of which were worried it could interfere with village life.

In September 2015 David Cameron announced that the UK would accept up to 20,000 refugees from Syria over the next five years saying that the UK had a ‘moral responsibility’ to those living in camps near the border of Syria. Though opposition parties claimed that the UK should do more, with France taking 24,000 refugees over the next two years, attacked the number as being insufficient.

Penally camp - MOD property

 

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Milford Haven: Apocalyptic scenes as work truck catches fire in Meyler Crescent

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A MILFORD HAVEN businessman says that he is “absolutely gutted”, after he lost his tipper truck in a dramatic fire overnight.

Callum Hicks, of Meyler Crescent, was woken just after 1am on Monday morning (Mar 1) to see his vehicle in flames, with fuel running down the street on fire.

The apocalyptic scenes brought neighbours out of their homes and the fire brigade was quickly called and put out the blaze.

At this time the police and fire brigade are not suspecting foul play, but in a telephone call to a Herald reporter Callum Hicks said that he thought it was impossible that the vehicle would just spontaneously combust.

Work van: Callum Hicks with his truck, which he says was his “pride and joy”

Explaining that he thought his truck had been set on fire deliberately, he said: “There was CCTV of the fire, but its a football pitch length away, with a white van parked blocking the view of the camera. There was not a clear uninterrupted view.”

“I parked the truck at 2pm on Sunday afternoon so it was 11 hours before the fire started. The vehicle was therefore cold, and locked up.”

Firefighters at the scene

The Herald has asked two mechanics, one of whom has worked on Transit vans for decades. The first said: “It is very unlikely that a vehicle like this would catch fire on it’s own – its impossible – I am 99.9% sure that this was arson.”

The second, a specialist in vehicle electronics said: “There are so many fuses and fail safes its highly unlikely for diesel vans to burst into flames like this without some kind of catalyst.”

Burned out shell: The vehicle after the fire

“There have been issues regarding Transits in the past, even a product recall involving a fire risk from a towing module. But, the chances are a million to one of it catching fire after being parked up for almost twelve hours. It just doesn’t happen.”

The Herald asked Callum Hicks if he could think of anyone who may want to torch his truck. He said that he could not think of anyone who would do such a thing.

Commenting on the police handling of the matter, he said: “They told my missus, Rhianna Pearce, that they were not taking matters further because it was just an accident – its not!”

“I have been in trouble with the police before, and they know I am a bit of a boy, but I think this is the reason that the police are not looking into this properly.

“At the end of the day this was a large fire in a residential area, lives could have been in danger. I have lost thousands because I was insured third-party only and I do not have cover for fire.

Dyfed-Powys Police and Mid & West Wales Fire and Rescue Service have been asked for a comment.

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Covid-19 vaccination venues and timeline announced for everyone locally over 50

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EVERY person in JCVI priority groups 5 to 9 will be offered a COVID-19 vaccination by 18 April, Hywel Dda University Health Board has confirmed.

While the health board’s vaccination programme has the capacity to offer a vaccine to everyone in groups 5 to 9 by the original target date of 4 April, the delivery plan has had to be adjusted based on confirmed vaccine deliveries.

Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, and Pembrokeshire residents in priority groups 5 to 9 can expect to receive their vaccine as follows:

  • Group 5, people aged 65 – 69 years – delivered by GP practices between 15 February and 12 March
  • Group 6, people aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions and unpaid carers – delivered by GP practices between 22 February and 4 April
  • Group 7, people aged 60 – 64 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 8 March
  • Group 8, people aged 55 – 59 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 22 March
  • Group 9, people aged 50 – 54 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 5 April

The health board currently has mass vaccination centres located in Aberystwyth, Cardigan, Haverfordwest, Tenby, Carmarthen and Llanelli.

Group 6 is significantly the largest cohort to be vaccinated to date and we understand that many in this group will be anxious to receive a vaccine. Please do not contact your GP or the health board to ask about your appointment, you will be contacted directly when it is your turn and we thank you for your patience.

People in groups 7, 8 and 9 will receive a letter with an appointment date and time. Please arrive as close to your appointment time as possible. The letter will include a phone number to contact the health board should you need to rearrange or cancel your appointment but please make every effort to keep your allocated appointment time.

Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda UHB, said: “While  our programme has had to slow  due to supplies, we want to reassure everyone in groups 5 to 9 that our amazing teams of vaccinators and GP practices have the capability and flexibility to deliver our vaccine supplies as they arrive into the region.

“Vaccine supplies will start to increase again from mid-March, and we are confident that everyone living in our three counties in the top 9 priority groups will be offered a vaccine by mid-April.

“In Hywel Dda we have an older population compared to some other health boards and so over 50% of our adult population will have been offered a vaccine by milestone 2.

“To be able to say that as we approach the anniversary of the first national lockdown is nothing short of extraordinary.

“And again, I must say thank you to everyone living in our three counties who continue to come forward in substantial numbers for the vaccine. Uptake remains remarkably high and we hope to see this continue through groups 5 to 9 and into group 10.”

People are asked, wherever possible, to use their own private transport to attend an appointment. Lifts can be accepted from someone in their household or support bubble, but not from anyone else due to the risk of transmission of the virus.

The health board has put in place transport support for anyone who may have difficulty attending their vaccination appointment. If you have no other means of travel, please contact the health board on 0300 303 8322 and we will be happy to assist.

Everyone in priority groups 1 to 4 should have received an offer of a vaccination. If you have not been contacted, or have changed your mind, please contact your GP at the earliest opportunity. No one will be left behind.

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Nolton Haven: Man hospitalised after getting into difficulties in sea

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A MAN was taken to hospital after getting into difficulties in the sea off Nolton Haven on Friday.

Emergency services were alerted at 2.40pm on February 26 by a 999 call to the control centre.

The Little Haven RNLI lifeboat, Broad Haven Coastguard, an ambulance crew and a Coastguard rescue helicopter assisted police in the operation.

The male casualty was stabilised on the beach and shortly before 4.30pm, was then transported to Withybush Hospital.

A police spokesman told The Herald: “We were called to a male who had got into difficulties in the water at Nolton Haven shortly before 3pm.

“He was taken to hospital by ambulance.”

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