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Protestors: ‘Stop the downgrade!’

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the downgradeON THE WEEKEND that Hywel Dda LHB acknowledged that Accident and Emergency Services at Withybush Hospital were “under extreme pressure”, protesters gathered outside to protest about plans to downgrade maternity and paediatric provision at the Hospital.

The timing could scarcely have been worse for the Health Board to make such an announcement. With minor injury units closed in Tenby and Pembroke Dock within the last twelve months, ostensibly to ensure full A & E service provision at Withybush, the Health Board’s request to “Choose Well” and rely on GP’s and pharmacist fuelled the concerns of over 700 protesters gathered at the hospital gates.

“Only go to A&E if you really need it,” said a spokesperson for the health board.

“The public are therefore being urged to help reduce the pressures by ‘Choosing Well’ to ensure busy emergency services are available to those who most need them, but also that you get the right treatment, in the right place and in the shortest possible time.”

Hywel Dda LHB refused permission for protesters to stand in the hospital car park. Those protesting by the hospital gates expressed fears that the downgrading of key services at Withybush represents the thin edge of the wedge. The mood was angry but determined as speaker after speaker heralded the importance of Withybush’s services to Pembrokeshire and condemned the Local Health Board’s plans to downgrade services. Speaking after the rally, Paul Davies said “The protest outside the hospital on Saturday demonstrates the huge strength of feeling against closing the Special Care Baby Unit and the opposition to the potential downgrading of other services in Pembrokeshire. Local people are angry that life saving and core emergency services could be under threat. I want to congratulate residents for turning out on Saturday to show their support. It’s essential that in Pembrokeshire we all work together to ensure that vital life-saving services are retained in the County.”

Plaid Cymru’s Preseli candidate John Osmond, also joined protesters against service cuts at Withybush Hospital.

Speaking to the hundreds of local people, John said; “We won the fight to save Withybush hospital in 2007 and, together, we can win the fight again.

“When Withybush was last under threat, in the run-up to the 2007 Assembly election the main response I heard on the doorstep was that there was nothing we could do – the decision had already been made. But my message then was that we can make a difference if we stand up to be counted and use our vote. If there’s one thing politicians take note of, it’s the ballot box.”

Vicky Moller told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “Storms at Newgale beach hurled a wall of pebbles from the beach to cover the A487 on January 5th. The road was closed causing a long cross-country diversion along single lane roads.

Alternatively a wider diversion meant a 24 mile journey to Haverfordwest and a 54 mile journey to Glangwili.

“This is just one example of the hold-ups that often happen in Pembrokeshire, due to traffic in the summer, storms in the winter, road works in between.

“Hywel Dda LHB’s proposal seems to be to leave areas at risk of storms, where tourists swell the population and industrial high risk zones with no-one able to perform emergency operations.”

Another protester said:“If this hospital closes wards we will have to travel many miles to get treatment. The cost to us in money we may live with but what is the cost of a child’s life”

As revealed by the Herald last week, in other Welsh maternity units that have been downgraded from consultant –led to midwife-led, an average of 8 women a week have to be transferred back to a consultant-led unit: in the case of expectant mums at Withybush Hospital this would mean a lengthy road journey by ambulance to West Wales General Hospital, Carmarthen, over fifty minutes away.

Responding to the protest, a Hywel Dda spokesperson said

“ Our intention remains to retain a paediatric, gynaecology and obstetrics presence at Withybush Hospital; however this remains subject to further discussion with the scrutiny panel and clinicians.”

The Herald understands that a protest march is planned for the weekend of January 25, 2014.

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Business

Council renews legal pressure on smelly landfill site’s owner

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As part of its approach to jointly tackling the ongoing odour issues at Withyhedge with NRW, Pembrokeshire County Council has said this week it is progressing with its legal challenge against RML.

On April 26, the Council asked RML to give legally binding undertaking to stop the odour coming from Withyhedge Landfill. If it refused, the Council expected RML to provide disclosure of documents, as a potential defendant to a claim for nuisance.

RML refused both to give undertakings or to provide disclosure. Therefore, on 20th May, the Council made an application for pre-action disclosure at Haverfordwest County Court. The Council will be asking the Court to compel RML to handover documents, which it believes are important to its claim for nuisance. The Council expect the Court to confirm a hearing date shortly.

In addition to pursuing the legal avenue our Public Protection team continues to undertake air quality monitoring and working in collaboration with our partners to do all in our power to address the situation.

Pembrokeshire County Council Cabinet Member for Residents’ Services, Cllr Rhys Sinnett has pledged to continue addressing the ongoing issue in Withyhedge as a top priority for the council. He said: “Our intention is to ask the Court for an injunction requiring RML to stop the odour nuisance arising from the landfill. Whilst we are pleased with the operators decision to completely seal off the cell (cell eight) causing the problem, and are genuinely hopeful this will resolve the problem, we remain concerned over future operations and cannot allow this situation to ever recur.

“I understand the frustration and upset that the residents living near the Withyhedge site have been experiencing – and the odour is simply unacceptable, and I am committed to working tirelessly to find a solution.

“Maintaining clean air is a priority for our community – and this Authority along with our partners – are committed to proactive pollution monitoring, and working closely with NRW and the site operator to ensure they move to a position whereby foul odours from the site impacting upon our communities are eliminated.

“Our monitoring is ongoing and will align with colleagues from NRW to gather information on air quality levels both from a health and nuisance perspective – including providing early morning and evening visits. Furthermore, and in partnership with NRW, more advanced static monitoring equipment has been commissioned and delivered for deployment next month.

“In addition, we would like to work with as many residents as possible and encourage them to report any odour concerns they may have – this information is vital in helping us address the issue effectively.”

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Business

Big day for The Hanger as licensing appeal goes ahead in court

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MAGISTRATES in Llanelli will today (May 29) hear an appeal from the management of The Hangar, a venue in Milford Haven.

Following the decision by Pembrokeshire County Council’s licensing committee to stop a charity boxing event, Steve Bartram, the manager and applicant for the Temporary Events Notice intended to cover the event has asked for a court to look at if the council’s decision was correct.

Both Pembrokeshire County Council and The Hanger’s management will be represented in court by counsel. The case will start at 2pm.

At the original hearing, on May 1, where the event was stopped, the objection was raised by one of the council’s own officers, who stated that the venue has become a public nuisance due to noise complaints received. The role of the councillors on the sub-committee was to examine this single objection and determine whether the noise complaints were substantial enough to justify halting the event. The committee heard from The Hangar’s manager, Steve Bartram, that the event was planned as a ‘boxing night’, would inherently be quieter than other events held at the venue.

Speaking for the Council Environmental Officer, David Walters countered that complaints had been received not only in connection with music at the venue but also concerning the ingress and egress of patrons, as well as the noise from vehicles leaving the event. However, when pressed for details, Mr Walters could not provide the committee with a definitive number of complaints received, nor was the nature of the complaints discussed in detail.

At the meeting, Steve Bartram earnestly tried to persuade the members to allow the boxing night to proceed, stating, “Since the initial decision to open The Hangar, I have done everything within my power to meet all the licensing objectives, before any work was carried out inside. I also sought guidance from all responsible authorities on my plans and how I intended to manage The Hangar. These included Geraint Griffiths, Nathan Miles, Stuart McDonald, and Nigel Lewis. During these meetings, everything was discussed in detail, outlining the plans and intentions for the event hub.

“Not once was it suggested by any of the responsible authorities that planning permission should have been sought, should it have been necessary at the time, as I have done since receiving the planning enforcement warning letter.

“Regarding the temporary events notices, according to regulations, up to 15 can be issued within a calendar year, and currently, I am well within that limit at nine.

“As part of the planning application, I have had, at substantial cost, noise surveys carried out—one at a scientific ‘pink noise’ survey and another during a ‘dance event’ on Saturday 30th March. I have a 36-page document supporting these findings which confirms that we are operating well within legal noise limits.”

Members of the Licensing Sub-Committee, despite being advised to focus solely on the noise issue, questioned The Hangar’s management on a broad array of topics, including their long-term plans for the venue, why a Full Public Entertainment License had not been applied for, and why planning permission for a change of use for the building had not yet been sought. Bartram explained that a ‘Change of Use Planning Application’ had been submitted on Tuesday 30th April, with the assistance of a planning professional.

Journalists covering the original hearing noted that much of the discussion was irrelevant to the issue at hand, which was whether the event proposed was likely to cause a public nuisance.

We will cover the outcome of the appeal as it happens.

The original licensing meeting (video recording) can be watched here.

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Crime

Police urge teenage girls in Wales to report sexual harassment

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BRITISH Transport Police is today (Wednesday 29 May) releasing new statistics that suggest sexual harassment is underreported by teenage girls in Wales. Also today, Lex Gibbon, 19, recounts her experience of harassment in new single.

Crime statistics released today show that:

  • In 2022, 663 teenage girls reported sexual offences or harassment to British Transport Police.
  • In 2023 in Wales, this number fell from 28 to 21 reports, a 33% decrease.

Police believe that many incidents are still going unreported, and that many people are not aware that you can report any type of sexual behaviour that makes you uncomfortable.

One of the real stories behind the statistics is brought to life in Lex Gibbon’s new single, ‘Audacity’. Lex wrote the song after a man followed her through an underground train station, verbally abused her and touched her.

At the time, Lex had not heard of British Transport Police’s text 61016 service and did not report the incident. Lex later discovered text 61016 and approached British Transport Police to collaborate on the launch of her single to raise awareness.  

Police believe that many girls have experienced similar behaviour and, like Lex, are unaware that it can be reported to police. As shown in the song’s lyrics, police believe that many girls blame themselves for what happened. Today, officers are reassuring victims that sexual harassment is never their fault and urging everyone to save text 61016 in their phone.

Lex Gibbon said: “I was followed through an underground train station by a man who made me feel extremely unsafe, scared and vulnerable.

“At the time I had no idea that text 61016 existed. I believe it’s really important to help women feel safer on public transport, so when I wrote ‘Audacity’ about my experience I felt it could really raise awareness for the initiative.

“I’ve now reported and spent a day with British Transport Police, and I’ve seen how seriously they take sexual harassment.

“If someone does this to me again, I’ll be texting it in. Please save 61016 in your phone and use it to report this sort of creepy behaviour.”  

British Transport Police Assistant Chief Constable Paul Furnell said: “The man’s behaviour as described by Lex is completely unacceptable. I want everyone to know that acting like this on the rail network has serious consequences.

“As well as our uniformed and plain clothes officers, 150,000 CCTV cameras and your fellow passengers are watching you.

“We’re receiving more and more reports about sexual harassment, as people have had enough of this disgusting behaviour and know we prioritise tackling it. We use reports from multiple passengers to secure the strongest possible sentences for sex offenders.

“Sadly, we know that many women feel that they have no option but to put up with sexual harassment. That’s not the case: if someone is persistently bothering you and makes you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, please text 61016 to report it.

“Our officers are on patrol 24/7 and can meet trains at the next station. If it happens on the tube and you don’t have signal, you can speak to staff or text us at the next station.

“Nothing is too small to report and sexual harassment is never your fault. Save text 61016 in your phone today”.

Siwan Hayward, TfL’s Director of Security, Policing and Enforcement, said: “We are deeply sorry that Lex experienced this horrific incident on our network. The safety of women and girls is an absolute priority for us and we are committed to tackling sexual harassment, working closely with the police to make our capital’s transport network a hostile place for offenders.

“We are actively promoting the importance of reporting crimes that we know are underreported, and welcome the increase in reporting of sexual offences as evidence that more women and girls and bystanders have the confidence to come forward and report experiences, knowing that they will be taken seriously and that offenders will be pursued. We encourage anyone who experiences or witnesses this behaviour to report it to the police or a member of staff so that we can take action against offenders and put the right measures in place to prevent this from happening.”

Listen to Audacity here: https://collect.wetransfer.com/board/slw1b24i1i4x0o9n320240409172645

How to report

Every report is important. See it or experience it, you can report anything that makes you uncomfortable by text 61016, via the Railway Guardian app or by calling 0800 40 50 40.

Click here to save text 61016 in your phone today: https://qr1.be/X0RR

You can also report past incidents and anonymously report sexual offences at btp.police.uk.

In an emergency, always call 999.

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