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Official opening for Wales’ first solar village



pentre-solar-4TODAY (Jan 5) the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, will officially open the first solar village in Wales.

The village, named Pentre Solar, is situated at the Rhosygilwen estate and comprises six affordable houses which will use just 12% of the energy of a traditional home.

Funded by private sector company Western Solar, each three bedroom home has a modern design featuring a fitted kitchen, superfast broadband (as well as satellite and Freeview TV connections), a landscaped garden and, most interestingly, access to a shared electric car.

A highly innovative project, 80% of the heating needs for all of the properties will be provided by solar energy, meaning extremely low energy costs for future tenants. Adding to the sustainable nature of the build, the all timber homes also feature 11 inch insulation.

In an effort to address the affordable housing crisis in Pembrokeshire, the properties will be available for rent to those on the council housing register – and at 20% below the rental market rate. Those hoping to apply will need to have connections with the surrounding parishes; however, beyond that criteria, the houses will be allocated on a first come, first serve basis.

The idea behind the ‘revolutionary concept’, according to Western Solar, is to ‘build a truly sustainable business that can benefit the local community’.


The Herald was able to speak to the man behind the ambitious development, Western Solar CEO and 2015 Eco Entrepreneur of the Year, Dr Glen Peters. As well as finding out a bit more about his links with Pembrokeshire, we discussed issues around affordable housing, the need for sustainable development, existing practices of the building industry, and future plans for Western Solar.

Having worked in London for some 35 years – and lived in Pembrokeshire ‘on and off’ for the last 20 years – Glen described how he ‘gradually fell in love with Pembrokeshire’, and has now based himself here full-time.
Discussing the need for a development such as Pentre Solar, Glen said: “There is unlimited demand for this – there are so many people in dire need of good quality housing.”

Admitting he wasn’t entirely sure of its accuracy, Glen referred to a statistic by Pembrokeshire County Council which estimated that the county is currently in need of some 6,000 homes.

One of the major obstacles in providing affordable housing, according to Glen, is ‘finding affordable land’.

He added: “Most of the available land to build on has been snapped up by developers.

“For a house to be affordable, you can’t have a plot that costs fifty to a hundred grand.”


Seemingly undeterred by this financial obstacle, Glen stated: “For every problem, we have to find a solution.”

The solution in this instance, Glen added: “Local authorities need to release the land banks that they have.”

Elaborating on this comment, Glen went on: “This is not ripping up green fields; this is disused properties. The whole concept of Pentre Solar is small little hamlets.”

Another issue which Glen found during the Pentre Solar development is a certain objection by financial institutions towards the building materials used for the project.

“This is not a traditional build; this is not bricks and mortar, so building societies don’t want to lend.

“There is a physical barrier that we need to overcome about all timber houses.”

Developing on this idea, the question was posed as to how this new strategy for housing provision could change building industry practices in the UK.

Reiterating a previous point, Glen said: “The existing supply chains are all based around bricks and mortar; all the skills and all the trades are geared towards that as well.”

Contrary to modern practice, Glen emphasised: “Carpentry is the core skill for the house.”

With reference to ‘critical mass’, the eco entrepreneur went on to suggest the need for greater training and apprenticeship schemes for carpentry practices.

At the heart of the entire development is the theme of sustainability, with Glen stating: “The concept of recycling is very much at the core of our proposition. We’re recovering paper and using that as insulation – it’s all about trying to recycle, either the land, the insulation, the timber; we need that supply chain to be able to provide that.”

While the design for Pentre Solar was developed around sustainability, Glen admitted that not every aspect of the design was able to be implemented into the build. One such design was ‘rainwater harvesting’, a method of collecting rain and reusing it during the summer months.

With an eye on the future, Western Solar appear to have big plans in the pipeline. With reference to a comment about building 1,000 sustainable, affordable homes in the UK, Glen said how this falls under the company’s 10 year plan.

The company is also operating a three year plan which, if successful, will see the development of 100 homes ‘largely between counties in West Wales – Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion’.

Glen added: “The most important things are access to land and the finance. The idea would be to create another hub in Wales and replicate the same idea somewhere else.”

Building on this point, Glen said: “When we’ve got used to the idea of replication with the same system repeatedly, then we think we could get to our target of 1,000.”

Reflecting on the finished product of Pentre Solar, Glen said: “I’m very pleased – it’s one of those things with any project, you go through enthusiasm, excitement, and then you reach a point were you feel destroyed, and then suddenly you see light at the end of the tunnel.”

“The reality is absolutely amazing.”

Glen is currently looking for sites for his next development, stressing: “We need to work on our relationships within the local authority.”

Pentre Solar is not the first green initiative that Glen has received praise for; he was also behind the first ever ‘solar park’ in Wales. Completed in 2011, the near 10,000 strong solar park – which used cutting edge technology imported from the United States – is designed to utilise the often cloudy weather of the area.

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Pembrokeshire airport lease expected to be completed by end of year



HAVERFORDWEST’S council-run airport, which had a circa £119,000 deficit last year, is expected to be leased out by the end of the year following “reasonably complex” negotiations, councillors heard.

Back in May, members of Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet supported the leasing of Withybush Airport as part of plans to make the facility cost-neutral to the authority.

Last year, Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet, members heard the financial position at the council-supported Haverfordwest/Withybush airport deteriorated in 2022/23, with an out-turn position for 2022/23 of £238,000.

That loss has been reduced to an expected £119,000 for 2023/24 “following an extensive review of the operations of the airport”.

At the July 18 meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council’s full council, a series of submitted questions on the airport were heard.

Merlins Bridge councillor John Cole asked: “With the council leasing out the Haverfordwest airport, can members be assured that the lease is at comparable rent with similar airport facilities, and the airport being offloaded purely as a cost savings measure?”

He also asked a second related question: “Are current users protected and assured that their tenancy and rents currently payable to the authority are taken into consideration?”

Responding, Deputy Leader Cllr Paul Miller said the proposed letting was considered to be “best letting,” with restricted private documents detailing the figures available to all members.

On the second question, he said existing tenants had been involved throughout the process, and once the new overall lease was in place tenants would be protected through legislation.

However, he stressed the new leaseholder would be able to change conditions in the future and the council would “not dictate terms” in the future.

A further question was asked by Saundersfoot South councillor Chris Williams: “On a recent services meeting back in 2023, we had a productive meeting at Withybush Airport to look at the impact regarding costs to PCC and to consider options with regards to its future operation.

“Can you please clarify if the airport is still owned and operated by Pembrokeshire County Council and if so at what cost since April 1, 2024?”

Cllr Miller said the airport was still currently owned by the council following the Cabinet decision, with “reasonably complex” negotiations ongoing, complicated by land ownership issues and the need to obtain the civil aviation licence.

“Hopefully by the end of the calendar year we will have completed that transaction,” Cllr Miller said, adding that £25,000 had been spent since April 1.

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FUW sets out its key priorities at the Royal Welsh Show



THE Farmers’ Union of Wales has set out its robust asks of the UK and Welsh Governments despite the challenges presented by navigating through a constantly changing political landscape.

Speaking at the Royal Welsh Show this week, FUW President Ian Rickman reiterated the fact that the Union’s stance remains constant and relentless in an ever changing political arena.

“Welsh farming is at an important crossroads which will determine our future for decades to come. Whilst our direction of travel depends heavily on the development of devolved agricultural policies, we must not forget how decisions made by the newly elected UK Government will effectively determine the degree of funding the Welsh Government has available to support agriculture and rural development.

“This, in turn, will have an impact upon the extent to which Welsh food producers can be expected to compete against producers in other UK nations and across the globe on various levels.

“Despite these challenges, our focus as a Union is to keep-on lobbying governments relentlessly for the best possible outcomes for our members, Welsh agriculture and our rural communities.

“The recent Senedd Cabinet reshuffle and UK General Election certainly brought about considerable change to the political landscape in Wales, not least the appointment of Huw Irranca-Davies MS as Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and a new UK Labour Government holding a majority at Westminster.

“However, turmoil in Cardiff persists as Vaughan Gething’s resignation leaves the door wide open for yet another reshuffle within a matter of a few months.

At a UK level, the FUW is calling for a fair, multiannual funding settlement of £450 million per year in EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) legacy funding for agriculture and rural development in Wales.

“The role of this support in underpinning food production, environmental protection and rural communities in Wales cannot be underestimated.

“We also need to see a far more robust approach to future trade deals with other countries and trading blocs if we are to protect Welsh farmers and UK food security. Food imports and exports must be subject to the same customs and adherence to similar standards if we are to provide a level playing field for both UK and EU producers.”

The FUW is calling for incentives and support for farmers to invest in on-farm renewable energy production that benefits local communities. Food production should be recognised as a national asset and the use of productive agricultural land to meet tree planting and other environmental targets should be halted.

Procurement policies must prioritise public sector support for Welsh and British businesses, recognising the range of benefits such properly designed policies can deliver for society. The newly elected UK Labour Government must also protect and promote the UK’s high animal health and welfare standards and bring in a law that ensures that all dogs should be kept on a lead in fields near or adjacent to livestock.

“Despite the uncertainty in Cardiff, we call on the Welsh Government to build strong relations with the newly elected UK Labour Government to ensure that Welsh agriculture receives the attention it deserves. EU CAP legacy funding allocated for Welsh agriculture and rural development must be protected for this purpose and such funding should continue to be co-funded using national funds.

“The ongoing process of negotiating a revised Sustainable Farming Scheme that provides stability for our food producing family farms must also continue if the scheme is to be implemented in 2026. It is crucial that the scheme considers economic, social and environmental sustainability on equal footings and is accessible and achievable for all active farmers in Wales.

“We also want to see the adoption of practical and innovative technological solutions as a central part of the Control of Agricultural Pollution ‘NVZ’ Regulations review. The process must be based on robust data and evidence while seeking to address water quality issues through innovation rather than regulation.”

Mr Rickman added that the Welsh Government has to, now more than ever before, adopt a scientific and holistic approach to bovine TB eradication in Wales by working with the Technical Advisory Group in investigating the effectiveness of current testing regimes and methods for addressing disease transmission by wildlife.

“Finally, moves towards net zero must be sustainable and based on robust science in such a way that actions carried out in response to short-term targets are not reversed. Reducing our carbon footprint must be manageable and realistic, and must not compromise production or the economic viability of farming businesses.

“The coming days are a celebration of Welsh agriculture and the farmers who continue to produce high quality food and protect the environment against a constant backdrop of political uncertainty and challenge.”

Mr Rickman said that the impacts of such uncertainty across the UK and some fundamental policy questions would be the focus of the FUW’s seminars being held over the coming days, as panels of professionals tackle a diverse range of areas of concern for Welsh farming.

“As always, in addition to these events, our staff and Presidential Team will be meeting officials and stakeholders in order to highlight FUW’s farming members’ good news stories and industry concerns. Rest assured, despite navigating a constantly changing political landscape, our constant and relentless stance remains; to represent the interests of Welsh farmers,” concluded Mr Rickman.

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Health Board to make decision about the future of St David’s GP Surgery



THE FUTURE of Primary Care provision for patients registered with St David’s GP Surgery in Pembrokeshire will be discussed by Hywel Dda University Health Board at a meeting on Thursday, 25 July 2024.

An engagement exercise was undertaken to gather patient and local stakeholder views on the future of GP services following the decision of the one GP who runs the Surgery to resign his General Medical Services Contract, which takes effect from 31 October 2024.

The engagement with patients and stakeholders included a drop-in event St David’s City Hall in June. This event was well-attended and gave people an opportunity to discuss their concerns in person with the Health Board and Llais, the patient’s voice organisation for Wales.

Patients and members of the local community were also able to share their views via a questionnaire which was available at the engagement event, and also from the Surgery, the local Pharmacy, online, or by contacting the Health Board by phone or e-mail.

Jill Paterson, Director of Primary Care, Community and Long-Term Care, at Hywel Dda University Health Board said: “Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to feed back their views to us. The Health Board is committed to listening to and engaging with our local populations and we would like to thank patients and stakeholders for their involvement in the process so far.

“We would like to reassure patients that we are working to find a sustainable solution from the limited options available so that services can be delivered as locally as possible for patients from the 1 November.

The main themes picked up during the engagement period include concerns about the impact on the community of St David’s if the Surgery were to close, continuity of care and also travel to another GP surgery, especially with regard to public transport.

“People at the drop-in event were provided with information about the frequency of public transport and other transport support available in the community,” said Ms Paterson.

“There was also much appreciation expressed for Dr Stephen Riley and his team and for the care that they have provided over the years. We very much appreciate the continuing support given by the Community to the team at St David’s Surgery throughout this challenging period.”

On Thursday, 25 July, the Board will consider the feedback received.

Ms Paterson continued: “We understand local people will want to know what the future of their GP services will look like, and we will be writing to all patients to inform them of the outcome once a decision is made by the Board.”

To read the Board papers and watch the meeting on the day, please visit: Board Agenda and Papers 25 July 2024 – Hywel Dda University Health Board (

An update, following the Board’s formal decision on Thursday, July 25 will be shared with patients and stakeholders.

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