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County voices heard at the Senedd

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voices heardOVER 500 concerned Pembrokeshire people made the journey to Cardiff Bay to protest against the decision to close the Special Care Baby Unit at Withybush Hospital and transfer services to Glangwili, Carmarthen.

Speaking to The Pembrokeshire Herald, Angela Newman of Johnston said: “It was a great turn out and it was good to be part of something so important. It is a pity that Mark Drakeford lacked the courage to meet with Chris Overton or come out and face us, the people who he claims to represent. “He was quick to post on Facebook that he had been pleased to meet with a delegation from Pembrokeshire. Two nurses, I heard.”

Angela went on to tell The Herald: “We could not believe that we were not allowed access to the Senedd building, a public building paid for out of our taxes, on a six in/six out basis.

“The security officer on the door just told us to write a letter to the head of building security.

“Our mood was very positive and there was no aggro, even though they could not have stopped us from forcing our way into the Senedd.

“We will not give this up.”

AMs meeting with baby unit plan opponents

ASSEMBLY members Joyce Watson and Rebecca Evans have held a meeting with health minister Mark Drakeford and Withybush Hospital campaigners. Hundreds of campaigners opposing changes to specialist baby care in West Wales protested at the Senedd on Wednesday.

Before the demonstration the Labour Mid and West Wales AMs convened a meeting between the minister and a group of campaigners.

Speaking after the hour and a half long private meeting (the minister was present for around 45 minutes; the meeting continued with a senior official), Mrs Watson said: “I am pleased that members of Withybush’s nursing staff, paediatricians and interested parties had a chance to speak to the minister at length, directly and candidly.

“We discussed issues including patient transport and travel costs; accommodation for parents when their baby has to stay in hospital; fast, safe onward transport for mothers; and the critical baby stabilisation ‘safety net’. The minister gave cast-iron assurances that all necessary arrangements would be in place before any service changes.

“I was concerned by a suggestion that, throughout this process, Hywel Dda has been reluctant to engage openly with front-line staff. That is not on, and Rebecca and I have requested an urgent meeting with the health board.”

Rebecca Evans AM added: “The Minister was able to provide reassurances that the Health Board has presented him with no proposal that A&E will be anything less than 24/7. He reiterated his view that Withybush Hospital has a secure and successful future, and that it is a ‘necessary’ hospital for the people of west Wales.”

AM Backs Protest

MID AND WEST AM, Simon Thomas welcomed campaigners aiming to keep services at Withybush Hospital, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire outside the Senedd.

Plaid Cymru AM Simon Thomas speaking to the estimated 200 protestors said: “I want to congratulate campaigners on their successful rally outside the Senedd. A clear message was sent to the Labour government that their plans are deeply unpopular. Not only that, their decision to remove consultant-led maternity services will put lives unneccesarily at risk.

“The loss of one service has a knock on impact on other services at the hospital. The management of Hywel Dda is not being honest wheyn they say that there won’t be any significant changes in the future to A&E. Plaid Cymru is asking the question how long can A&E last without 24 hour paediatric cover?”

“We are calling on the Labour Welsh Health Minister to rethink this decision. The Party of Wales is willing to work with all parties, and those of no party allegience to ensure the continuation of services at Withybush Hospital.

“The people of my Mid and West region deserve the same health care as those in large towns and cities. Plaid Cymru’s policy is to recruit 1000 doctors to bring Wales up to European standards and enable services to be as local as possible.”

Welsh Conservatives have long campaigned for core services at Withybush to remain unchanged

Shadow Minister for Health, Darren Millar AM, said:

“Welsh Labour’s endorsement of plans to downgrade Withybush is a catastrophic mistake.

“Expectant mothers must be confident in the knowledge that services are fit for purpose.

“That is now not the case and I wholeheartedly support those who have travelled from Pembrokeshire to make their voices heard.”

Preseli Pembrokeshire AM Paul Davies said:

“The voices of all those who have gathered at the Senedd must be respected and considered by Carwyn Jones and Welsh Labour.

“Their plans to strip Withybush of core services are reckless, unnecessary, and dangerous.

“It will mean much longer travelling distances, and – in immediately life-threatening cases – could pose severe harm to mothers and babies.

“I stand with all those here today and I will continue to fight Labour’s damaging centralising NHS agenda.”

Assembly Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, Angela Burns, said:

“Given the gravity of this dangerous and irresponsible decision, it is no surprise to see so many making their way to the Senedd steps.

“Every single voice should be heard by Labour ministers and every single view carefully considered.

“Previous promises not to downgrade hospitals have been left in tatters.

“Carwyn Jones and Welsh Labour carry a heavy responsibility in pursuing this centralising agenda.

“Our fight will continue until this decision is reversed.”

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Charity

Puffin Party fundraising initiative returns for another year

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THE Pembrokeshire Coast Charitable Trust is inviting people to host a Puffin Party this July, to celebrate the Trust’s 6th birthday and raise vital funds.

The Trust has raised more than £380,000 from a range of sources since 2018, including projects such as People, Paths & PollinatorsMake More Meadows and Wild About Woodlands.

It has also provided Force for Nature Grants to help community groups and local organisations boost biodiversity, act on climate change or educate others on these important topics.

Puffin Parties were added to the list of fundraising activities last summer, and proved so popular that they are being brought back for another year.

Director of the Pembrokeshire Coast Charitable Trust, Katie Macro, said: “We are delighted to see the return of the Puffin Parties. These events not only help us raise essential funds but also bring the community together in celebration of our beautiful natural environment.

“Once again, there’s plenty of inspiration on hand to get you started, including some party food recipe cards (with healthier options available), invitation templates and some ideas for party activities.

“We encourage everyone to get involved and help us celebrate by arranging a tea party, coffee morning or cake sale with friends, family, colleagues, or the local community during the month of July. As well as having fun, you’ll be making a difference in protecting our stunning coastline and safeguarding it for future generations.”

The celebratory resources, including invitation templates, new recipe cards, and craft activity templates and instructions are available for download at https://pembrokeshirecoasttrust.wales/how-you-can-help/puffinparty.

To find out more, register your interest and access the special celebratory visit www.pembrokeshirecoasttrust.wales.

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Business

RWE launches pre-application consultation for RWE Pembroke Battery

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TO support their decarbonisation ambitions as part of Pembroke Net Zero Centre, RWE is progressing proposals to develop a battery energy storage system on its land adjacent to Pembroke Power Station. 

Battery energy storage plays a crucial role in the integration of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, into the power grid, excess renewable energy can be stored and fed into the grid when needed. Electricity is consumed in real time and this technology will, where possible, enable homes and businesses to be powered by renewable energy.  

The consultation on RWE’s plans launches Monday 17 June 2024 and will end on Monday 15 July 2024. RWE is asking the community for their views on these plans and has launched a consultation where local people can provide feedback on the planning application. 

The proposed development would be located on a 5.1 hectare area to the south of the current power station and would comprise 212 Battery Containers, 106 Power Conversion Systems (PCS) enabling connectivity to the grid, and associated infrastructure. 

The battery would have a maximum charge / discharge power of 350 megawatts and would connect via underground cables to the grid at the adjacent National Grid 400 kV substation. Once fully operational, Pembroke Battery would be capable of storing enough electricity to meet the average daily domestic energy needs of more than 72,0001 typical UK homes. 

In line with RWE’s commitment to protect and enhance local environments, the company has pledged to deliver various biodiversity measures as part of the proposals. Field margins will be enhanced by species-rich meadow planting, native woodland and scrub planting, while a new large pond will be provided and managed to support local wildlife. The periphery of the development site will also be further enhanced with bat and bird boxes, insect hotels and reptile hibernation shelters around the field edges. A Habitat Management Plan will ensure the habitats created are managed sensitively in support of local wildlife for the lifetime of the project.

Commenting on the proposals, Richard Little, Pembroke Net Zero Centre Director, said: “RWE Pembroke Battery represents the next step in our plans to invest in new innovative energy technologies, as part of our vision for Pembroke Net Zero Centre. We would like to thank those who engaged with us in our Green Hydrogen consultation and encourage the community to get involved with the consultation process, learn more about our battery energy storage proposals, and have their say on the proposals.” 

Members of the community can contact the project team and leave feedback via the project website rwe.pembrokenetzerocentre.co.uk/battery, telephone 01646 370090, email [email protected] or by writing to ’Freepost PNZC Consultation’.  

Local people can also join RWE at an in-person event at South Pembrokeshire Golf Club on 24th June 2024 between 2pm and 7pm to speak with project team members, ask questions and provide feedback. 

Pembroke Net Zero Centre has a critical role to play in Wales’ and the UK’s pathway to Net Zero. By decarbonising its current operations at Pembroke Power Station, while investing in new innovative technologies, such as battery energy storage and hydrogen generation, RWE can establish Pembroke at the forefront of South Wales’ low carbon future.

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Charity

Megan’s Starr foundation launches Bottle Top Collection Appeal

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THE Megan’s Starr Foundation, a charity dedicated to supporting young people’s mental health and combating bullying, has recently launched an innovative recycling initiative and is calling on the community for help. The Milford Haven-based foundation is asking for donations of old bottle tops, both metal and plastic, to be dropped off at the Megan’s Starr Community Coffee House in Milford Haven.

This appeal is part of the foundation’s ongoing efforts to support mental health and community engagement through creative and sustainable projects. Bottle tops collected will be used in various community art projects and workshops, aimed at fostering a sense of togetherness and promoting mental wellbeing.

The Megan’s Starr Foundation was established in memory of Megan Evans, a vibrant 14-year-old who tragically took her own life after enduring severe bullying. Her mother, Nicola Harteveld, founded the charity to prevent other families from experiencing similar heartbreak and to provide much-needed mental health support to young people in Pembrokeshire.

In addition to their recycling efforts, the foundation offers a wide range of services including counselling, educational workshops, and support groups. They also run the Speakeasy Coffee Van, a mobile unit that brings support directly to young people in rural areas, offering barista training and mental health resources.

To contribute to the bottle top collection, community members can drop off their donations at the coffee house or arrange for a volunteer to collect them. The foundation expressed their gratitude for the community’s continued support, emphasising that even small acts of kindness can have a significant impact.

For more information on how to get involved or to learn about the foundation’s other initiatives, visit their website at Megan’s Starr Foundation.

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