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Bluestone’s plans for Blackpool Mill rejected

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PLANS to turn Blackpool Mill into a heritage tourism destination were turned down by members of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park at a meeting on Wednesday (Nov 8).

The Park’s Development Management Committee met to discuss the application which would have seen the Mill transformed with new events barn and light narrow gauge steam railway at a cost of £2.5m.

However, the plans were recommended for refusal by Park officers who stated that insufficient information had been submitted with the application.

Bluestone were even taken by surprise that the application had been placed on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting after they had said that an amended application would have been submitted by the end of this month.

The Park’s officers stated that they had a duty to determine the application and the refusal allows Bluestone to come back with a fresh application.

The agent for the application, Mr Robin Williams, made a late plea asking the committee to defer the application but that was not supported.

Mr Williams added: “We have been engaging with officers in relation to ecology and highway issues. Significant progress has been made in this regard. The ecology season has just ended and we have been putting a report together which is anticipated to be completed in the next two weeks.

“We have been in regular contact with officers working towards a mid-November resubmission deadline and this came as a total surprise to find this report being presented today.

“We are confident that the reasons for refusal will be dealt with in our resubmission. Such an important application should be focussed on up to date information.

“Since the application was first considered, the membership of the committee has changed and the new members have yet to visit the site.”

Speaking against the application, Mrs Valerie Bradley said: “I’ve lived by Blackpool Mill for almost half a century and many of us have enjoyed the picturesque, unspoilt oasis full of wildlife and a stunning example of rural Pembrokeshire.

“I completely agree with the objections of Llawhaden Community Council and the concerns expressed by the National Park’s Ecologist.

“This proposal is a theft. Does Blackpool Mill have special qualities? Yes it does. Will there be light pollution? Yes there will. Biodiversity under this proposal will not be protected and it is not a sustainable design.

“It will fall out of favour and never be restored to its original beautiful state. It will not be an amenity; it will be a cheap eye-sore. It will destroy the local environment.

“The potential calendar of events is no more than a ghastly wish list and do we really need another petting zoo? As the proposal is a poor imitation of other similar established local venues I can imagine a brief life span.

“Sadly, Blackpool Mill is an easy target for in-principle development. Nathaniel Phillips, who built the Georgian Mill, would be turning in his grave.

“This proposal for a Victorian fish and chip shop, massively ugly events barn and meaningless railway and to fence it off with chain link fencing would do credit to Donald Trump.

“The Mill may be closed but it is most emphatically not unloved.”

It was mentioned that a previous site visit had been postponed and Mr Ted Sangster proposed that the application be deferred and that a site visit also be taken out but that was only supported by two other members with 11 voting against.

Mr Sangster added he was disappointed that they had not had the opportunity to visit the site and said he was also disappointed that there had been a lack of communication stating that the National Park had ‘jumped the gun’.

Cllr Michael Williams said that the site visit would be the worst possible outcome because there was no guarantee that the reports would come in the short term, adding: “We’ve got to determine it as it is. There are so many outstanding issues and this is an extremely sensitive site.”

It was also proposed that the application be refused and that was supported by 11 votes with three voting against.

Liz Weedon, Head of Projects at Bluestone, said: “Today members were pressed to make a planning decision in the full knowledge that additional information was to be presented to the authority within two weeks. As this meeting was brought forward by six weeks, we had no choice but to formally seek a deferral. Members voted against this and instead took advice to refuse the application, on the understanding that Bluestone would have the opportunity to resubmit within 12 months.

“We had been in regular contact with officers since May, thus it was a total surprise to us when without forewarning the application was scheduled for today’s meeting. We are confident that had the committee date not been brought forward, we would have been able to submit the responses that would have dealt with the draft reasons for refusal by officers.

“Decisions to approve or refuse any planning application should not be made without all of the facts.”

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Heatherton expansion approved

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• Committee overturns officers’ objections

• Economic benefits outweigh other impacts

Conditions must not delay development

THE COUNCIL’s Planning Committee voted to approve plans to extend holiday accommodation at Heatherton at its meeting on Tuesday (June 15).

Officers recommended refusal of the plans.

During their discussions, the Committee’s members noted the reasons for refusal detailed by the planning report. They concluded, however, with appropriate conditions in place, the economic benefits of the development outweighed the bases outlined for refusal.

Addressing the meeting, the applicant, Charlie Davies, told Committee members that the changing holiday market meant Heatherton and the area around it would miss out on opportunities to meet the demand for holidays in Pembrokeshire. He added that the planned expansion – to include a further twenty holiday lodges – would secure year-round jobs at Heatherton and have a positive impact on the local rural economy.

Mr Davies said the existing lodge development, approved by the authority seven years ago, improved the viability of Heatherton as an enterprise and would further strengthen the business’ finances.

Officers objected to the plans because they said the development would be outside settlement boundaries and run contrary to environmental policy. 

The report, presented by the Head of Planning David Popplewell, set out a series of concerns regarding the lodges’ visual impact, a lack of screening, and the lack of detail about landscaping plans and construction controls during development.

However, addressing the Committee as one of the local members whose Ward would be affected by the development, Cllr Phil Kidney said St Florence Community Council vigorously supported the application as being of direct benefit to businesses in the village. 

He pointed out that the economic benefits were not only Tenby centric but affected businesses elsewhere in the County.

Phil Kidney told the Committee his visit to a laundry in Pembroke Dock, by chance, revealed that laundry he delivered would be delayed because of laundry being done for the accommodation already on site. 

Cllr Kidney added that, bearing in mind the current furore over second homes, the provision of holiday accommodation on sites such as Heatherton could reduce the demands on local housing and open-up opportunities for local people to live locally.

He fully endorsed the proposal and said he could see no downside to permitting further expansion of a business that delivered jobs to local people, especially young people entering the jobs market for the first time.

Cllr Jonathan Preston agreed with Cllr. Kidney. 

He observed that the regulations regarding what constituted ‘a caravan’ were out of date and out of touch with reality. 

Although the proposed lodges were technically caravans; they were a world away from what most people would expect a caravan to look like and beyond the vision that informed the current rules regarding the term.

Cllr Mark Carter said the problems identified in the planning report could be addressed through the imposition of conditions on the development to offset them.

Mark Carter pointed out issues regarding the detail of landscaping works and lighting could be subject to conditions drafted by officers.

His opinion was warmly welcomed by both Cllrs David Pugh and Vice-Chair Tony Wilcox.

David Pugh said Heatherton was a successful business, employing local people and should be encouraged to continue to offer job opportunities for locals.

Tony Wilcox said Heatherton was one of the three main jewels in Pembrokeshire’s tourist crown. 

He noted the other two destinations – Folly Farm and Bluestone – both recently applied to extend their facilities, and he could see little or no difference between what Heatherton proposed and what officers were prepared to accept elsewhere.

Cllr Tim Evans developed Cllr Wilcox’s theme, observing that officers barely raised an eyebrow about a further eighty pieces of holiday accommodation at Bluestone, which he said had ‘whizzed through’. 

Subject to conditions being brought back to the Committee, he fully supported the application.

Cllr Jacob Williams, Chair of Planning, asked whether the proposed conditions would be back before the Committee for its next meeting in July. 

Having received an equivocal answer he moved that if the Committee approved the scheme, with the proposed planning conditions to offset officers’ objections must come before the Committee on July 27.

Cllr Pugh endorsed that approach by saying nobody wanted the proposal kicked into the long grass.

Councillors approved the plans unanimously by 14 votes to nil, and officers must prepare conditions to attach to the planning permission ahead of the Committee’s next meeting.

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Milford Haven: Christmas cosmetics thief caged

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A MIDLANDS shop lifter caught stealing £2200 worth of cosmetics and skin care products from Boots in Milford Haven just before Christmas, has been jailed.

Magistrates sitting at Haverfordwest Court on Tuesday (Jun 15) accepted a guilty plea from 53-year-old Ion-Gabriel Maimut of Perrott Street, Birmingham.

He was jailed for what the bench described as “offending so serious because the defendant has a flagrant disregard for people and their property.

“And because of the high degree of planning and the high value of the theft.

“And because the theft was aggravated by the defendant’s record of previous offending.”

Maiumut, bang-to-rights, pleaded guilty at the first opportunity to a single theft of goods from Boots to the value of £2204.91 on December 4, 2020.

The court confirmed that the defendant’s guilty plea was considered when imposing sentence.

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Blue Gem Wind begins digital aerial surveys for 300MW Valorous floating wind project

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BLUE GEM WIND, the joint venture between TotalEnergies, one of the world’s largest energy companies, and Simply Blue Energy, has begun offshore digital aerial surveys for a proposed 300MW floating wind project.

APEM Ltd have been chosen by Blue Gem Wind to deliver 24 consecutive monthly bird and marine mammal surveys of the early-commercial scale Valorous site. The high resolution data obtained will support baseline environmental characterisation of the site and environmental impact assessments for key ecological receptors.

The survey programme commenced in March 2021 and four of the 24 monthly surveys have been completed
to date.

Sean Evans, Environmental Specialist at Blue Gem Wind said, “It is important for us to begin long-lead in items
such as bird and marine mammal surveys as early as possible. These surveys will provide crucial species specific
data on the number, spatial distribution and activity of individuals across the Valorous site. This enables us to
undertake robust environmental impact assessments ahead of our planned consent application submission in
2023.”

Matt Rohner, Senior Consultant at APEM, “APEM Ltd are delighted to be able to support Blue Gem Wind’s
proposed Valorous offshore wind farm with our best-in-class survey design approach. Imagery captured using
state-of-the-art cameras is of ultra-high (1.6cm) resolution, providing industry leading image quality that is
essential for species level identification.”

The Celtic Sea is poised to play a key role in Net Zero, the Committee on Climate Change’s 100GW offshore
wind target, and crucially, the UK Government’s target of 1 GW of floating wind by 2030. The ORE Catapult also
estimated that the first GW of floating wind in the Celtic Sea could potentially deliver over 3,000 jobs and
£682m in supply chain opportunities for Wales and Cornwall by 2030.

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