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‘Bigoted, small minded council’ are ‘wrong’ to object to home for the autistic

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A COUNTY COUNCILLOR and planning committee member has blasted a community council on Facebook for objecting to a care home being opened in Haverfordwest because there could be too many autistic people near to a school.

A shocked Cllr Joshua Beynon told the Herald: “If this was about black people or Muslims then this would be national news”.

On Facebook the Councillor wrote: “I was outraged to read that members of Merlins Bridge Community Council were concerned about ‘the level of autistic residents’ in their letter objecting to the care home.”

He added: “This bigoted, small minded response should not be tolerated from anyone in the 21st century, especially members of a council and this should be called out at every opportunity.”

Rachel Johnson, Clerk to Merlins Bridge Community Council was asked by its members to write to Pembrokeshire County Council to raise objects to the proposed development. The project is to enable adults with Autistic Spectrum Disorder to live in the community, in a caring, domestic environment, with an existing pair of semi-detached dwellings which need little alteration on order to accommodate this change of use.

One of the objections raised in the letter, in addition to the likelihood that property prices would be adversely affected, was ‘concerns about the level of autism that residents are living with’.

The letter of objection added: “This can vary largely and there are worries about the proximity to the school.”
In response, Pembrokeshire County Council Planning Committee member, Joshua Beynon, has written to the community council asking them to explain their bizarre, and potentially prejudicial, objection.

In his email he wrote: “Yesterday we were deciding whether or not to approve the care home at 57 & 59 St Issells Avenue.

Disgusted: Cllr Beynon

“I too researched the business on Companies House and could see the potential home was registered under the nature of business code 87200, meaning those with learning difficulties.

“I was saddened to see the objection from Merlins Bridge Community Council which stated it objected due to the ‘level of autistic residents and close proximity to the school’. Whilst at first I thought I had misinterpreted the statement I found it to be offensive to anyone who would read it as it implies that the council would not want anyone severe on the autism spectrum living in the community.

“I fail to see how ‘level of autistic residents’ could be interpreted in any other way.

“I am hoping the council can address this at the next council meeting as other members of the wider community feel the same way.

The planning application for the care home development has been brought by James Ross Donald of C & C Pembs Limited. The company was incorporated in August last year, but Mr Donald says that he has many years’ experience in the care field.

The applicant said: “Care in the Community at this level has no detrimental impact on surrounding areas and the integration of the residents of the proposed home will have a positive bearing, not only in their own lives, but also on the community as a whole.”

Lee Hind, Chair of the Pembrokeshire Sibling Group – who work with a lot of families with autistic children – said: “I am stunned that these attitudes still exist in 2018!

“The idea that disability should be used as an objection in this way is abhorrent to me and works against the ethos of inclusion that every public body should be working towards.

Ward member, County Councillor John Cole told The Herald that it was he who called in the application to full planning committee therefore preventing its approval by officers under delegated powers. Cllr Cole also sits as a member of the community council.

Speaking on Wednesday (Mar 14) he said: “I called in the application because I was asked to by residents to do so. I do not have any objections myself personally to this application but I must represent the people of my ward. There has been a petition with 29 signatures on it against the home.”

He added “I do not feel that the community council had enough information in front of them at the time they made the decision to object to the application.

“For example, they did not have the main document ‘Design and Access Statement’ explaining exactly what the application was about.

“I am going to ask the Clerk of the Council to get this information for us in time for the next meeting tonight.”

When asked if the community council would not have objected had they had all the documents, Cllr Cole said he was unable to comment.

A mother of autistic teenagers who attended the meeting said that, after listening to councillors, she felt that their position had been misrepresented.

Lisa O’Sullivan of Pembroke Dock told The Herald: “The Community Council have no objection to any cared for individual being in the community. The original document sent to the County Council has been paraphrased and their concerns’ emphasis misplaced.

“Their main concerns are the safety of their residents from badly planned increases to traffic flow and the dangers this will increase on the residents living nearby. They feel there would be other, much more suitable buildings within the community

“The main thing I took away from meeting was they seemed upset that any offense had been caused.

“Obviously there are documents mentioning autism – they’re sorry for that as it was never meant to be a factor.

“I went there as an unknown with a massive autism mom bag on my shoulder. I don’t think anything about autism was supposed to be put across, and if it was it was done mistakenly – more as them wanting information what was going on.

“I have been shown certain documents which would suggest a low level of care as there’s only going to be one support worker through twilight hours.

“This would suggest a high volume of visitors etc, as it will be like my boys having a flat there with support in day.

“I think all documents are available online but whether county council kept original one that I was shown I don’t know, but they should be held accountable for stirring up a witch hunt.”

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Conservatives hold on to Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire seat

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THE CONSERVATIVES have held on to their Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire seat despite Labour closing the gap.

Sam Kurtz will take over the seat from the outgoing Angela Burns who held a majority of 3,400 at the last election.

This time, the gap was just 936 to Labour’s Hassan Riaz who picked up 10,304 votes.

Plaid Cymru’s Cefin Campbell picked up 6,615 votes.

The turnout in Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire was slightly up to 52.12% from 51.2% in 2016.

However, with a larger electorate thanks to votes for 16/17-year-olds, the number of votes cast went up by almost 3,000.

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Paul Davies re-elected as Conservatives hold Preseli Pembrokeshire

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PAUL DAVIES has been re-elected to represent the Preseli Pembrokeshire constituency.

He won with 12,295 votes, while there were 10,895 votes for Labour’s Jackie Jones.

Plaid Cymru candidate Cris Tomos gained just over 6,000 votes and there were also 1,239 for Reform UK candidate Alan Dennison.

There were over 3000 more votes cast in 2016, down largely in part to the fact that 16 and 17 year olds were able to vote in this election.

Both the Conservatives and Labour received more votes than before while the gap to Labour closed to just 1,400.

After being elected, Paul Davies said he would continue to ‘fight for Pembrokeshire’ and thanked those who had been involved in his campaign.

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Former Cardigan Castle director sentencing delayed

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THE SENTENCING of a former director of Cardigan Castle who has pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and theft totalling over £40,000 has been delayed.

Former director, Jac Davies, pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and theft was due to be sentenced on Wednesday (May 4) at Swansea Crown Court – but has now been delayed.

Davies who held the £40,000 a year post fraudulently obtained £33,098.75 and stole a further £7,932.97 from the award winning restoration project..

Davies held his position at Cardigan Castle from September 2017 to November 2019.

The defendant has pleaded guilty to fraudulently obtaining £4,143.20 from the castle on December 21, 2017.

Again Davies admitted to fraudulently obtaining £28,955.55 between February 4, 2019 and November 3, 2019.

Two further charges of theft were also admitted – one charge of  theft from the castle of £1,908.18 between May 2, 2018 and May 24, 2019 and a further charge of theft from Cardigan Castle Enterprises to the sum of £6,024.79.

Dyfed-Powys Police conducted a year long investigation after being contacted by the castle board of directors.

Financial discrepancies were identified during financial monitoring.

An internal investigation was launched and Davies left his position within the castle in October 2019 following a disciplinary process.

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