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Skates makes case for rail

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Rail investment inequitable: Ken Skates demands action

TRANSPORT S​ECRETARY Ken Skates has cited slow speeds, manual Victorian signalling and level crossings bringing traffic to a standstill up to 200 times a day in his call on the UK Government to make available an equitable level of funding for rail infrastructure enhancements in Wales.

In May, Ken Skates announced Cardiff University’s Professor Mark Barry would lead on the case for investment in rail infrastructure in Wales, against the backdrop of the UK Government’s £50bn investment in HS2.

The Transport Secretary summarised the case in the Senedd on Tuesday​ (Jul 17)​.

Ken Skates told Assembly Members: “The initial findings of this work are stark. Wales has not received an equitable share of UK rail investment over a sustained period, denying us the economic benefits enjoyed elsewhere in the UK.

“Network Rail’s Wales Route, which makes up 11% of the network, has received little more than 1% of total spend on enhancements in England and Wales.

“This has resulted in low lines speed on the South Wales Mainline, capacity and speed constraints along the North Wales Coast, infrequent commuter services for the Swansea Bay city region, and inadequate cross-border services in both North and South Wales.

“I continue to support HS2, but call once again on the UK Government to make the right choices to benefit north Wales, and exert pressure on them to mitigate against the probable impact of HS2 on the economy in South Wales.”

The work carried out by Professor Barry highlights the use of old, inefficient, and unreliable infrastructure constraining the number, speed, and quality of services.

“These constraints dampen demand, restrict economic growth, and increase costs to passengers and tax-payers.

“I will continue to set out a broader vision for a successful rail network. One that helps us meet our obligations to the environment, responsibilities for Well-being and Future Generations, delivers the goals of the Economic Action Plan, and meets the UK Government’s commitment to rebalance the economy.

“The work undertaken has identified direct transport user benefits of at least £2bn, generated by reducing journey times for rail passengers. Additional benefits also arise from reduced road congestion leading to environmental and safety improvements.”

James Price, Chief Executive, Transport for Wales said: “The success of the Wales and Borders rail service relies on efficient and reliable infrastructure with the ability to transport more people more efficiently. We look forward to working with the Welsh and UK governments to deliver improvements that meet the needs of passengers in Wales and across the border.”

Cardiff University Professor of Practice in Connectivity, Mark Barry said: “Wales’ railways are stuck in second gear. Long-term under-investment compared to the UK as a whole has left them unfit for purpose.

“It’s no great surprise fewer people in Wales choose to use the train than in the rest of the UK, leading to less efficient rail operations, higher subsidies per passenger and more road congestion. This is a brake on our economic growth, improvement of air quality and carbon reduction.”

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Site visit for National Park planners considering caravan park improvements

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NATIONAL PARK planners, expected to allow officers to approve an application to relocate caravans in a caravan park, will instead attend a site visit there.

Huw Pendleton, of Celtic Holiday Parks, had applied for a change of use of land for the siting of nine relocated static caravans and associated infrastructure improvements at Meadow House Holiday Park, Summerhill.

The application, before the February meeting of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park’s Development Management Committee, had been recommended for delegated approval by officers if a string of conditions were met.

Delegated approval for the application at the 200-pitch site bordering the national park was mooted despite Amroth Community Council objecting to the application; recommending refusal.

A report for planners said 47 static pitches were previously permitted under a change from 55 touring pitches; nine of these static pitches now being proposed for relocation to an area of land within the holiday park.

It stated the overall number of pitches within the site is not proposed to be increased.

Correspondence had been received which raises concerns on the privacy impact from the proposed static caravans on existing residential properties, as well as the potential for noise and disturbance from occupiers of the site.

It was recommended for delegated approval with a string of conditions including the completion of a Section 106 agreement.

At the February 2 meeting, concerns were raised by neighbour Dorian Evans on amenity grounds, and by local county councillor Alec Cormack, who asked for deferment pending a site visit, saying there would be a “significant impact” on neighbouring properties, which was disputed by agent Gerald Blain.

Following a proposal by Councillor Simon Hancock, members agreed to attend a site visit.

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Successful forum held in Pembrokeshire for local landlords

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A NEW scheme enabling local private sector landlords to lease their property to the County Council in return for a guaranteed monthly rental income (Leasing Scheme Wales) has been launched at a Pembrokeshire Landlords Forum.

Held at County Hall in Haverfordwest last week, the successful Forum was attended by more than a hundred landlords.

As well as the launch of Leasing Scheme Wales, the Forum included presentations on the new housing act Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016, fire safety in the private rented sector and eight key points for landlords.

The speakers were Fiona Brown, Private Rented Sector Liaison Officer for Pembrokeshire County Council, Gillian Owens from the National Residential Landlords Association, Stuart Macdonald from Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, and Julian Ings from Rent Smart Wales.

Cabinet Member for Housing Operations and Regulatory Services, Cllr Michelle Bateman, said it has been a very worthwhile evening.

“We were so pleased to see the level of attendance from landlords in Pembrokeshire,” she said. “There was a lot of interest in the presentations, particularly in the new renting homes act, plenty of questions and good feedback.”

Organised by the County Council’s housing team, the Forum will be a regular fixture with another one planned for the summer – date to be confirmed.

Cllr Bateman said they were also very pleased with the interest shown in Leasing Scheme Wales (LSW). The scheme enables local private sector landlords to lease their property to Pembrokeshire County Council for between five and 20 years, in return for a guaranteed monthly rental income and full property management service. LSW is funded by Welsh Government and managed by Pembrokeshire County Council.

“This scheme will help more Pembrokeshire people to live independently in safe and affordable properties,” said Cllr Bateman.
“Landlords will not have to worry about the condition of their properties after a tenancy as we will be responsible for the maintenance of the property and will return it to the landlord in the same condition as it was before the tenancy started. We will also be responsible for all the void work – the work done on properties in between tenancies.”

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Planning approved for change of use in Tenby’s ‘drinking quarter’

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THE RESTROSPECTIVE planning applications made by Mike Evans were granted approval by national park planners.

A former national park member who changed of use of historic buildings without permission was unrepentant about making a retrospective application.

Since last July, former stables in Tenby’s Sergeant’s Lane have been rented out to be used as a seating area for the nearby Harbwr Brewery.

A planning application seeking retrospective change of use of the Grade II listed buildings and previously derelict and overgrown stable yard for the serving of food and drink, made by by Harbwr Brewery owner Mike Evans, was approved by Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority planners on Wednesday, 1 February.

The application – recommended for conditional approval – was brought to the National Park’s Development Management Committee as Mr Evans was a recent member of the national park authority.

Also approved were works to the listed building roof.

At the meeting, members expressed concern about the retrospective native of the application, made by a former member of the planning committee.

Ted Lewis of nearby Rock Terrace raised concerns about potential waste and officers’ support for the retrospective application, claiming Mr Evans had shown “a complete failure” to abide by conditions imposed on a previous application.

He also referred to recent references to Sergeant Lane as being Tenby’s “drinking quarter,” adding: “I was horrified at that, if it becomes a ‘drinking quarter’ it will drive out local residents.”

Former county councillor Mr Evans, unrepentant at the retrospective nature of the application, said the area had been transformed from one of “pigeons, rats and dog [mess],” to one with five thriving businesses.

He said the development was providing “good, exciting and well-paid jobs,” adding: “At the core of everything we do is sustainability, we do nothing to harm the area and community we live in. At our own expense we clean and maintain the lane regularly.”

He described retrospective planning applications were “a legitimate route for planning,” adding it was the usage of the buildings that “has evolved,” rather than structural changes.

Tenby Civic Society has previously raised concerns about potential noise nuisance to nearby residential properties.

Until the late 1990s, many of the buildings on Sergeants Lane were used as warehousing and stores for Hermann Thomas and Co Plumbers.

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