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AM seeks reassurances over super-fast broadband roll-out

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FOLLOWING concerns raised with her by constituents, Rebecca Evans AM, Assembly Member for Mid and West Wales has sought assurances from the Deputy Minister for Skills, Ken Skates, that Pembrokeshire will not be left behind in the roll-out of superfast broadband.

 Superfast Cymru is a partnership between the Welsh Government and BT. It is the largest of its kind in the UK. Superfast Cymru is working to achieve, when combined with commercial roll-outs, the Welsh Government’s aim of providing 96% of premises in Wales with access to fast fibre broadband by the end of Spring 2016. In a letter to Mrs Evans, the Deputy Minister for Skills, Ken Skates, said: “We were pleased to announce on 17 April that the Haverfordwest exchange was the first to go live in Pembrokeshire with no previous commercial deployment in the Local Authority. “Up to 4% of premises in Wales are not currently expected to be served directly by either the Superfast- Cymru project or commercial rollout. Those premises not covered by either Superfast Cymru or commercial roll-out will be scattered across all parts of Wales; not necessarily in rural areas, where the local situation presents engineering challenges. This may include the local geography, planning issues, and engineering challenges such as blocked or full ducts to the existing infrastructure or the availability of space to site an additional roadside cabinet. “Currently, we have published rollout information up to and including March 2015. More information about the roll-out between March and June 2015 is planned for the end of June.” Mrs Evans said: “The Welsh Government has ambitious plans for super-fast broadband in Wales. The benefits for business are clear, and superfast broadband can also allow people to do more from home – such as access entertainment, do research for school, college or university, pay bills, and so on. “I would encourage anyone with an interest in this subject to register to receive up to date information about the roll-out on the Superfast Cymru website: www.superfast-cymru.com.”

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First drive-thru Starbucks in Pembrokeshire approved

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PEMBROKESHIRE is to get its first drive-thru Starbucks coffee shop after a scheme was backed by county planners today, May 21.

An application – expected to create 20 jobs – by Magic Bean Company Ltd to site an Electric Vehicle (EV) charging station and drive through Starbucks coffee shop on land adjoining Days Garage, Fishguard Road, Haverfordwest, was recommended for conditional approval when it came before the May meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council’s planning committee.

A report for planners said: “There are two principal elements to the proposed development. The provision of an EV charging station with eight charging points and a drive through coffee shop, which will provide 20 full time jobs.

“A further 13 parking spaces are provided to serve the development, including two spaces for people with disabilities. The coffee shop will be situated at the western end of the site opposite the proposed EV charging station, which is centrally located within the site. “

It added: “The coffee shop building will be single storey with a ‘tower’ feature in the west elevation where the customer collection point will be located beneath a timber finished pergola.”

The report said the proposal represented a more effective use of the application site than its current car parking use.

10 representations from members of the public raised concerns about the proposal, issues including: no need for additional coffee shops locally, adverse impact on existing small local coffee shops and that the planning authority should not be supporting “multinational businesses,” and littering and highway issues.

While Starbucks was not mentioned in the planning documents, Magic Bean Company Ltd, on its website, says: “Established in 2014, The Magic Bean Company opened our first store and became the first licensee to open a Starbucks Drive Thru.

“Since then, we have gone on to become Starbuck’s only national growth partner covering England and Wales, developing our green electric vehicle Starbucks platform.”

Speaking at the May 21 meeting, Magic Bean Company Ltd agent Matthew Gray said the drive-thru coffee shop would be a Starbucks, adding: “The application is driven by the requirement for Days to diversify, following a slowing of vehicle sales across the UK.”

He added: “It’s pretty well reported that car sales are slow in the UK in the past few years, this is an opportunity to boost the viability of their [Days’] own operation.”

He said the eight EV charging units would be provided by Ionity, one of Europe’s largest charging providers, with a need for more such facilities in west Wales.

After Cllr Alistair Cameron raised concerns from members of the public about potential littering, Mr Gray said Starbucks had a standard approach to litter management, with staff maintaining the area, and coffee outlets having a lower level of litter than some other drive-thrus.

Concerns were raised by Councillor John Cole on highways grounds, fearing the combination of the drive-thru and a nearby school, along with the nearby annual County Show, could create “havoc” with parents stopping off for a coffee.

Following an approval call by Cllr Brian Hall, members unanimously backed the application.

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Haverfordwest airport to be leased out to make it cost-neutral to council

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SENIOR Pembrokeshire councillors are to lease Haverfordwest airport as part of plans to make the council-run facility, which had a circa £119,000 deficit last year, 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”.

Following scrutiny committee backing for the airport to be leased, a more detailed recommendation was presented to Cabinet on May 20, seeking approval of the lease to “an existing stakeholder / established aviation company,” by giving delegated authority to the Assistant Chief Executive, with relevant input from officers.

The report before Cabinet said the lease would be for an initial 10-year term, with a requirement to obtain/keep a CAA [Civil Aviation Authority] Cat II licence and at a market rent, which would “make the airport cost-neutral to the council from the day the lease is signed, whilst also ensuring that an operational airport remains for Pembrokeshire to benefit from”.

“Any lease would have to allow the operator to run the airport on the commercial terms of their choosing to give a chance of long-term sustainability, so, the council will lose full control of how the airport operates.

“However, any lease will require that the airport be maintained to an acceptable standard and that a CAA Cat II licence is maintained. If these terms of the agreement are breached, then the facility will return to the council.”

Deputy Leader Cllr Paul Miller, presenting the proposal and moving approval, said: “The airport is a valuable facility and one I’m keen to maintain; I personally recognise that maintaining an ongoing public subsidy is not something we’re particularly keen to do indefinitely.”

He added: “What the lease, we believe, will do is maintain a franchising CAT II airport in Haverfordwest and remove our liability from day one.”

Members heard conversations were ongoing with Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society over continued use of part of the site for the annual Pembrokeshire County Show.

Cllr Miller said he was “a huge supporter” of the show, and it was hoped the lease will broadly allow it to continue as before, adding that officers “are getting involved to ensure a smooth transition, and one the show is comfortable with”.

New Cabinet Member for Planning & Regulatory Services Cllr Jacob Williams said: “I don’t think this administration, or any administration, can afford to lose the farming community, one of the oldest and biggest county shows in Wales; it’s so important we don’t lose the ongoing relationship between the agricultural society and the council.”

Following a discussion in private session, members unanimously backed the leasing of the airport.

The council intends to exclude Hangar 5 [indoor trampolines] from any lease, and also includes the option to take back part of the site that may have the potential to be developed as a solar farm or industrial units.

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Seafish begins formal industry consultation to revise levy structure

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SEAFISH, the public body that supports the UK seafood industry to thrive, has started formal consultation with its levy payers and the wider seafood industry on proposals for a new levy model.  

Levy is due on the first sale of seafood, both domestically landed and imported, in the UK. It is not charged on farmed salmon, trout, and freshwater fish species because these species are excluded by primary legislation. Nor is it currently charged on canned, bottled and pouched seafood products.  

The levy collected is used by Seafish to provide support, advice and services across the whole UK seafood supply chain.  

During the Seafish Strategic Review in 2021, the seafood industry recognised the need for a review of the levy system given it had not changed since 1999. There was general agreement that an improved levy model was needed to ensure Seafish had a stable financial model and could continue to provide the support industry needs, now and into the future.  

The Seafish Board held informal consultations with the seafood industry in spring 2023 on proposed changes to the levy system. In December 2023 the Board released a response to the Informal Consultation which set out how it had considered the feedback received from stakeholders and had revised the package of levy amendments in response.  

The Seafish Board is now holding the statutory consultation on the proposed changes. The consultation will be open for twelve weeks until Friday 9 August.  

Seafish is collecting feedback via an independent online survey and anyone with an interest in the Seafish levy as well as the wider seafood industry are invited to respond. They will also be hosting a series of webinars for stakeholders interested in learning more about the proposed changes. 

Information on the consultation, which consists of the Formal Consultation Paper (available in Welsh and English), the draft Regulation, and an Economic Impact Assessment can be downloaded from the Seafish website here.  

The proposed changes to the Seafish levy include: 

  • The current sea fish levy rate of 0.903p/kg will be increased to 1p/kg. This will be renamed the “Category 1” levy. 
  • The current levy rate that applies to mussels, cockles, and pelagic fish (as defined in regulation) will increase from 0.258p/kg to 0.5p/kg over a three-year period.  
  • The current levy rate for whelks will increase from 0.4515p/kg to 0.5p/kg 
  • The levy for mussels, cockles, pelagic fish (as defined in regulation) and whelks will be renamed the “Category 2” levy.   
  • The levy rates for manufactured fishmeal and ‘fish destined for’ fishmeal will also increase, as follows: 
  • Manufactured fishmeal will increase from 0.175p/kg to 0.315p/kg.   
  • Fish destined for fishmeal will increase from 0.035p/kg to 0.05p/kg.    
  • For the first time levy will apply to canned, bottled, and pouched seafood products, for those species within the scope of the levy. 
  • The levy for all seafood and seafood products would be adjusted annually, subject to a cap on the annual adjustment of 2%.  
  • Minor changes to the administration of the levy to make collection and payment more efficient. 

Mike Sheldon, Chair of the Seafish Board, said:  “After our informal consultation last year, we have taken industry feedback on board and made further revisions to refine the proposed levy adjustments. It is our priority to make the levy fit for purpose, fairer for all and ensure we can continue to deliver the support industry have told us they need, now and in the future.  

While we appreciate that the seafood industry is under financial pressure, our proposed changes strike a good balance, minimising impacts on the industry while allowing us to effectively support the seafood sector as an organisation. 

This consultation is an important step in shaping a levy that better serves our stakeholders.” 

Once this formal consultation process ends Seafish will make formal recommendations to government, and these will be considered by relevant Ministers across the UK Government and the Devolved administrations. There is not a timeframe for when Ministers will reach a decision yet, but businesses will have as much notice as possible before any changes come into effect so that they can plan ahead.    

Any queries about the consultation should be sent to [email protected] 

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