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Cardigan: ‘Frustration’ over banking van’s absence

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PLAID CYMRU County Councillor for Penparc, Clive Davies, has expressed his frustration following the failure of the NatWest mobile banking van to be present at Cardigan town centre on January 3.

Since the closure of the NatWest branch in Cardigan in May 2018, customers have been serviced by a weekly mobile bank every Thursday at the Fairfield Car Park between 11:10 and 11:55.

However, on the evening of Wednesday 3, Cllr Davies was informed the mobile bank would not be present at the town on following day due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’ – with the bank suggesting on social media that customers could use the banking services located at the local post office instead.

Cllr Davies said: “Simply put, the absence of NatWest banking van from Cardigan is completely unacceptable. Access to banking services had already been reduced due to the Christmas period, and Natwest’s cancellation last week was frustrating for many small businesses and customers looking to take advantage of the banking facilities available.

“The suggestion by NatWest that customers should rather use banking services at the local post office, is both and incorrect misleading with many services unavailable at the post office or may take a longer time to be processed.

“Frustratingly, many customers like myself were rather faced with a lengthy journey to Carmarthen or Aberystwyth as to partake in their banking duties – rather than the ability to do so locally, as should be the case.”

The mobile bank was also absent from Newcastle Emlyn on Thursday 3rd of January 2019, with local customers expressing frustration at a lack of prior notice to such absence. 

Ben Lake MP, who has tabled a bill in Parliament aiming to enhance access to banking services in rural areas, added: “Customers across Ceredigion have been in contact to share problems they have encountered with the mobile banking service, and by far the most common complaint is the brief window of time that the van has at every stop. The loss of 5-day-a-week access with the closure of so many branches, and the transition to a slot of less than an hour each week is difficult enough, without last-minute cancellations such as these.

“There is no doubt that the way in which we bank is undergoing a transformation. Despite successive assurances and promises by high street banks that they are committed to serving our communities, the service that we receive in rural areas is greatly reduced. Whilst a mobile banking service is better than complete abandonment, it simply cannot offer the service that so many customers and businesses require. As such, I am pushing in my parliamentary bill for banks to co-locate in areas that they would otherwise vacate completely – to establish banking ‘hubs’ that would ensure rural areas can access the services that they need, throughout the week.”

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Business

Council renews legal pressure on smelly landfill site’s owner

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As part of its approach to jointly tackling the ongoing odour issues at Withyhedge with NRW, Pembrokeshire County Council has said this week it is progressing with its legal challenge against RML.

On April 26, the Council asked RML to give legally binding undertaking to stop the odour coming from Withyhedge Landfill. If it refused, the Council expected RML to provide disclosure of documents, as a potential defendant to a claim for nuisance.

RML refused both to give undertakings or to provide disclosure. Therefore, on 20th May, the Council made an application for pre-action disclosure at Haverfordwest County Court. The Council will be asking the Court to compel RML to handover documents, which it believes are important to its claim for nuisance. The Council expect the Court to confirm a hearing date shortly.

In addition to pursuing the legal avenue our Public Protection team continues to undertake air quality monitoring and working in collaboration with our partners to do all in our power to address the situation.

Pembrokeshire County Council Cabinet Member for Residents’ Services, Cllr Rhys Sinnett has pledged to continue addressing the ongoing issue in Withyhedge as a top priority for the council. He said: “Our intention is to ask the Court for an injunction requiring RML to stop the odour nuisance arising from the landfill. Whilst we are pleased with the operators decision to completely seal off the cell (cell eight) causing the problem, and are genuinely hopeful this will resolve the problem, we remain concerned over future operations and cannot allow this situation to ever recur.

“I understand the frustration and upset that the residents living near the Withyhedge site have been experiencing – and the odour is simply unacceptable, and I am committed to working tirelessly to find a solution.

“Maintaining clean air is a priority for our community – and this Authority along with our partners – are committed to proactive pollution monitoring, and working closely with NRW and the site operator to ensure they move to a position whereby foul odours from the site impacting upon our communities are eliminated.

“Our monitoring is ongoing and will align with colleagues from NRW to gather information on air quality levels both from a health and nuisance perspective – including providing early morning and evening visits. Furthermore, and in partnership with NRW, more advanced static monitoring equipment has been commissioned and delivered for deployment next month.

“In addition, we would like to work with as many residents as possible and encourage them to report any odour concerns they may have – this information is vital in helping us address the issue effectively.”

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Business

Big day for The Hanger as licensing appeal goes ahead in court

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MAGISTRATES in Llanelli will today (May 29) hear an appeal from the management of The Hangar, a venue in Milford Haven.

Following the decision by Pembrokeshire County Council’s licensing committee to stop a charity boxing event, Steve Bartram, the manager and applicant for the Temporary Events Notice intended to cover the event has asked for a court to look at if the council’s decision was correct.

Both Pembrokeshire County Council and The Hanger’s management will be represented in court by counsel. The case will start at 2pm.

At the original hearing, on May 1, where the event was stopped, the objection was raised by one of the council’s own officers, who stated that the venue has become a public nuisance due to noise complaints received. The role of the councillors on the sub-committee was to examine this single objection and determine whether the noise complaints were substantial enough to justify halting the event. The committee heard from The Hangar’s manager, Steve Bartram, that the event was planned as a ‘boxing night’, would inherently be quieter than other events held at the venue.

Speaking for the Council Environmental Officer, David Walters countered that complaints had been received not only in connection with music at the venue but also concerning the ingress and egress of patrons, as well as the noise from vehicles leaving the event. However, when pressed for details, Mr Walters could not provide the committee with a definitive number of complaints received, nor was the nature of the complaints discussed in detail.

At the meeting, Steve Bartram earnestly tried to persuade the members to allow the boxing night to proceed, stating, “Since the initial decision to open The Hangar, I have done everything within my power to meet all the licensing objectives, before any work was carried out inside. I also sought guidance from all responsible authorities on my plans and how I intended to manage The Hangar. These included Geraint Griffiths, Nathan Miles, Stuart McDonald, and Nigel Lewis. During these meetings, everything was discussed in detail, outlining the plans and intentions for the event hub.

“Not once was it suggested by any of the responsible authorities that planning permission should have been sought, should it have been necessary at the time, as I have done since receiving the planning enforcement warning letter.

“Regarding the temporary events notices, according to regulations, up to 15 can be issued within a calendar year, and currently, I am well within that limit at nine.

“As part of the planning application, I have had, at substantial cost, noise surveys carried out—one at a scientific ‘pink noise’ survey and another during a ‘dance event’ on Saturday 30th March. I have a 36-page document supporting these findings which confirms that we are operating well within legal noise limits.”

Members of the Licensing Sub-Committee, despite being advised to focus solely on the noise issue, questioned The Hangar’s management on a broad array of topics, including their long-term plans for the venue, why a Full Public Entertainment License had not been applied for, and why planning permission for a change of use for the building had not yet been sought. Bartram explained that a ‘Change of Use Planning Application’ had been submitted on Tuesday 30th April, with the assistance of a planning professional.

Journalists covering the original hearing noted that much of the discussion was irrelevant to the issue at hand, which was whether the event proposed was likely to cause a public nuisance.

We will cover the outcome of the appeal as it happens.

The original licensing meeting (video recording) can be watched here.

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Crime

Police urge teenage girls in Wales to report sexual harassment

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BRITISH Transport Police is today (Wednesday 29 May) releasing new statistics that suggest sexual harassment is underreported by teenage girls in Wales. Also today, Lex Gibbon, 19, recounts her experience of harassment in new single.

Crime statistics released today show that:

  • In 2022, 663 teenage girls reported sexual offences or harassment to British Transport Police.
  • In 2023 in Wales, this number fell from 28 to 21 reports, a 33% decrease.

Police believe that many incidents are still going unreported, and that many people are not aware that you can report any type of sexual behaviour that makes you uncomfortable.

One of the real stories behind the statistics is brought to life in Lex Gibbon’s new single, ‘Audacity’. Lex wrote the song after a man followed her through an underground train station, verbally abused her and touched her.

At the time, Lex had not heard of British Transport Police’s text 61016 service and did not report the incident. Lex later discovered text 61016 and approached British Transport Police to collaborate on the launch of her single to raise awareness.  

Police believe that many girls have experienced similar behaviour and, like Lex, are unaware that it can be reported to police. As shown in the song’s lyrics, police believe that many girls blame themselves for what happened. Today, officers are reassuring victims that sexual harassment is never their fault and urging everyone to save text 61016 in their phone.

Lex Gibbon said: “I was followed through an underground train station by a man who made me feel extremely unsafe, scared and vulnerable.

“At the time I had no idea that text 61016 existed. I believe it’s really important to help women feel safer on public transport, so when I wrote ‘Audacity’ about my experience I felt it could really raise awareness for the initiative.

“I’ve now reported and spent a day with British Transport Police, and I’ve seen how seriously they take sexual harassment.

“If someone does this to me again, I’ll be texting it in. Please save 61016 in your phone and use it to report this sort of creepy behaviour.”  

British Transport Police Assistant Chief Constable Paul Furnell said: “The man’s behaviour as described by Lex is completely unacceptable. I want everyone to know that acting like this on the rail network has serious consequences.

“As well as our uniformed and plain clothes officers, 150,000 CCTV cameras and your fellow passengers are watching you.

“We’re receiving more and more reports about sexual harassment, as people have had enough of this disgusting behaviour and know we prioritise tackling it. We use reports from multiple passengers to secure the strongest possible sentences for sex offenders.

“Sadly, we know that many women feel that they have no option but to put up with sexual harassment. That’s not the case: if someone is persistently bothering you and makes you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, please text 61016 to report it.

“Our officers are on patrol 24/7 and can meet trains at the next station. If it happens on the tube and you don’t have signal, you can speak to staff or text us at the next station.

“Nothing is too small to report and sexual harassment is never your fault. Save text 61016 in your phone today”.

Siwan Hayward, TfL’s Director of Security, Policing and Enforcement, said: “We are deeply sorry that Lex experienced this horrific incident on our network. The safety of women and girls is an absolute priority for us and we are committed to tackling sexual harassment, working closely with the police to make our capital’s transport network a hostile place for offenders.

“We are actively promoting the importance of reporting crimes that we know are underreported, and welcome the increase in reporting of sexual offences as evidence that more women and girls and bystanders have the confidence to come forward and report experiences, knowing that they will be taken seriously and that offenders will be pursued. We encourage anyone who experiences or witnesses this behaviour to report it to the police or a member of staff so that we can take action against offenders and put the right measures in place to prevent this from happening.”

Listen to Audacity here: https://collect.wetransfer.com/board/slw1b24i1i4x0o9n320240409172645

How to report

Every report is important. See it or experience it, you can report anything that makes you uncomfortable by text 61016, via the Railway Guardian app or by calling 0800 40 50 40.

Click here to save text 61016 in your phone today: https://qr1.be/X0RR

You can also report past incidents and anonymously report sexual offences at btp.police.uk.

In an emergency, always call 999.

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