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Pembroke Dock: Residents say no to waste facility

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RESIDENTS and Pembroke Dock Town Councillors have said they do not want a waste transfer facility in the town.

At a meeting of the Town Council on Thursday (May 30), members discussed the plans having previously met with the Port Authority while Natural Resources Wales have also held a consultation evening in the Town.

It is planned to store waste which will be used to produce energy. Usually this is processed baled waste and loose processed wood waste. It would contain non-hazardous waste from homes and businesses, which can be used as fuel to produce electricity in offsite energy-from-waste facilities.

All waste sites must have a permit before they can operate. To be granted a permit the operators must show that they have the right infrastructure, management techniques and equipment to deal with the waste in the proposed area.

In a statement released in May, Andrea Winterton, Operations Manager from NRW said: “The Milford Haven Waterway, as well as being a key hub for the energy industry, is a rich habitat for wildlife, and part of the Pembrokeshire Marine Special Area of Conservation.
“Our experts will now begin their assessment, but local knowledge is incredibly valuable to us. All comments we receive as part of our consultation will be considered when it comes to making our decision.”

Many at the meeting said there were a number of unanswered questions and Cllr Josh Beynon said he didn’t think anybody in the building would be able to answer them. He suggested a meeting be set up with members of the Council and the Port Authority for them to outline their plans to members of the public.
Some people said the smells coming from the site when it was previously operated had put tourists off and that there had been problems with flies.

Cllr Beynon read out an email from the Council’s Strategic Project Manager who said that since August 2018 the site had been used as a waste transfer station for orange bags and that there was no processing of materials on the site.
It also said that since PCC had taken over the facility, NRW had been happy with the current practice.

Cllr Paul Dowson said he had visited the Port Authority but said that they didn’t seem to know an awful lot about what was being planned.
He added that there didn’t seem to be any details and that unless they didn’t invite the Port to a meeting it would just be a ‘rubbish tip that smells’.

Cllr Dowson went on to say: “The Port Authority have a long lasting legacy of not being very good with the truth. They have denied the operation, the staff have been told not to mention it. What are they up to? There are so many grey areas and we are a long way off before saying we do support it.
“Pembroke Dock isn’t the waste bin of Wales. I will be opposing this and we have to represent the views of the people of the town of Pembroke Dock.”

One resident, Peter Cox, spoke of the proximity of the rubbish to South Pembrokeshire Hospital and said they had to put fly traps up outside it because they didn’t have the resources to do so.

Another said that looking for information was like an ‘iron curtain’ adding: “This was thrown out from Swansea, if Swansea don’t want it, why the hell are we going to have it?”

Cllr Murton added that when RDF operated the site previously it was a ‘scandalous disgrace’ and that she was ‘delighted’ when it was closed down.
Cllr George Manning said: “We need to meet with PCC and the Port to explain their plans in more detail. We don’t want it in Pembroke Dock. This is not the place to have it, just 300 yards from the town centre. We have to use the Dock as it should be used.”

Chris Page said he had difficulty downloading documents from the NRW website during the consultation and that the Port needed to explain their plans before a permit was given.
Another resident said that when they moved to the area from Suffolk there were no flies but when RDF operated the site they were getting more and more flies.

Cllr O’Connor said: “It has been made very clear, we have to be united as a council and say no to waste dumping in Pembroke Dock.
“If they want to store waste somewhere, find somewhere suitable because Pembroke Dock says no.”
Others commented that they didn’t want to be ‘prisoners’ in their own home and that Pembroke Dock would become the ‘capital of waste’.
One person from the Shipwright Inn said that tourism was really good but added they had seen some families walk out because of the smell saying it was not only ‘embarrassing’ for them but for the town as well.

Some at the meeting spoke of doing a protest if it went ahead and making a petition against putting waste on the site.
Mayor, Cllr Gordon Goff concluded by saying: “Nothing will be passed by the Town Council until all the questions are answered. This is Pembroke Dock not Pembroke Dump.”
A spokesperson for Natural Resources Wales said: “We are currently assessing an application for an environmental permit for a waste facility, reference PAN-003929, from Milford Haven Port Authority. The application is for:

The temporary storage of baled fuel derived from waste, namely Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) and Solid Recovered Fuel (SRF), pending onward transfer.
The temporary storage of wood waste pending onward transfer
The maximum amount of RDF, SRF or wood proposed to be stored is to be less than 9000 tonnes at any one time
The annual throughput of waste proposed is 80,000 tonnes per annum.

“Our public consultation window, which has now closed, has generated responses from both technical consultees and members of the public. We are in the process of assessing the responses and all relevant comments will be taken into consideration.

“We will endeavour to reach a draft decision as quickly as possible, however we do need to make sure that all required information is gathered and assessed appropriately

“We will only grant an environmental permit if we believe that the application achieves the standards of the environmental legislation and the operator has the ability to meet the conditions of the permit. Any permit we may grant will include appropriate conditions to protect human health and the environment.”

Speaking after the meeting, Andy Jones, Interim CEO, said: “We met with Pembroke Dock Town Council a few weeks ago to discuss our application to NRW for a temporary waste storage permit. The feedback we received at the time was largely positive. The meeting prompted further questions from individual councillors which we have responded to and since there has been no response to the answers provided we assumed we had addressed any concerns. We are surprised, therefore, to read that Town Councillors have said, in their most recent meeting on 30th May, that they are not supportive of our plans.

“The comments made by Town Councillors are generally referring back to memories of an unpleasant and unacceptable experience during the previous operation which was not run by ourselves, but by a third party. This time we are confident things will be different. If we didn’t have this confidence we would not be making this application.

“The following mitigation measures will be put in place. It is important to note that these were not in place during the previous operation:

Minimum 8 layers of bale wrap

Fine mesh net covering bales

Contact insecticide distributed on board around stack

5m screen surrounding stack with netting = secondary fly net and site screen

Pesticide control regime primarily focusing on larvicides

Stock tracking e.g. oldest bales shipped first

Stringent acceptance and monitoring procedures

Odour neutralising technology

Bale reception procedure to identify non-compliant waste

“As a Trust Port, we exist to create opportunities for the people and businesses of Pembrokeshire. We are a catalyst for economic growth and our mission is to build prosperity across the Haven. As we have mentioned before, our staff are local people, many of them living near the Port and very much part of the community. We, as much as the Town Council and local residents, do not want Pembroke Dock to be the waste bin of Wales. This is not, and will never be, what we are proposing. We are very proud of Pembroke Port’s historical significance as a Dockyard, and we are simply trying to expand trade to increase our abilities as a Port and provide more jobs for the local community. But, we are in competition with other Ports who transport the same waste bales generated across the UK. We must be able to compete with these Ports or jobs will be lost to those areas that are able to deliver the services needed in today’s society.

“We are ultimately trying to raise Pembroke Port’s profile in the industry so that it is recognised, in its own right, as a port that has the capacity and capability to handle a variety of trades. When speaking with colleagues in the industry about Pembroke Port, it is clear that its profile has been overshadowed by Milford Haven’s reputation as a well-regarded oil and gas port. The more trades we can attract to Pembroke Port, bearing in mind there are limitations due to our location and hinterland, the more opportunities we will have to promote what the Port can offer.”

CLARIFICATION FROM COUNTY COUNCIL

A spokesman for Pembrokeshire County Council said: “Pembrokeshire County Council (PCC) would like to clarify the following facts surrounding this proposal and permit application by the Port Authority.

“Pembrokeshire County Council has had no involvement with the application, the proposed activities will not involve waste collected by Pembrokeshire County Council, and it should be noted that our residual waste is contracted to an Energy from Waste facility, in Cardiff, up until 2027.

“It is felt that the confusion may have arisen due to the fact that Pembrokeshire County Council has a Waste and Recycling Transfer Station at Gate 4, Pembroke Port. The operations and permit surrounding this facility were transferred to Pembrokeshire County Council in August 2018 following the termination of the RDF processing contract.

“Since August 2018 PCC have used the facility as a Waste Transfer Station for Dry Mixed Recycling (Orange Bags), Food Waste, Glass and Residual Waste collected in Pembrokeshire. Materials are delivered to site in recycling and refuse collection vehicles, bulked in internal designated bays before being loaded onto artic vehicles prior to onward transportation to reprocessors. No processing of materials is undertaken on site and there is no external storage of waste at this location. Since Pembrokeshire County Council took on the facility at Gate 4, and the operations within, NRW have confirmed they are happy with the current operating practices.

“We are in the process of reviewing the operations of the site and are about to submit a permit variation surrounding our operations at Gate 4 Pembroke Port. This variation is actually requesting to remove the permit activities surrounding RDF production and storage as this is not an operation which PCC are planning on undertaking in the future. All current and future plans are focused on short term bulking of material prior to onwards transportation to other facilities in Wales or the wider UK.”

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Primary school teacher would ‘moan’ as he touched female pupils, court hears

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A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher would “moan” while he touched his female pupils in a sexual way, a witness said in Swansea Crown Court.

In total, 11 former pupils, who were all under 13, have come forward and accused James Oulton, 34, of sexually assaulting them.

Oulton denies all the charges – saying the case was a “witch-hunt” and that he had behaved appropriately all times.

One of the pupils, who was in year four at the time, opened day four of the trial by giving evidence via a video link.

The girl told the court: “He would put his arm around by back and backside.”

Under cross examination Chris Clee QC, for the defence, asked the witness: “Did you tell the police that you were touched in an inappropriate way?”

The witness answered: “Yes, teachers should not be touching in that way.”

James Oulton

Asked if what he was doing wrong, the witness replied:

“Yes, very wrong”

In cross examination letters and cards were produced, made the witness whilst in school, where she had said Mr. James Oulton was “the best teacher in the whole world.”

One of the cards said: “You’ve made my life complete”.

Another card said: “Thank you for being so nice, and thanks for everything that you’ve done for me.”

The witness added: “Despite what he did do, he was a good teacher.  

“He used to buy us treats.

“He was nice caring and a sweet and fun teacher – but not what he was doing.

Referring to the cards, she said: “I would definitely not be saying that stuff now.”

Explaining how she told her parents the witness said: “Once I realised that [x] was in his class, I asked her ‘did he do this stuff to you?’

“She said yes.

“I realised more and more it was wrong and it was time to grow up now, and to speak.

“As soon as I found out that this was happening to [x] I stood up and told my parents.

Asked if she had seen inappropriate behaviour happening to anybody else the witness answered: “He did it to most of the girls in the class, but he had his favourites.

Asked if she had spoken to other girls about the touching, the witness said: “Yes, I was just curious was it just me, or was it normal?”

“Teachers should most definitely not be doing that to students.

“Doing what?”, the witness was asked, “You said in your police interview that he would pull you off your chair and make you sit on his lap, is that true?”

“Yes,” was the reply.

“Did you try and stop him?” she was asked.

“Yes, I tried to push him off sometimes and said, ‘get off its weird’, but I didn’t want to make a scene.

“He would make me sit on his lap whilst he was marking my work.”

When asked by the defence barrister how she was sat on her teacher’s lap, and if it was under a desk, the witness answered: “No, not under the desk, as both of our legs wouldn’t fit under.”

The witness also said that when she was sat on the defendant’s knee he would make “a low grunting noise.”

Asked if she had spoken others about this case, the girl said: “Police told my mum and dad that there were very many people involved in the case.

“I thought it was just me and [x] that was going to be at court, I only recently discovered that others had come out.”

A second female pupil was also giving evidence via video link. She was 9-years-old at the time of the alleged offending.

Firstly, a pre-recorded interview was played in court in which the witness said: “My teacher, Mr. Oulton always put his hand up my leg like that and up my t-shirt.”

She added: “If he calls you over and he pulls you onto his lap, if you don’t, he pulls your chair over and makes you.”

“How would he make you?” the QC asked.

“He would grab your arm, push you, and then pull you in”, she replied.

When asked if this was a one off, the witness said that the defendant “did it every day.”

“How would you be sat on his lap?”, she was asked.

“He would have one arm on my stomach, then the other arm would be rubbing my leg.”

“He would swap arms and then put one arm up my t-shirt.”

When asked to clarify if it was under her t-shirt the girl explained: “Yes it was under my t-shirt rubbing his hands up and down.”

The witness added: “If I tried to get up for work, he would just grab my arm.”

“He would make a funny sound like a hissing airplane.”

“We had a helper in the class, and when he came in, he would stop, and then I could go and sit down.”

The trial continues.

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New trees planted to help town

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SEVERAL new trees have been planted on Riverside Avenue in Neyland.

They were planted by Grandiflora, courtesy of the Town Council which recently pledged to plant more trees in the town in an attempt to help the environment.

As well as helping the environment, the trees will prevent vehicles from being parked on the grass verges on Riverside Avenue, which had been severely churned up over the winter and looked unsightly.

The Town Council will be working with Pembrokeshire County Council regarding parking issues in Neyland.

The trees will be tended and watered over the summer period to ensure they reach their maximum potential and enhance the area for residents and visitors alike.

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Golden goodbye report likely to be critical

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A REPORT by Audit Wales into the departure of former CEO Ian Westley is very likely to contain criticism of senior council officers.

In November 2020, Mr Westley left Pembrokeshire County Council with a £95,000 pay-out, something which has been criticised by a number of councillors.

In a document before the Audit and Governance Committee on Tuesday (April 13), it says that termination payments to Chief Officers are routinely examined by Audit Wales but in the case of Mr Westley, the audit team was unable to locate a recorded decision to enter into the settlement agreement which led to a termination payment being made to the Chief Executive.

An Audit Office spokesperson said: “This appeared unusual and therefore the audit team decided to undertake an early examination of the process that resulted in the payment being made.”

No complaints were raised, by councillors or any other body, with Audit Wales but the number of concerns and questions being raised at following council meetings prompted them to commence an audit.

Audit Wales state: “Our audit fieldwork is substantially complete. However due to the complex nature of some of the issues involved we considered it necessary to take some external legal
advice. We are currently considering that advice. 

“In the near future we will draft a document setting out our provisional findings and conclusions. 

“Once this document is ready we will commence a clearance process to confirm factual accuracy. 

“If the document contains criticism of identifiable individuals, in the first instance we will provide those individuals with any extracts of the document that pertain to them. Once
we have confirmed the factual accuracy with individuals, we will send the full draft document to the Council’s Chief Executive to identify any remaining factual inaccuracies. 

“We will only issue the finalised document once the clearance process has been completed. #

“We are unable to provide a definitive timetable for reporting because it will depend on the responses we receive within the clearance process.”

Only a handful of senior officers were involved in the procedure surrounding Ian Westley’s departure.

The inference which can be safely drawn from Audit Wales’ report to the Audit Committee is that some of its content will be critical either of councillors, senior officers, or both.

The process of asking those named to respond is known as Maxwellisation, a legal practice that allows persons who are to be criticised in an official report to respond prior to publication.

The report highlights the exceptional nature of the case at Pembrokeshire County Council and demonstrates the sensitivity of the issues raised.

If senior officers are sharply criticised or found to have failed in their duty to their employer, they will almost certainly have to go.

The council’s interim Chief Executive will read the document after maxwellisation.

It is also likely that the council’s newly appointed Chief Executive, Will Bramble, will have a chance to see it.

The Audit Wales spokesperson added: “We are unable to provide a definitive timetable for reporting because it will depend on the responses we receive within the clearance process. We are unable to respond to queries about our emerging findings whilst the audit is progressing, and until we have finalised our conclusions.”

In January, Cllr Jamie Adams had called for the council to commence an internal investigation into Mr Westley’s departure but that was deferred to allow for the Audit Wales review to be completed.

Cllr Adams said that the decision of payment should have been a ‘democratic decision’ and has asked why that wasn’t the case.

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