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Outcry as castle sale nears

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hwest castlePEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL has confirmed the sale of the old Records Office at Haverfordwest Castle, causing an outcry from many residents, organisations and Haverfordwest Town Council.

Confirming the County Council’s position on the future of the historical site, a spokesperson said: “The former Records Office at Haverfordwest Castle was put up for sale two years ago. All offers were considered and a sale was agreed. However, the Town Council then applied to have the area surrounding the former Records Office formally registered as a town or village green.

PUBLIC INQUIRY 

“This led to a public inquiry which ruled that the Castle was not capable of registration as town or village green. While the application was being determined the proposed developer stood back. Now that the application has been determined he has reopened his interest and the sale is proceeding.” Though the County Council would not directly confirm the name of the buyer, The Herald was told last October by Councillor Mark Edwards that the purchaser was the developer Griffith-Roach Foundation. When asked how much the buyer was offering for the property, and how this compared to the £50,000 offer put forward by the Town Council, the spokesperson declined to comment, saying it was confidential, but did confirm the developer’s offer was ‘considerably higher’ than that of the Town Council. They were also asked if the market value for the property was being demanded, to which they said it had been offered on the open market and a decision was taken to ‘sell for best consideration’. However, in 2006, a Notice of Motion was considered by the Council relating to the General Disposal Consent (Wales) which came into force on December 31, 2003. The Motion specifically sought to recognise that in circumstances which benefited the promotion of social economic and environmental well-being, property or land can be released to community organisations at less than the best consideration. Lesley Turner of Haverfordwest Civic Society said: “The proposed sale, without public consultation, would deprive Haverfordwest of its heritage. We believe that this location should remain for the Town’s community use and for the benefit of tourism”. Barbara Shone, Deputy Chair of Trustees Board of Haverfordwest Museum, said: “In 1996 the County Council leased the Governor’s House to the Town Council on a 40-year lease, which doesn’t end till 2036. The Trustees of the Museum were formed in 1996 and they have a license to operate the Museum until then.”

CABINET MEETING

 However, during a Cabinet meeting of January 9, 2012, the issue of the museum was discussed. In the Cabinet minutes it was said: “The County Council acquire the Haverfordwest Town Council’s lease of the Governors House on terms acceptable to the Directors of Development and that County Council officers be authorised to use compulsory purchase powers to achieve the acquisition should this prove necessary.” Haverfordwest mayor Roy Thomas also spoke with The Herald about the manner in which the County Council are pursuing the sale: “Frankly it comes as no surprise. The County Council, despite promises for greater transparency, remain secretive; they also appear to have disregarded the Town Council’s offer. “All I can say is the County Council have shown no improvement in their ability to look after the cultural well-being of our town. One has to hope that the Assembly Government and the National Audit Office is keeping a watch on this affair.” Haverfordwest Town Councillor, Sarah Llewellyn, summed up the feelings of many who are angry about the sale ‘behind closed doors’, and said: “We were obviously very disappointed by the Inspector’s decision. However, what became clear during the hearing was the strength of local feeling, and resentment at the high-handed manner in which the County Council chose to deal with an application that merely sought to secure free and unlimited public access to the Castle grounds for future generations. “I will be very interested to hear more regarding any further proposals to dispose of the old prison building, and anything else inside the Castle walls. It seems the County Council is keen to off-load a number of old, and currently empty buildings within our town, including the old prison building and Foley House, seeing them only in terms of their financial burden. “Both the County Council and the prospective developer need to be more up front this time round. People deserve to know about any proposals beforehand, and how plans are likely to affect them. It is not acceptable for the County Council to present matters such as these as ‘done deals’, and to be anything less than wholly transparent about how much money will be changing hands, and on what terms.”

The Council says in response to these concerns, and specifically the question of public access to the Castle grounds, the County Council said that this consideration was part of the on-going negotiations with the developer. Town Councillor, Thomas Tudor, said: “I would not support selling the Old Records Offices under market value, especially if the asking price had already been offered. And I would support the T o w n Council’s offer for the property bearing in mind that it has been the only offer for some time and when no one else was interested. “Taking advantage of the Town Council’s offer would have been a far more positive move rather than allowing the property to rot and decay and become more of a burden to the tax payers. If I cannot find out what the architect and developer is offering, I would then have to try to obtain the information by using the Freedom of Information Act.” One area of concern for taxpayers was how much the County Council had spent in opposing the Town Council’s application for village green status. When asked for a figure, the County Council said: “Our engagement with the Town Council on the vast majority of issues is very positive. However, different tiers of Government will occasionally have different views on matters. This is a matter which is now resolved”. The Herald understands, however, that a deal for the sale of the Castle has been discussed secretly in Cabinet and a decision reached.

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Join the Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Panel as an independent member

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THE Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Panel is looking for two members to join them in their work to support and challenge the Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Commissioner.

The Panel is made of up of members nominated by Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys county councils along with at least two independent members.

Opportunities have now arisen for two independent members to join the Panel and carry out key statutory roles that will support the Commissioner exercise his role effectively.

Members will be expected to attend and take part in regular meetings and take part in decision making, creating reports and making recommendations to the Commissioner.

They will review the Commissioner’s annual draft Police and Crime Plan and annual draft budget, review and scrutinise his decisions and actions, and if necessary review the proposed appointment or removal of the Chief Constable and other senior police force appointments.

Applicants will need to demonstrate that they can take a balanced and objective approach in supporting the Panel and the Commissioner, make strategic and well-informed decisions, and interpret and question financial, statistical and performance related information.

They will also need to be able to act as a ‘critical friend’, challenging views or proposals for change constructively.

Applications close on May 31, and appointments to the Panel will be made until October 31, 2024. 

For further information, visit www.dppoliceandcrimepanel.wales

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Successful Fire Service and Health Board partnership to enhance COVID-19 vaccine roll out comes to end

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TUESDAY 11 May 2021 marked the end of a hugely successful partnership between Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service and Hywel Dda University Health Board, initiated to enhance the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine to the communities of Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.

Since February, Community Safety Staff from Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service have transported 125 passengers over 9450 miles to ensure they were able to receive their COVID-19 vaccination.

Chris Davies, Chief Fire Officer for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service said: “Recognising the configuration of our Service, the areas we cover and indeed the people we employee, this seemed an ideal opportunity for us to widen our response to the pandemic and support our partners in safeguarding our communities.

“Whilst we already collaborate with the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust, this opportunity enabled us to expand our assistance further within the health arena. This partnership with Hywel Dda University Health Board was the first of its kind for Fire and Rescue Services in Wales and paved the way for a number of similar partnerships for us and the other Fire and Rescue Services in Wales.

“I am extremely proud of our staff who have participated in this collaboration and have made a huge difference to the lives of so many people. Their contribution has without doubt had a positive impact on our response to this global pandemic”.

Mydrian Harries, Corporate Head of Prevention and Protection for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, coordinated the Service’s response to this call for assistance.

“Our communities are at the heart of our core business. Knowing we were in a position to make an impact, we put in place a robust solution in record time, to not only ensure the safety and wellbeing of our staff, but to also safeguard those who were eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination, but may have had barriers preventing them from attending their appointments.

“Using this partnership as template within which we could expand, we have since been able to offer our assistance to other Health Boards across the Service area. Indeed, a group of 10 vaccine heroes from our Service have joined Powys Teaching Health Board’s vaccination team, playing their part in distributing vaccines at mass vaccination sites in Newtown and Builth Wells. This is another fantastic example of how working together has been vital in our ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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Brand new features unveiled at Scolton Manor Park

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ONE of Pembrokeshire’s best-loved family destinations has announced it will be unveiling several new attractions in June, ready for the summer holidays.  

Among the new features at Scolton Manor are an eco-explorer village, a 1.2km woodland cycle track, an outdoor pirate ship play area and a dedicated railway attraction complete with steam train locomotive ‘Margaret’ and ‘Scolton Express’ play train.

Mark Thomas, manager of Scolton Manor Park, said the team were looking forward to showing visitors the new attractions.

“We’re delighted with our new facilities and believe they will perfectly complement the attractions we have here already at Scolton,” he said.

The woodland eco-explorer village aims to give children more opportunities for outside play and spark their enthusiasm to discover more about the natural world.  

Cllr Paul Miller, Cabinet Member for Economy, Tourism, Culture and Leisure, said the village is perfect for all young explorers from toddlers right through to older children.

“Children love playing outside and we want to inspire them through their play to not only find out more about biodiversity and the environment but also how to care for it,” he said.

“As well as eco-explorer areas, games and activities there will be fun tips on how they can reuse, reduce and recycle more and protect the environment.”

The eco-explorer village is funded by a £50,000 grant from the Landfill Disposals Tax Community Scheme and £25,000 grant from Community Facilities Programme (Welsh Government), in partnership with the Pembrokeshire Beekeepers’ Association.

Mark Thomas said the current attractions at Scolton have also proved very popular since the outdoor areas at the park re-opened to the public earlier this spring.

As well as an adventure play area for older children which includes a 30-metre zip wire, a spinning climbing web and ‘super swings’,  younger visitors can enjoy the wooden playground, sensory musical play area and woodland play features.

“The many and varied attractions at Scolton enhance its role as a community facility while providing a wide range of countryside experiences at a lower cost,” said Mark.

“The new features in particular will also help to continue the development of the site into a must-visit tourist attraction within mid and North Pembrokeshire.”

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