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Will buying the town centre help council regenerate Haverfordwest?



PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL is looking to buy the Riverside Shopping Centre, Wilkinson’s store and Perrot’s Road car park in Haverfordwest, to support its ambitious regeneration programme for the town centre.

Cabinet approved the acquisition proposal on Monday (Nov 30) on condition that it is purchased is at less than market valuation
While that process is ongoing, Cllr Paul Miller has moved to explain the rationale behind it and discuss some of the issues which have been raised.
“I’m really pleased that this proposal has generated interest and I would like to try and answer for the public some of the questions which have come up so far. I’d also like to try and explain how our plans for the Riverside area fit within our wider Economic Development Plan for Pembrokeshire,” said Cllr Miller, Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Economic Development.

Sceptical about the plans, The Welsh Conservative Councillor group told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “While we support town centre regeneration, we have grave concerns regarding this decision by the Cabinet. We are still in a pandemic; the future of high street shopping is in the balance and this decision could have serious implications on Pembrokeshire’s tax payers. All councillors need more information on this project.

“The Councils focus should be on its core services; education and social services, and should leave owning shopping centres to specialist companies.”

Why is the council doing this?

“The Council has already developed a wide-reaching plan for the transformation of Haverfordwest.
“We’ve opened Glan-yr-Afon library and cultural centre, returning footfall to the town centre, we’re soon to start on site on Western Quayside – the former Ocky White building – creating an amazing food and beverage hub.
“We’re working on linking Bridge Street directly to the Castle and are committed to the wholesale redevelopment of the town’s unfit multi-storey car park.
“However, right in the middle of all those project sites, there is a fairly enormous space (in excess of 3 hectares) currently in the ownership of a single third party and that’s the Riverside Shopping Centre.
“Securing control of this site makes sense on a number of levels – not least because it enhances our ability to deliver on a whole-town plan. It also links directly to sites already in the Council’s ownership.”

If it goes ahead, how much will the acquisition cost?

“While negotiations are ongoing, and it should be stressed it may still not prove possible to agree a purchase price acceptable to both parties, I do not expect the Council’s contribution to the purchase price to exceed £700,000 including land tax charges. There are some maintenance liabilities we’ve identified which will be in addition to that sum.

“This level of capital funding is available from within the Council’s Property Investment Fund and so will not require additional borrowing. Nor will it directly impact on the Council’s revenue budget for other services or Council Tax levels.”

Risky, given the current economic climate?

“We’re going into this ‘eyes open’ to the worst case. Our worst-case scenario takes into account the current state of the market and the lease positions of the existing tenants.

“We know that more tenants will leave the centre over the next 12 months and we know things are going to get worse before they get better. Despite all that, our worst-case scenario still shows the centre to make a revenue surplus both in the particularly challenging short term and then to a greater extent in the medium term.

“The financial effect of the short term challenges are included in the modelling and actually the purchase price reflects that fact too. In addition, we anticipate further vacancies in the short term might actually be desirable, making easier some of the physical changes to the site that will inevitably be required.”

Isn’t there a risk this all goes wrong?

“There is always that risk. It’s no different to the risk associated with running our current industrial estate units. If all the tenants suddenly disappear, you’re left with no income to use to maintain the site.
“In this case, we’re very aware of the risks. We’re aware of the wider market position, of the businesses under pressure and aware of the number of leases expiring in the coming years.
“The Council’s officers and advisors put together three scenarios for cabinet to consider. A Best, Worst and Reasonable case. We focused our thinking around the worst-case model and that has driven our thinking on purchase price and determined our appetite for this at all.
“That worst-case scenario still shows the centre to make a revenue surplus both in the particularly challenging short term and then to a greater extent in the medium term.”

Is retail a dead duck?

“I accept completely that there is no future in retail-only town centres. We are not purchasing the Riverside because we think we’ve spotted something no one else has and that suddenly there is going to be some town centre shopping renaissance.
“We do however think our town centres have a future, just a different future. The Grimsey Review (just one example of the many such reviews into town centres) is clear both on the need for local leadership and public sector investment in transforming town centres. The review also has as one of its key findings the following; ‘There is a need for all towns to develop plans that are business-like and focused on transforming the place into a complete community hub incorporating health, housing, arts, education, entertainment, leisure, business/office space, as well as some shops, while developing a unique selling proposition (USP)’.
“That’s exactly what this purchase is about. It allows us to support a whole town plan for transformation not to ensure Haverfordwest continues to provide what people used to want but to ensure Haverfordwest provides what people want know and what people will want in the future.”

Aren’t they interfering in the role of the private sector?

“We know that the private sector is not going to repurpose our town centres for us. We also know how the Riverside has fared over the years in remote ownership. In my view we have a choice. We either say we don’t care about the town centre and it’s for the private sector to sort out, or, we recognise the role which a quality built environment plays in the wider offer of the County – and in turn how that supports economic activity.
“What I want to ensure is that we provide the local leadership and vision needed to see a transformation happen in Haverfordwest. We don’t think for a second we can bring about that transformation on our own but we do, absolutely, have a key role to play. In this case, that role is in securing the asset upon which future regeneration interventions will be built.”

Will the Council be managing the centre?

“The authority will not be directly managing the asset either in the short or the long term. This will be done by others and the costs of that management has been included in all of our modelling. To repeat, even our worst case model shows the site always making more income than it costs to run.”

Why should the Council get involved?

“To start with, because no one else is going to. I believe, strongly, that the quality of key town centres is important for the wider economic wellbeing of Pembrokeshire. We could, of course, just look the other way and say this is something for the private sector but I believe to do so would be a mistake.
“I do not believe that the local authority can transform Haverfordwest Town Centre on its own.
“However, I do believe we have a clear role to play in support and through the strategic acquisition proposed we can make that transformation deliverable.
“Beyond the strategic acquisition we are already in discussion with prospective private sector development partners and we anticipate taking those discussions forward with more vigour if the sale is completed.
“We don’t have a dream of doing this all on our own – but we know we have to play our part if we’re to deliver.”

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Withyhedge Landfill: Multi-agency statement issued to residents



NATURAL Resources Wales (NRW) shared the most recent findings from a visit to Withyhedge Landfill site in Pembrokeshire at a Multi-agency Incident Management Team meeting on Wednesday, 10 April. The meeting included representatives from Pembrokeshire County Council (PCC), Public Health Wales (PHW) and Hywel Dda University Health Board.

All authorities acknowledge and empathise with the impact this prolonged odour issue is having on members of the communities that surround Withyhedge Landfill.

This is a complex and ever-changing situation, and partners are working extremely hard to reach a point where the odour problems are resolved.

NRW officers attended the site on Monday 8 April. It appears, from a visual assessment of the work undertaken on site, that the required capping work and gas well installation has been completed by site operators, RML, in line with the deadline of the S36 Enforcement Notice, issued by NRW on 13 February 2024.

However, this can only be fully assessed by NRW once survey and construction validation reports have been submitted. The operator is now preparing these and once received, a formal assessment will be undertaken.

The authorities will review the findings and revise their action plans where appropriate.

Odour Monitoring

Since the passing of the S36 Enforcement Notice deadline of Friday 5 April, and in response to continued high volumes of odour reports from the local community, NRW and PCC increased odour monitoring in residential areas over the weekend and into this week.

Other possible areas on site where odour may be coming from have been identified and the statement from the company issued 9 April provides further detail.

RML submitted plans to address these on 10 April, which are now being considered by NRW.

Air Quality Monitoring

RML has also commissioned an independent party to carry out air quality monitoring, and this work continues. PCC and NRW are providing technical advice in support of this work.

The first round of diffusion tubes monitoring results detected Hydrogen Sulphide (H2S) at one of the 10 monitoring sites. Hydrogen sulphide being a colourless gas which often smells like rotten eggs and can come from the breakdown of waste materials in landfill.

More data is required for meaningful analysis and Public Health Wales continue to advocate for further air monitoring to take place as soon as possible. This is being progressed by PCC and NRW.

Reporting odour

NRW requests that instances of odour from the landfill continue to be reported via this dedicated form:

Please report odours at the time of them being experienced, rather than historically. Reporting odours in a timely manner will help guide the work of partners more effectively, particularly in the further development of air quality monitoring.

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Doctors to enter pay negotiations with the Welsh Government



BMA CYMRU Wales has suspended forthcoming industrial action for Consultants and SAS doctors following a constructive meeting with the Welsh government to resolve its pay disputes.

As a result of sustained pressure, including three rounds of industrial action by junior doctors in Wales, the Welsh Government has made a significant proposal to form the basis of talks to end the pay disputes with all secondary care doctors including Consultants, SAS and Junior doctors.

Since the meeting last week, the committees representing doctors from all three branches of practice have voted to enter pay negotiations based on this proposal.

The planned 48-hour strike by Consultants and SAS doctors due to take place from 16 April will now be suspended.

Junior doctors have paused plans to announce more strike dates whilst they enter negotiations with the Welsh Government.

The Welsh junior doctors committee, Welsh SAS committee and Welsh consultants committee will now each engage in pay negotiations, with the aim of reaching deals which can be taken separately to their respective members.

Dr Oba Babs Osibodu and Dr Peter Fahey co-chairs of the BMA’s Welsh Junior doctors Committee said:

“This is a significant step forward. It is sad that we had to take industrial action to get here, but we are proud of members for demonstrating their resolve in pursuit of a fair deal for the profession.

“Whilst we are optimistic and hope to quickly resolve our dispute, we remain steadfast in achieving pay restoration. Until we reach a deal, nothing is off the table.

 “We will continue to work hard to reach an offer that is credible to put to members who will ultimately have the final say.”

Dr Stephen Kelly, chair of BMA Cymru Wales’ Consultants committee said:

“The Welsh Government’s recent efforts to reach an end to the pay dispute are encouraging and so we have called off our planned strike for now whilst we allow time and space for negotiations to take place.

“We’re hopeful that we can reach a deal that sufficiently addresses years of erosion to our pay to help retain senior doctors in Wales but remain ready to strike if we’re not able to do so during negotiations.”

Dr Ali Nazir, chair of BMA Cymru Wales’ SAS doctor committee said:

“As a committee, we felt that this latest development goes someway to understanding the strength of feeling of our members. We will work hard to reach a settlement that sufficiently meets the expectation of our colleagues who have faced real terms pay cuts of up to a third since 2008/9.”

In August last year, the BMA’s committees representing secondary care doctors in Wales voted to enter into separate trade disputes with the Welsh Government after being offered another below inflation pay uplift of just 5% for the 23/24 financial year. SAS doctors on some contracts were offered as little as 1.5%. This was the lowest pay offer any government in the UK offered and less than the DDRB, the pay review body for doctors and dentists, recommended last year.

As part of their disputes, SAS doctors, consultants and junior doctors carried out successful ballots for industrial action. Since then, junior doctors have taken part in 10 days of industrial action since January this year.

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BMA pay disputes – Junior Doctors, Consultants and Specialist Doctors



THE WELSH Government and BMA Wales’ three national committees representing consultants, SAS doctors and junior doctors have today agreed to formal negotiations about pay.

Planned industrial action will be suspended during the negotiations.

A mandate is being developed for the talks with all three BMA branches of practice with the aim of resolving the disputes over pay for 2023-24.

In the context of the most challenging financial position the Welsh Government has faced since devolution, a significant amount of work has been undertaken to identify funding to support the negotiations.

First Minister Vaughan Gething said: “We recognise the strength of feeling among BMA members and that industrial action is never taken lightly.

“This is a government that listens and engages to find solutions. I prioritised a meeting with the BMA directly alongside the Cabinet Secretary for Health to reinforce our commitment to that partnership approach.

“We currently face the most severe financial situation in the devolution era which makes our task far harder. Despite this backdrop, we have worked to identify a way forward that I hope will lead to the successful resolution of this dispute and ensure that doctors can return to work in NHS Wales.”

Cabinet Secretary for Health Eluned Morgan added: “Even in these very challenging circumstances, we have worked in social partnership with the BMA and NHS to maintain patent safety during industrial action.

“But the strikes have been very disruptive to the delivery of NHS services – none of us want to see doctors on strike. I am pleased the three BMA committees have agreed to pause further industrial action and begin formal talks with Welsh Government and hope we can bring an end to this dispute.”

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