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Home Office to operate Penally asylum seeker camp without planning permission

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL has said that it is ‘disappointed’ after learning of a Home Office plan which will see it running the former Penally Training Camp for asylum seekers without planning permission. The news follows confirmation last month from the Home Office that the camp was being wound down, with asylum seekers being moved into alternative accommodation, such as hotels.

A council spokespersons said: “We acknowledge this latest update is unsettling and we will continue to work to ensure community cohesion can be restored following this disruptive decision.”

But the Home Office has confirmed that it is preparing a planning application to allow the temporary use of the camp, which has housed up to 250 male facility users, to continue for a further six months.

The current six months permission for use – granted under the Town and Country Planning General Permitted Development Order – expires on March 21, but application for the next consent is not due to be submitted until mid April.

As the site would be in use without the planning consent, the council would have the power to take enforcement action, but the Authority has not yet confirmed its intentions.

A spokesman for the council, said: “The Home Office has recently re-confirmed to the Council that they are preparing a planning application to allow the temporary use of Penally Training Camp to continue for a further 6 months (beyond 21st March 2021).

“However, the Home Office have now made it clear that any planning application will not be submitted to Pembrokeshire County Council until around mid-April 2021.

Police and protestors in stand off in Penally in 2020 (Pic: Herald)

“The Home Office advise that their appointed consultant are working to complete the majority of the technical reports, including a Phase 1 Ecological Survey, Noise Assessment, Heritage Report, Transport Report and Flood Risk Assessment.

“The Home Office have advised that they will begin the required pre application consultation, a formal 28-day period for public consultation process, in mid-March.  Following the consultation period, the responses will be collated and the Pre-Application Consultation (PAC) Report prepared.

“This means that the site will therefore be under occupation, but without the requisite planning consents being in place, whilst the application process is followed.

“The Council have been in continual contact with the Home Office and their planning consultant over the last 5 months, seeking clarification around their planning intention. This recent correspondence confirms their intention to progress a planning application.

“We are disappointed that the Home Office have only now made their intent clear. It is of concern that they have not been able to submit a planning application within the required timescale.

The cost of policing the camp has been higher than expected, running into millions of pounds (Pic Herald)

“The Council has always challenged the Home Office as to the suitability of the accommodation. We have also always tried to work with key bodies involved to ensure those in the camp and the surrounding community are kept safe, treated with dignity. We acknowledge this latest update is unsettling and we will continue to work to ensure community cohesion can be restored following this disruptive decision.”

PRESTON PUSHES HART FOR ANSWERS

County councillor for Penally, Jonathan Preston, is pressing a local MP for answers to many still unanswered questions for surrounding Penally Training Camp; stating that it appears that the Home Secretary is unaware of how the Home Office took control of Penally camp last September.

In a charged letter, Cllr Preston is pushing for Simon Hart MP, Secretary of State for Wales, to clarify points following The Home Secretary’s promise to engage.

The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, said in Parliament: “We will consult with everybody; I can give that assurance.”

Mrs Patel added: “In the broadest possible sense, we cannot have this situation where local authorities literally refuse to engage with us, while at the same time saying that consultation is not taking place.”

Writing to Mr Hart MP, Cllr Preston said: “I am confident that PCC have not refused to engage on this issue with the Home Office, however given that you, along with Welsh Government and Pembrokeshire County Council were not consulted prior to Penally camp being repurposed, it appears that the Home Secretary is unaware of how the Home Office took control of Penally camp last September.

He added: “Please could you advise why the Home Secretary believes that consultation has taken place and if this assumption provided the basis on which the Home Office proceeded to repurpose Penally camp last September?”

The Pembrokeshire Herald has approached the Home Office for comment.

Home Secretary Priti Patel is facing calls to close former barracks in Penally and Folkestone

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New Chairman for Pembrokeshire County Council

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THE NEW Chairman of Pembrokeshire County Council is Councillor Pat Davies, who represents Fishguard North West.

Cllr Davies, previously the Authority’s Vice-Chairman, was installed at today’s Annual meeting of Council at County Hall in Haverfordwest.

She succeeds Cllr Mike James, the Elected Member for St Dogmaels.

Councillor David Simpson – who will remain as Council Leader – proposed a vote of thanks to Cllr James.

The new Vice-Chairman of the Council is Councillor Thomas Tudor (Haverfordwest Castle) who expressed his pride at the nomination.

Councillor Simon Hancock will remain as the Authority’s Presiding Member.

Cllr David Simpson, who was elected to Council in 2004, was the sole nomination for Leader.

Cllr Simpson will complete his Cabinet choices over the coming days but he announced that Councillor Paul Miller (Neyland West) will become Deputy Leader of the Council.

The Lord-Lieutenant of Dyfed, Miss Sara Edwards, and the High Sheriff of Dyfed, Mr Rowland Rees-Evans, attended the Annual Meeting as guests.

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Monkton: One person flown to Cardiff following incident

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THERE was a large emergency services presence in Monkton last night (May 25).

At around 7.30pm, emergency services were called to a report of an incident.

Back Terrace was temporarily closed off while officers dealt with the situation.

An Air Ambulance was dispatched and flew one person to The University Hospital of Wales.

A Welsh Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “We were called at approximately 7.30pm yesterday, Wednesday 25 May, to an incident in the Monkton area of Pembroke.

“We sent a rapid response car, an emergency ambulance and an air ambulance to the scene, where the crew were also supported by a duty operations manager.

“One person was flown to the University Hospital of Wales.”

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Community

Nature is blooming at Withybush Woods three years after enhancement project

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THREE years after the launch of a project to enhance Withybush Woods, there are abundant signs that biodiversity is thriving.

Swathes of early purple orchid – a scarce wild flower – have been spotted in shadier parts of the tranquil woodlands while a pair of rare breeding stock doves have made the woods their home for the second year.

Song thrushes can be heard everywhere on the 1.5km accessible footpath together with chiffchaffs, willow warblers, nuthatch, woodpeckers, blackbirds, blue tits and many other woodland birds.

Mallards and moorhens and their young can be seen on the restored lower pond, together with the resident swans, and a new wetland area nearby is providing a new habitat for other species of invertebrates and pollinators.

The EU-funded improvement project was led by Pembrokeshire County Council, which owns the woods on the outskirts of Haverfordwest.

Dr Steven Jones, Director of Community Services, said: “Withybush Woods has always been a beautiful and special place to visit and even more so now, thanks to its increasing range of species and biodiversity habitats.

The enhancement work received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government. 

The scheme also received funding through the Landfill Disposals Tax Communities Scheme, through the WCVA.

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