A PUBLIC-PRIVATE consortium has today (Nov 23) unveiled their bid for a Celtic Freeport, which they say will “deliver an accelerated pathway for Wales’ net zero economy.”
If approved, the bid could generate over 16,000 new jobs and generate up to £5.5 billion of new investment for the region.
Free ports or zones are designated by the government as areas with little to no tax in order to encourage economic activity. While located geographically within a country, they essentially exist outside its borders for tax purposes.
Companies operating within free ports can benefit from deferring the payment of taxes until their products are moved elsewhere, or can avoid them altogether if they bring in goods to store or manufacture on site before exporting them again.
Money saved on tax is used to pay for local projects, such as clean energy, and better local infrastructure.
In front of a packed audience, and on the eve of the Freeport bidding window closing, the bid team unveiled their vision to create a green investment corridor with long-term commitments on major port infrastructure upgrades, skills development and innovation, all rooted in the fair work principles and enduring trade union engagement.
The transformational bid covers the ports of Milford Haven and Port Talbot and spans clean energy developments and innovation assets, fuel terminals, a power station, heavy engineering and the steel industry across south-west Wales.
Celtic Freeport bid consortium is comprised of Associated British Ports (ABP), Neath Port Talbot Council, Pembrokeshire County Council and the Port of Milford Haven.
The Celtic Freeport will, the backers claim, accelerate significant inward investment in new manufacturing facilities to support the roll-out of floating offshore wind (FLOW) from the Celtic Sea, while providing the backbone for a cleaner future based on the hydrogen economy, sustainable fuels, carbon capture, cleaner steel and low-carbon logistics.
The bid also proposes an ambitious skills agenda that will harness the skills-base, industrial assets and education providers of today for the jobs of tomorrow through dedicated green skills programmes.
The launch event included a joint presentation with and Q&A from the core team behind the bid: Andrew Harston, Director Wales and Short-Sea Ports, Associated British Ports (ABP); Karen Jones, CEO, Neath Port Talbot Council; Will Bramble CBE, CEO, Pembrokeshire County Council; and Tom Sawyer, CEO, Port of Milford Haven. World-leading technology investor, successful professional in the mining and mineral sector and Chair of the Celtic Freeport, Roger Maggs MBE also presented to attendees.
On November 24 the Celtic Freeport Consortium will have submitted their transformational bid to the UK and Welsh governments for assessment.
If selected, the successful bid will be announced in the first quarter of 2023.
“Celtic Freeport will mobilise significant international investment into the greener industries of tomorrow. Wales cannot decarbonise, unless south west Wales finds a path to net zero. Our vision will see two new green energy ports at Port Talbot and Milford Haven build out to help create masses of green power from floating offshore wind in the Celtic Sea. This acceleration of the green economy will create thousands of high quality jobs, while turbo-charging cleaner steel production and hydrogen generation,” Roger Maggs MBE, Chair of the Celtic Freeport bid consortium.
“We are excited to be partnering with Neath Port Talbot Council, Pembrokeshire County Council and the Port of Milford Haven on this bid, which will be transformational for the Welsh economy. It will also be vital in the push towards net-zero, with significant investments in clean energy assets, including floating offshore wind (FLOW). Port Talbot is the ideal location for the deployment of FLOW, and ABP is ready to invest over £500m in new and upgraded infrastructure to enable this,” Andrew Harston, Director Wales and Short-Sea Ports, Associated British Ports (ABP).
Karen Jones, CEO, Neath Port Talbot Council told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “We are very pleased to be working in partnership on a bid that has huge potential to transform the economy of Port Talbot and the wider regional and national economy. Energy has played an enormous role here historically. Harnessing the potential of green energy through our existing assets to create a sustainable and low carbon future is a prospect that has our full support,”
Will Bramble CBE, the new Chief Executive of Pembrokeshire County Council added to Ms Jones’ comments. He told this newspaper: “The Celtic Freeport’s green investment and innovation corridor will act as a clear signal to the international investment community that south-west Wales is open for business and will remain a central pillar in the country’s green energy future. Our plans will create a more secure national energy supply and help diversify the region’s industrial base as Wales accelerates its transition to a decarbonised economy, with many fresh opportunities for future generations,”
Tom Sawyer, CEO, Port of Milford Haven boasted: “The details of our collective bid stir up many emotions for me. It makes me feel incredibly excited about the wealth generation opportunities the freeport will deliver for regional businesses, alongside the well-paid career choices for future generations.
Mr Sawyer added: “I am really optimistic about the life-changing impact this level of economic regeneration can have on local families and communities, and proud that our collaborative approach will accelerate Wales towards a bright, sustainable future,”
Tenby Conservative club will become a five-bed home
TENBY’S former Conservative club, closed since the Covid pandemic, has been given the go-ahead to revert to a single dwelling, a position it has not occupied since the 1940s.
In an application submitted to national park planners, Andrew W Davies, through agent Aaron Mills, sought permission for a change of use of the Hazelwell Club, St Florence Parade – along with internal alterations – into a five-bedroom single dwelling.
Tenby Town Council raised no objection to the application, within the boundary of Tenby centre and the conservation area.
A report for planners stated: “The ‘club’ closed at the start of the Covid pandemic and has remained as such since. It has now surrendered it licence and its affiliation with the Conservative Club and the applicant has stated that the building is in a poor in a poor state of repair and not fit to reopen.”
A similar 2021 application was refused by park planners on the basis there was a “lack of evidence to justify that the community facility was no longer required, not commercially viable or that reasonable attempts had been made to secure suitable employment or affordable housing uses,” the report said.
A supporting statement by agent Aaron Mills detailed the history of the four-storey Hazelwell Club, built in 1881, and a private residence up to 1947 when it was converted into residential flats, before later becoming the Conservative Club on the lower floors, a flat remaining on the upper floors.
Due to financial difficulties of the Conservative Club, Mr and Mrs Davies purchased the building in December 2005 giving the Conservative Club a 15-year free rental period, later backed by an £80,000 loan.
By 2019 the club was only open on weekends after years of dwindling membership due to an elderly clientele, later ceasing trading due to Covid 19 long term restrictions.
In May 2021, the club vacated the building and paid the £80,000 loan back.
“On handover back to the landlords it was evident there had been little expenditure both externally and internally of the buildings upkeep. The condition of the building could only be described as poor throughout when seeking a new commercial tenant or put on the open market as a commercial and residential building for sale,” the statement said.
The property was, in 2021, placed on the open market in the region of £550,000, but there was little or no interest, the applicants now seeking to convert it back to a family residence as it was from 1881 through to 1947, with the addition of two first-floor rooms being offered as Air B and B accommodation when available.
The application was conditionally approved by park planners.
Ten Afghan refugee families could soon be homed in Pembrokeshire
SENIOR Pembrokeshire councillors are expected to back an MoD scheme which will see up to 10 Afghan refugee families homed in the county.
The MOD will be leasing 10 properties in Pembrokeshire to Afghan families who have a military connection, Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet, meeting on October 2, will hear.
In November 2021 Cabinet backed a call for support from the Home Office following the launch of the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS), launched in addition to the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP).
This offers eligible current or former locally employed staff (who worked for or with the UK Government) and who are assessed to be under serious threat to life, priority relocation to the UK.
At that time Cabinet agreed to support the scheme by offering to accommodate two families in the private rented sector.
Due to pressures in the private housing market, no Afghan families have yet been placed in Pembrokeshire.
A report for Cabinet members says: “Due to the strong military linkages that many resettled Afghans have due to the historic conflicts in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has put forward 10 houses (mix of three and some four-bed houses) based in Pembrokeshire for use by people arriving from Pakistan and their families.
“This is part of their nation-wide support for the ARAP scheme.
“Only families with a military connection will be able to access these properties, in line with the ARAP policy. These houses are currently being renovated by contractors commissioned by the MoD, to ensure they meet housing standards and should be available by November 30.”
It is proposed the properties are leased directly to the families; The MoD responsible for furnishing and maintaining the properties, and setting and collecting rent.
The report for members says concerns have been raised around community cohesion, mainly due to the 10 properties being located in one – unnamed – town, based on experiences in other counties.
“We would mitigate against this through robust communications and community events,” the report says, adding: “The police have not raised any concerns relating to this matter.”
In order to support the families, the council is able to access Home Office grant funding, available for three years at a total of £20,520 per person. If all 10 households were occupied the Authority would receive an estimated £620,000 to £820,000.
It is recommended that Cabinet support the MoD using the houses, with the Pembrokeshire Migration Partnership Board and delivery team managing the Afghan resettlement scheme using the infrastructure currently in place.
Refusal expected for farmers’ market on site of deer farm near Tenby
A RESUBMITTED application to create an indoor farmers’ market/traders barn on the site of a deer farm attraction near Tenby is expected to again be refused by county planners.
Mr and Mrs Evans of Great Wedlock, Gumfreston, are seeking a change of use of a former agricultural barn to the trading barn for up to 35 traders selling local produce and crafts, operating up to 61 days a year.
The plans – which will be considered at the October 3 meeting of the county council’s planning committee – also include an additional 30 parking bays on the site of a former silage clamp.
The site, opposite the Great Wedlock Leisure Park dinosaur park, already has planning permission for the change of use of a range of former agricultural barns to create a recently opened deer park attraction with educational and events use.
A previous application for the trading barn was refused by county planners on the basis it would represent an “unjustified use in a countryside location and contains insufficient information in respect of sustainable travel options”.
Another point of concern at that meeting was the lack of a detailed Retail Impact Assessment (RIA), Agent Atriarc Planning has said, which has been incorporated in the resubmitted application.
The resubmitted application says: “The RIA has identified that the proposed development would have no negative impact on the local retail provision and that the proposal would satisfy the RIA tests set out in various National and Local Planning policies.
“The proposed change of use seeks to create a new destination for independent traders, to sell local produce and crafts within the proposed farmers market/ market traders’ barn. The proposal is particularly focussed to local start-up companies (and those in their early infancy) who may not yet be at a scale to occupy a permanent retail premises within Pembrokeshire.
“The stall spaces will provide a range of unit sizes that could be occupied as individual or multiple units. The key driver of the project is to provide a market barn for the sale of high-quality local produce and bespoke goods made in west Wales.”
It is hoped the trading stalls in one part of the barn – if approved – would be open to the public February to December – one day per week Saturday or Sunday outside of school holidays and up to two days per week during the school holidays, from 10am-4pm.
A report for members ahead of the October 3 meeting again recommends refusal, on the basis the application, in a countryside location, would have the potential to have negative impacts upon the existing provision of local shops in nearby rural settlements.
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