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Ambitious bid for ‘Celtic Freeport’ worth £5.5billion to the local economy launched

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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.

Map of proposal: Milford Haven and Port Talbot ports will be working together

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.

Port boss: Tom Sawyer incredibly excited about the wealth generation opportunities (Pic: MHPA)

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,”

News

Oil worker’s dream to be a homeowner shattered by gazumping Council

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THOMAS SPIERS, a 55-year-old Operations Coordinator at Puma Oil Terminal and father of three, has been left without his dream home after Pembrokeshire County Council outbid him by £10,000. Mr. Spiers, a long-time resident of Milford Haven, had his heart set on a property at 63 Haven Drive, only to find his efforts thwarted by the council’s late intervention.

Mr. Spiers, who has been privately renting for a decade with aspirations of homeownership, stumbled upon what he believed was the perfect fixer-upper in January through RK. Lukas estate agents. Despite the property’s need for substantial work, he saw potential in the £100,000 ex-council house, which had been on the market for six months with two previous sales falling through. After viewing, Mr. Spiers promptly made an offer of £95,000, which was accepted by the seller.

The joy of this acceptance was short-lived. After proceeding with the necessary legal and financial preparations, including giving notice to his landlord and paying solicitor’s fees for property searches, Mr. Spiers was blindsided. Just days before the scheduled contract exchange, he was informed of a new £110,000 offer from Pembrokeshire County Council, effectively ending his purchase plans.

The council’s bid, coming after a property viewing in October 2023 and amidst a 16% hike in council tax rates, has raised questions about its timing and motives. Mr. Spiers, who found himself in a precarious position with his sons’ housing at stake, reached out to the council and local MP Stephen Crabb, he says only to be met with unfulfilled promises of callbacks and auto-replies.

The situation highlights the challenges faced by private individuals competing in an increasingly difficult housing market. Mr. Spiers voiced his frustrations over what he perceives as an injustice by the council, particularly in light of their late and significantly higher offer. Fortunately, his current landlord has allowed him to remain in his rental for now, stopping him from being made homeless, but leaving him out of pocket by approximately £1,000 in solicitor’s fees.

Stephen Crabb MP told The Herald: “Mr Spiers emailed me on Monday afternoon when I was speaking in the House of Commons chamber. He received the usual auto-reply message to show that his email had been received.

“The auto-reply makes clear that all emails from constituents who request my assistance with a casework problem will receive priority attention, which normally means within a few days. I receive around 200 emails each day and have to prioritise cases according to urgency.

“Whilst I am sorry to hear about the circumstances in which Mr Spiers’ house purchase fell through, there is actually nothing that a Member of Parliament could have done to prevent it.

“This is a private contractual matter and the questions that need to be asked are of Pembrokeshire County Council, and whether they have acted appropriately.

“It would be appropriate for Mr Spiers to contact his County Councillor who will be able to offer support with this.”

Pembrokeshire County Council have been asked to comment.

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Health

New X-ray equipment plan at Tenby Cottage Hospital revealed

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X-RAY services at Tenby Cottage Hospital are to receive a major boost thanks to an investment of £625,000 in brand new equipment which is being installed at the Hywel Dda Health Board-run site over the next few weeks.

The equipment, funded by Welsh Government, will allow the unit not only to provide the highest quality images but will also mean patients with reduced mobility or advanced clinical needs can be more easily accommodated.

However, in order to install the new equipment, x-ray services will be temporarily unavailable in Tenby Cottage Hospital until Friday, 19April 2024.

Over the next few weeks, imaging for GP patients will be provided on an appointment only basis at South Pembrokeshire Hospital in Pembroke Dock between 9-5pm.

Patients attending the Minor Injuries walk-in centre can still attend Tenby Cottage Hospital but may be sent to Withybush if an x-ray is required. Alternatively, patients can choose to attend Withybush Emergency Department directly.

John Evans, Pembrokeshire County Director for Hywel Dda said: “We are delighted that Tenby Cottage Hospital will be receiving brand new and up to date x-ray equipment thanks to this investment from Welsh Government.

“We apologise for any inconvenience caused over the short period of time while the equipment is being installed but look forward to providing an improved level of care for Tenby community patients into the future.”

Patients needing further help or information should contact the radiology departments at Withybush Hospital on 01437 773385 or South Pembrokeshire Hospital on 01437 774018.

The health board is reminding people not to attend busy A&E departments unless they have a critical, life-threatening emergency and asking people to choose their healthcare services very carefully, so that only people with urgent or emergency care needs are being seen in A&E. 

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Farming

Police warn of disruption to traffic as farmers protests take place

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FARMERS protests are taking place in Aberystwyth and Carmarthen today (Feb 22.)

The police took to Facebook on Thursday morning saying: “We are aware of potential disruption to traffic in Carmarthen and Aberystwyth town centres from midday today.

“The traffic network in and out of the towns may also be affected.

“If you are planning on travelling in those areas today, please consider changing your route or journey time to avoid delays.

“We will update when we have further information.”

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