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Community facilities across Wales benefit from ‘crucial’ additional funds to meet rising costs

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COMMUNITY facilities across Wales are set to benefit from ‘crucial’ additional Welsh Government funding enabling them to complete refurbishment works.

The projects had struggled to stay within their original budgets due to rising costs of building supplies.

More than £303,000 will go towards additional funding for five larger projects.

In total fifteen projects are receiving funding totalling £467,000 in this round of the Community Facilities Programme. This included £164,000 towards ten smaller projects, all receiving under £25,000 grants.

Small amounts of grant funding can provide a big change for community facilities.

The programme funds the purchase and improvement of facilities which provide opportunities for local people to improve their day to day lives.

The smaller projects include £13,000 towards making a woodland space at Bluegreen Cymru in Glanteifi Woods, Pembrokeshire more accessible all year round through new paths, a log burner and a covered area; £20,000 towards urgent repairs to the roof to prevent water ingress at St Thomas Church Hall in Clydach Vale, RCT; £11,000 towards upgrading the kitchen and the play space to create a warm hub during the winter months at Victory Church in Cwmbran; and £17,870 towards an extension to the workshop and energy saving improvements at Brighter Futures in Rhyl, Denbighshire.

The larger projects include £50,000 towards new windows to make the building more sustainable for energy costs at New Life Church in Cardigan, Ceredigion; £50,000 towards improving sound insulation and renovating an outbuilding into a flexible space for music, dance and arts workshops at Tabernacl Bethesda in Gwynedd; and £87,100 towards refurbishing a community hub and installing new windows to make it more energy efficient at Hirwaun YMCA in RCT.

Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt said: “This additional funding is crucial to allow these larger projects to be completed so they can benefit communities across Wales.

“Due to rising costs for materials they have seen their budgets squeezed as they neared completion. They wouldn’t have been able to carry out essential works like roof repairs, new windows and energy saving improvements if it wasn’t for our Community Facilities Programme.

“I hope everyone gets to enjoy these community facilities once they are finished and look forward to hearing about their progress.”

Stephen Johnson, sustainability co-ordinator at Brighter Futures in Rhyl, said the funding had made a massive difference to them.

“Thanks to this funding we have been able to extend the workshop and can get more people into it,” he said.

“We have been planning this for a long time, but now we are able to do it. It’s perfect timing as the numbers of people wanting to come are getting higher and higher.”

He added: “The energy saving improvements have also saved us so much money with our bills. People don’t want to stay in their houses, so they are able to come here and keep warm. We have started staying open six days a week now.”

Sue Lewis, the leading project officer on Aberporth Village Hall in Ceredigion, where work includes rebuilding one property and modernising and refurbishing an adjoining building, said they were hoping to be finished in time for Christmas next year.

“This funding has basically made the difference between the project happening or not,” she said.

“It’s going to completely transform our community. When it’s finished we will have this focal point in the village. It will be a warm and welcoming community hub that everyone can use.”

Clyde Thomas, Lead Pastor at Victory Church in Cwmbran, said: “The funding provided will allow us to upgrade our front of house space, creating a great place to work, play and keep warm and fed.

“With times becoming increasingly more challenging for many local families, the church seeks to be a valuable communal connection point offering hope and help to all.”

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Pembrokeshire embraces future with new e-bike scheme

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL, under the chairmanship of Thomas Baden Tudor, has announced an exciting new initiative aimed at boosting sustainable transportation across the region. The council has introduced a “pay as you go” electric bike (E-Bike) service, now available in Haverfordwest, Fishguard, Goodwick, and Tenby as part of a 12-month trial that commenced on 8th April 2024.

The scheme, managed by Zeus Mobility, features the Zip bikes—electrically powered bicycles designed to make cycling less strenuous and more accessible to a broader demographic. Each location will start with 10 E-Bikes, with plans to increase the fleet to 50 by summer. The service will include three main charging stations and numerous satellite bays for convenient access and returns.

Priced competitively, the E-Bikes can be hired for £3.00 for the first hour, with subsequent time billed at 5p per minute. Daily and weekly rates are also available, offering users more flexibility for longer trips. The bikes are aimed at reducing reliance on motor vehicles, promoting healthier living, and contributing to national decarbonisation targets.

Councillor Tudor tested the new bikes himself, describing the experience as “brilliant fun for the whole family” and encouraging all residents and visitors to give them a try. The initiative is part of a broader effort by the council to offer eco-friendly travel options that align with environmental objectives.

To use the E-Bikes, riders need to download the Zipp Mobility app, which allows for bike unlocking, ride tracking, and payment. The app also provides information on bike locations, parking bays, and cycling routes within the county.

Funded by a £150,000 grant from the Swansea Bay and South West Wales Metro, the project focuses solely on this E-Bike trial, aiming to make Pembrokeshire a leader in sustainable travel. For further details on hiring and operating the E-Bikes, residents can visit the Cycle Pembrokeshire webpage or contact the team directly via email at [email protected].

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Miracle pup finds her forever home after heart-wrenching journey

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AERIAL, a remarkable six-legged spaniel, has captured hearts worldwide, culminating in her adoption this week. Found abandoned in a Pembrokeshire car park and famously nicknamed after Disney’s Little Mermaid due to her unique condition, Ariel’s journey from despair to joy is nothing short of miraculous.

In September 2023, the then 11-week-old puppy was discovered outside a B&M store in a neglected state. Suffering from severe physical anomalies including two extra hind limbs and an additional vulva, Ariel faced daunting challenges. A subsequent medical examination revealed a more complicated internal scenario: a missing kidney and a malformed pelvis that jeopardised her mobility.

Despite the grim prognosis, Ariel’s plight touched many, leading to a worldwide fundraising campaign that raised approximately £15,000. These funds enabled her to undergo critical surgeries at Langford Vets Small Animal Referral Hospital, Somerset, where surgeons successfully removed the surplus limbs and preserved her four functional ones.

“Both procedures went well, and remarkably, Ariel was walking and eating by the next day,” explained Mikey Lawlor, founder of Greenacres Rescue, where Ariel was rehabilitated. “It was crucial that we avoided any post-operative infections, but she’s been in the best hands,” he added, reflecting on the complexities of her care.

Ariel’s recovery was supported by numerous vet visits, specialised surgeries, and extensive physiotherapy. Her resilience and endearing character garnered media attention globally, from radio and television appearances to newspaper features, highlighting her inspirational battle for a normal life.

“We are absolutely thrilled to announce that Ariel has been officially adopted,” announced a recent post by Greenacres Rescue. “Her journey of transformation from a discarded pup to a beloved family pet has been extraordinary.”

The post also extended a heartfelt thank you to June, Ariel’s dedicated foster mother, whose relentless support was pivotal during the rehabilitation process. “June’s care and energy have been instrumental in Ariel’s recovery,” the rescue centre noted.

Surgeon Aaron Lutchman, who led Ariel’s medical team, remarked on her progress, “She’s bounced back and is a happy little dog. We hope she goes on to lead a fabulous life.”

As Ariel embarks on this new chapter with her adoptive family, her story remains a profound testament to the power of community support and the unwavering spirit of animals overcoming adversity. Greenacres Rescue encapsulates this sentiment in their message, “Ariel is symbolic of everything we stand for—love, hope, and the chance for a new beginning.”

For further updates on Ariel and other rescue stories, follow Greenacres Rescue on their social media platforms.

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Burned down hotel to be used for social housing

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A SCHEME to build 38 affordable and social housing units on the site of the fire-ravaged former Cleddau Bridge Hotel, Pembroke Dock is expected to be backed by senior Pembrokeshire councillors next week.

Members of Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet, meeting on April 22, are recommended to support a contract with developer Castell Group Ltd for the mix of affordable homes and social housing units at the site, with the actual contract details expected to be discussed in a private and confidential session.

A report for members ahead of the meeting says: “The potential development site on the former Cleddau Bridge Hotel site, Pembroke Dock has been up for sale for some time, and its purchase by Castell Group Ltd (‘Castell’) is now imminent.

“Following completion of their purchase, Castell will submit an application for planning consent to develop the land for affordable and social housing. It would see the development of a high-profile site with visual impact on surrounding areas that has sat dormant for many years.”

Castell has approached the housing service to determine whether there is an interest in working with them to bring forward the development as a housing site, the report says.

Castell Construction Ltd, the delivery arm of Castell, specialises in the construction of affordable / social housing, typically for registered social landlords across south Wales.

An initial proposal says the development, if backed, would see 12 one-bedroom flats, 15 two-bed houses, five three-bed, two four-bed, and four two-bed bungalows, the report adding: “This site would help towards both the council’s 300 new home target and also Welsh Government’s 20,000 new homes target.”

It adds: “The proposal by Castell Construction Ltd is for a development programme of 18 months following planning permission being secured. Castell Construction Ltd estimate commencing the development in March 2025, which would mean completion in autumn 2026.”

Delegation of the decision to enter into the works contract to the Director for Social Services and Housing is sought, and Cabinet is also being asked to delegate the decision to proceed with the land acquisition to the Assistant Chief Executive.

The development package would be part-funded from the housing revenue account, the remainder from the Social Housing Grant and/or second homes premium for affordable housing if it becomes available for the Housing Service to use in this manner.

The proposals would be subjected to an as-yet unsubmitted planning application; if granted Castell Construction Ltd hopes to start the development in March 2025, finishing in autumn 2026.

In 2023, an unrelated application by a different applicant, to demolish the remnants of the hotel and replace it with a care home was approved.

In a prime location at one of the entrances to Pembroke Dock the former Cleddau Bridge Hotel has been derelict since a fire in March 2019, which brought emergency services from as far afield as Ammanford, Aberystwyth and Swansea.

Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service previously said the fire was started by a deliberate act.

Following a fire investigation, Dyfed-Powys Police said they found there to be insufficient evidence to identify a suspect.

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