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Pure West manager Toby Ellis tells MPs its been ‘impossible’ for him to get a local FM licence



THE WELSH AFFAIRS COMMITTEE met in Parliament this week to discuss radio broadcasting in Wales (Mar 1).

Toby Ellis, Station Manager, Director and Broadcaster, Pure West Radio was joined by Terry Mann, Station Manager, GTFM Radio and Martin Mumford, Managing Director, Nation Broadcasting as witnesses for Wednesday’s morning session.

Chaired Preseli MP by Stephen Crabb, the two hour meeting provided an interesting insight into the state of radio broadcasting in Wales, and more importantly the challenges of keeping radio relevant to local listeners at a time when many larger broadcasters were amalgamating output across multiple stations to cut costs.

During the session it became obvious that things need to change in Wales when it comes to radio broadcasting, and that the status quo could no be maintained. All the witnesses said that the regulator Ofcom could be doing a lot more to support the future of radio services in Wales, ecpecially when it comes to providing licences to new up and coming stations

Toby Ellis was the first in the hot seat. Asked why Pure West Radio was not on FM, and was relying on internet broadcasting, he explained it was down to red tape.

Toby Ellis said: “We haven’t been able to put an application in; that has been the issue.

“Ofcom told us that there has been no community licence available in Pembrokeshire for you . There is no local commercial radio licence, because that is already occupied until 2025.

“That is it, there is no opportunity for you. However, you can apply for a small-scale DAB, but that rollout has taken some time.

“We’re waiting on the award on that – its exciting because we will be able to explore the DAB market. That’s great – but what about FM – you’ve said you’re not turning it off until 2030 and you’re not opening any FM licences in community or local radio – that is a problem.

Asked if he thought that the government regulator was the problem facing radio broadcasters in Wales, Mr Ellis said: “There are problems with Ofcom. We understand their vision and where it needs to go – but certainly stations like ours have suffered.

“We’re coming up to our fifth birthday on April 4 – its been a huge uphill struggle for us from day dot. Have I been deterred a few times – yes many-a-time. I could stack shelves in Tesco and have less stress and probably earn a lot more money.

“We do it because we are passionate about what we do, and we get a lot of people who get incredibly galvanised by it… There shouldn’t be the constraints we’re having.

“We should be able to access more people and if we had an FM licence we would be more self sufficient – we would create more jobs and we would be able to do what we do better.”
Toby Ellis said if his company had a licence he would have more revenue, and he would be more free from “financial constraints” and do more locally including creating a radio academy and launching a B-Tech in Pembrokeshire College.

“We do not want to go begging for money, when money should be spent in other areas. The NHS locally is in an awful state. The waiting times in our local A&E are shocking. I’d rather that money is spent on nurses than local radio. We can get by – with the correct licences and support from Ofcom and government we would certainly be able to flourish further.”

In summary, anyone wanting to start a community radio station in Wales is stuck with using the internet to broadcast, or local DAB radio – which is not yet operational in all areas of Wales. This is expensive, and for Pure West Radio they would need to rent space on two tranmitters to cover the whole of Pembrokeshire.

FM, while is still surives, would be the cheaper and more viable option for Pure West.

The next witness was Terry Mann, Station Manager, GTFM Radio, based in South Wales. He echoed what Mr Ellis had said and confirmed that Ofcom was not issuing any FM licences, instead concentrating on small-scale DAB, at the behest of the government.


The last witness was Martin Mumford, Managing Director, Nation Broadcasting. Chair Stephen Crabb MP asked him how local radio was now.

Stephen Crabb asked: “The vision which Toby Ellis outlined regards a strong role for start up stations serving their communities with real time information communicated to very local audiences, does that have a future in local radio?”

Mr Mumford explained that Nation Radio started in Pembrokeshire over 20 years ago with Radio Pembrokeshire and has been expanding ever since. He explained that nation was operating as much outside Wales as it does in Wales.

“We have been hindered in our expansion because of the lack of radio frequency. Small scale DAB is order-of-the-day
Mr Mumford explained that five years ago 90% of revenue for Nation’s radio stations came from ad sales made by an ‘army of salespeople’ – but that has now shifted to 50%, with the other 50% coming from advertising agencies. He also said that programmatic advertising – advertising through a smart speaker which is tailored to you – is something that Nation are now looking to in the near future..

Mr Mumford also explained that music requirements for radio stations should be done away with. He said that Radio Pembrokeshire has a licence requirement to play pop music – and for example if they wanted to play a classical track they were not allowed. Stephen Crabb agreed – saying that it should be scrapped but the requirement for local news should be kept.

Asked by Stephen Crabb what his definition of local news was, Mr Mumford said that he thought that local news was provided on a national level on his stations in Wales – He said that BBC Radio Wales and Radio Cymru – which cost £24m per year to operate do news on a Wales-wide level and therefore he felt it was not for Nation to do things more locally if the BBC weren’t


Speaking after the Parliamentary session Toby Ellis posted on social media, saying: “Why isn’t Pure West Radio on FM or DAB? A question I get asked on a regular basis. Simply we can’t get a licence, today I went right to the top as I got to ask this question to MPs at the Houses of Parliament at an enquiry into local radio in Wales.

“It was an honour to be invited to give evidence and was a wonderful surprise to have Megan Absalom-Lowe from Haverfordwest High Radio and her family showing support at the hearing.

“We have hopefully been heard loud and clear so we can truly put the local back into local radio and get on the radio waves!”

Toby Ellis, Megan Absalom-Lowe and Mathew Rickard at The Houses of Parliament

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Haverfordwest mayor vote descends into chaos as fiery dispute breaks out among councillors



SCENES of pandemonium, including three councillors resigning and the mayor being called a disgrace to the town, broke out during the election of Haverfordwest’s mayor for the forthcoming year.

For most councils the election of mayor is almost a formality, the deputy mayor traditionally taking on the role.

However, Haverfordwest took a somewhat different view to allowing Councillor Jill Owens, a decorated former police sergeant who was once forced to resign after falling in love with an armed robber, to slide seamlessly into the role.

Despite there being no argument about Cllr Owen’s fitness for the role, the March meeting of the town council contained an agenda item considering applications for the 2023-24 mayor, with both Cllr Owens and Cllr Rhys Evans listed.

Haverfordwest Deputy Mayor and former Dyfed-Powys police sergeant Jill Owens at her home in Havefordwest – Photo: Ben Birchall / PA Media


From the outset of the meeting, the “wisdom and integrity” of that decision was questioned, with current mayor Alan Buckfield and town clerk Juliet Raymond coming in for flak.

Former town councillor Peter Lewis was one of several former town mayors present as members of the public, along with county councillor Tim Evans.

Mr Lewis said: “This council is being asked for the first time in its history to break its own rules,” adding that he understood no other nominations could be received if the deputy mayor had offered to stand – a motion in the meeting itself being needed to overcome this.

Citing the code of conduct, members raised concerns of “pre-determination,” with claims some councillors had already made their intention to vote for Cllr Evans clear.

Cllr Evans, formally making a proposal he be considered for election, said: “I have been approached by several members of the community asking if I would stand as mayor,” adding: “I think it would be negligent of me not to stand.”

Cllr Owens said the decision to take additional nominations was against the advice of One Voice Wales – the national representative body for community and tow councils in Wales – and that four councillors had pre-determined their vote by saying they would vote for Cllr Evans.

“There is a procedure in place, for hundreds and hundreds of years in this town, this hasn’t happened before.”


She told the mayor: “You, as a council – mayor – are looking to ride roughshod over the Code of Conduct, you will be responsible to the Ombudsman.”

She later added: “I would just like to put on record you should be ashamed of yourself Mayor, you and the clerk have ignored advice. It’s disgusting the way you have conducted this,” adding:  “You [Clerk Juliet Raymond] are a clerk on this council and you are not impartial.”

Cllr Buckfield, attempting to steer the meeting along, said: “You should be talking about procedure, not personality.”

He later said: “A chair can only do what council wants me to.”

Cllr Owens replied: “You are duty bound to abide by standing orders and the code [of conduct]; these people [the four said to have made their voting intentions clear] should’ve left. You [Cllr Buckfield] are a disgrace to the town.”

Councillor Jonathan Twigg proposed members actually support Cllr Owens taking over as mayor, a call that was not accepted by the mayor.

Members then voted to consider Cllr Evans take on the role of mayor, which was defeated.

After that vote failed, several councillors were seen leaving the meeting, with Councillor Richard Blacklaw-Jones, Councillor Gareth Roberts, and Councillor Rhys Evans formally resigning the following day.

After the deputy mayor was formally adopted as mayor for the following year, Cllr Evans said: “I just want to say – in the most humble way – congratulations. This council should always remember we are here to serve the people of the town.”

Cllr Owens said: “I am happy for the history of the town that the right result has happened.

“There are clear fractures in this council, let’s now try and move together and work together for the good of this town, and do a good job, let’s all support each other and work to one goal.”


Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Owens said: “It’s never, ever happened in 900 years, the town council of Haverfordwest needs to change, it needs to be more open and transparent, at the end of the day justice did prevail.

“It wasn’t about me becoming mayor, it was about more being in the right place for the town, and that history continuing.”

Also speaking after the meeting, Mayor Alan Buckfield said: “I believe in democracy, I believe people have the right to express themselves in a proper and distinguished manner. The whole point of the debate was to test the standing order; to my mind the only way to test that was by voting.”

Relating to comments made about his fitness to drive he said: “In a debate on procedure and the interpretation of Standing Orders, there should be no place for personal remarks or references to illness and disability.”

He also expressed his concern about criticism of the clerk: “What really worried me about that meeting was the way the clerk was spoken to, the duty of care towards the clerk was sadly lacking.”

Clerk Juliet Raymond said: “Prior to the March full council meeting, I passed on the impartial advice given by One Voice Wales to every member.  This advice was requested by Councillor Jill Owens, Councillor Martin Lewis and Councillor Jonathan Twigg.”

Councillors Richard Blacklaw-Jones, Gareth Roberts and Rhys Evans have all been contacted for a comment.

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Residents challenge Carmarthenshire Council on abolition of Special Landscapes



RESIDENTS publicly challenged Carmarthenshire County Council’s radical plan to scrap Carmarthenshire’s 18 ‘Special Landscape Areas’ at the Monday’s Cabinet Meeting at County Hall.

Planning Lead Cllr Ann Davies was grilled about the Council’s plan to axe Carmarthenshire’s 18 special landscapes and changes to its policy on putting cables underground.

Carmarthenshire is well known and widely appreciated for its beautiful unspoilt countryside. So much so that Carmarthenshire County Council had formally designated 18 such areas in its Local Development Plan, including the Towy and Cothi Valleys. Thereby affording protection within the planning system from detrimental development.

Significantly, these designations have been successfully used by residents to stop pylons and windfarms. These have included the Llanllwni Mountain Windfarm in 2014 and the Brechfa Windfarm cables where they now cross the Towy Valley underground.

But these Special Landscape Areas – and the protection the designation carries – are now being swept away by the new Local Development Plan currently under consultation.

Residents are concerned that the new Local Development Plan ‘double downgrades’ Carmarthenshire’s landscapes. Not only does it strip residents of an important tool to object to destructive development, it also slashes the amount of potential compensation or mitigation available. Great for developers – not so good for residents. And a major blow to the local tourism economy, which is based on the county’s greatest asset: our special, historic landscapes.

Residents’ campaigner Havard Hughes commented: “Carmarthenshire County Council has been quick to talk tough on pylons. However, their actions on the local plan speak louder than these words and jeopardise our landscapes. By taking this risky approach to our landscapes they are putting our tourism economy and heritage in jeopardy.

Natural Resources Wales has blown the whistle on the Council’s plans by questioning the loss of the Special Landscape Areas such as the Towy Valley. Yet Carmarthenshire County Council seems unwilling or unable to produce the evidence base for abolishing the Special Landscapes designation.

Councils across Wales are coming under huge pressure from developers to give them more freedom to put up pylons, windfarms and solar arrays. We fear that this plan as it stands will strip residents of tried and tested protections. These protections are good enough for our neighbouring counties such as Ceredigion and Swansea so why not Carmarthenshire?

The Plaid Cymru administration’s new Local Development Plan is the most radical rewriting of our planning rules since the creation of Carmarthenshire County Council. We will now be challenging them under the Freedom of Information Act to uncover the evidence for these changes.”

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Dramatic early hours rescue of 18-year-old in water by Angle RNLI



THE RNLI Angle lifeboat launched on service shortly after 4am on Tuesday morning (Mar 28) to assist in the search for a missing 18-year-old in the Milford area.

The RNLI said on Facebook: “The lifeboat launched and proceeded to conduct a search from Conduit Beach, heading east.

“Once off Milford Docks entrance, the Y boat was deployed to conduct a more thorough inshore search, while the lifeboat continued east. Arriving at Wards Pier, the lifeboat intended to search back to the west to close up on the Y boat.

“Not long after, the crew spotted a person running down the coast path towards the beach below the Rath, followed by hearing cries for help.

“Using search lights, the crew then sighted a person in difficulty in the water waving their arms.

“The lifeboat was manoeuvred into the shallow water, close inshore with little sea room left and the casualty was brought alongside.

“With very little water below the lifeboat, and drifting ever closer to the shore the casualty was assisted into the lifting strops by the Y boat crew and then recovered from the water using the All-Weather Lifeboat man overboard recovery A frame and lifting tackle.

The rescue charity added: “With the casualty now onboard and receiving attention from our casualty care trained crew members, the lifeboat headed to the Port Authority jetty to warm up the casualty and await further assistance.

“Shortly after securing alongside, the crew were joined by members of Dale Coastguard Rescue Team and officers from Dyfed-Powys police.

“With the casualty now warmed slightly, they were walked off the lifeboat and handed over into the care of the police.

“Content that no further assistance was required from the lifeboat, the crew were stood down by the coastguard to return to station. After making the short journey home, the lifeboat was back on station and readied for service once again at 5:30am.”

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