A special Pembrokeshire Herald report by Dennis O’Connor
SINCE becoming uninhabited in the late 1970’s, the corridors of one of South Pembrokeshire’s most iconic buildings are now once again beginning to echo with the ambitious sound of change.
Cutting through the red tape in order to progress plans to re-develop the fort at St. Catherine’s Island, located just off the foreshore at Tenby, is painfully slow but the Island project manager Pete Prosser remains hopeful that approval will be granted so that work may finally begin to open what would undoubtedly be a highly popular tourist attraction.
Built in 1870, the fort was constructed to repel foreign invaders, but its guns were not installed until 1886. It later became a private house before an anti-aircraft battery was installed at the front of the island during World War Two. Much later it became the unusual location of a zoo before the island was vacated in the seventies. It is the rich early history of the fort that the developer wants to once again bring to life.
After the breath-taking trek along the island, the vast granite and limestone fort is hugely impressive when viewed from the approach to the drawbridge. As you enter the building, senses are flooded with the history of the long narrow corridors and beautifully designed vaulted ceilings of the rooms. The tracks on-which the cannons moved are still visible and the significance of the positioning of gun slots throughout the fort provide rare snapshots of the town. Even in darkened recesses there is a real sense of safety within the old building.
Since becoming vacant, the fort has been plagued by trespassers, some of whom have accelerated the decay of this wonderful building by their selfishness. As a result, some rooms are in a pretty sorry state. However, despite this and being open the elements, the building remains defiant to these intrusions and progress can be made through the warren of corridors which reveal the sheer scale of the building. After climbing the steps which lead out to the top of the fort the natural instinct is to head for the nearest vantage point to take in the stunning views of nearby Caldey Island and the mainland and the views are truly magnificent.
Public access to the five-acre island and fort is strictly prohibited and it is not difficult to see why. After years of neglect and decay the area is not fully safe so this is the predominant issue which is being addressed by Pete Prosser and his team. They are dependent upon low tides and muscle power to transport equipment to the island and this means having to work a full shift whilst being cut off from the mainland but spirits are high and there is almost a tangible sense of excitement now that safety work is underway.
When full permission for the project is finally granted, visitors can look forward to an interactive experience which will bring the varied history of the fort to life through its themed rooms and characters.
Children will be able to explore the fort’s tunnels in safety while parents and grandparents enjoy the sense of history. There is even a plan for one room on the lower floor to be fitted with underwater camera controls to that unique access is given to the marine life around the island.
Over years, many people would have gazed at St Catherine’s Fort and would have longed to know what it would be like to see inside the garrisoned walls, so when the rare window of opportunity opened to meet Pete and his team on the island for a personal tour, it was the realisation of a little boy’s dream that has been many years in the making.
However, not everyone is happy with the proposal to save the building from total decay. If the plans were not sympathetic to the fort or its history then that would be understandable, but any opposition to the idea of preserving such an iconic historical monument should be viewed cautiously by the people of Pembrokeshire who also deserve to have the opportunity to be able to have their childhood dreams realised.
Cardigan radio back on air after long break
CARDIGAN’S much-loved local broadcasting station, Cardigan Radio, has made a triumphant return to the airwaves, now operating 24/7 following a short break due to financial constraints. The station’s revival is attributed to the dedication and significant financial backing of its founder, Bobby Kelly, who is also the brain behind the innovative platform, buildaradiostation.com.
In an effort to overcome previous challenges, including a temporary halt in broadcasting brought on by escalating operational costs, Kelly has been at the forefront of reengineering the station’s infrastructure. “From the moment we ceased broadcasting, my resolve was to bring Cardigan Radio back, stronger and more resilient. Our goal is to ensure the station’s longevity, providing our listeners with continuous, high-quality programming,” Kelly stated.
Kelly’s expertise in radio infrastructure is reflected in the station’s unique approach to internet radio, setting Cardigan Radio apart from its contemporaries. “By revamping our backend and opting for highly reputable open-source software over the commonly used inferior software and cloud storage, we’ve enhanced the reliability and quality of our broadcast,” Kelly elaborated. This innovative methodology has been detailed on buildaradiostation.com, aiming to uplift the standards within the internet radio sector.
Cardigan Radio, broadcasting globally, invites enthusiasts from around the world to join its volunteer team. The station is on the lookout for individuals with a passion for radio, regardless of their location, to contribute to its diverse and dynamic team. Prospective volunteers are encouraged to reach out via phone at (+44)01239 543025 or email [email protected].
Listeners can now enjoy a variety of fresh and engaging content around the clock at www.cardiganinternetradio.wales. Cardigan Radio, initially known as Cardigan Internet Radio Limited, has been a pivotal voice in the community for over two years. Despite facing setbacks, including vandalism and financial hurdles, the station’s spirit has never wavered, buoyed by community support and Kelly’s unwavering determination.
Locals’ petition challenges closure of St Davids Civic Amenity Site
IN RESPONSE to news of the imminent closure of the St Davids Civic Amenity Site, Pembrokeshire residents have mobilised, initiating a petition to persuade Pembrokeshire County Council to reverse its decision. Launched by Richard Davies on 22 February 2024, the campaign has quickly garnered support, reflecting widespread concern among the community.
The St Davids Civic Amenity Site, regarded by many as a vital community asset, faces the threat of closure, a move that has prompted fears of environmental degradation, job losses, and a decline in recycling efforts. The petition underscores the site’s importance not merely as a waste disposal facility but as a pillar of environmental responsibility and community welfare.
One of the primary concerns raised by the petition is the potential increase in fly-tipping, a problem that has seen a rise across the UK. The absence of a local facility could encourage the illegal dumping of waste, jeopardising the beauty of Pembrokeshire’s landscapes and posing a risk to wildlife and natural habitats.
The closure, coming at a time of proposed council tax increases, also poses a threat to employment for those working at the site. In a region where job opportunities are cherished, the loss could have significant repercussions on families and the local economy. Moreover, the site’s role in facilitating community recycling initiatives stands as a testament to Pembrokeshire’s commitment to sustainable living. Its closure would mark a regressive step in these efforts.
The petition appeals to the Pembrokeshire County Council to reconsider the closure, highlighting the site’s invaluable contributions to environmental protection and community well-being. The community’s message is clear: the St Davids Civic Amenity Site plays a crucial role in sustaining the local environment and fostering a culture of recycling and sustainability.
As the petition continues to attract signatures, it represents a collective call to action from the residents of Pembrokeshire, urging their local council to maintain the operation of the St Davids Civic Amenity Site. The community awaits the council’s response, hopeful for a resolution that preserves this essential community resource.
Richard Davies, Chairman Solva Community Council said: “Please sign and share this petition. St Davids civic amenity site has been earmarked for closure.
“This is a very important site especially with the new recycling law for businesses coming into force in April.”
Success of People PWR pilot supporting families celebrated
PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL and Citizens Advice Pembrokeshire (CAP) are celebrating the success of their welfare rights focused project People PWR (Pembrokeshire Welfare Rights).
People PWR launched in 2023 and is a pilot project that takes a holistic approach to supporting families affected by or at risk of poverty and the associated effects.
Inspired by the success of Maximise! in Scotland, the People PWR team focus on engaging with families who have school age children, with a clear aim of creating greater financial stability for households, addressing inequalities and improving financial capability.
Whilst families can self-refer into the project, schools are the main referral route, and the close working links developed between CAP and Pembrokeshire Schools has been key to the success of this project.
Once a referral is accepted they conduct in essence a financial MOT, focusing on welfare rights and income maximisation, ensuring that clients are claiming all that they are entitled to whilst at the same time helping families to identify and address the underlying issues contributing to hardship.
In 2023, 259 families benefitted from the support of People PWR and the team have realised financial gains for local families of £118, 347 in unclaimed benefits. The average amount gained for each family was £2,878.
However, it’s about more than just the money, there is also a lasting legacy for families whereby they have a better understanding, improved confidence and often a feeling of empowerment that can help them achieve a more positive financial future.
James White, Head of Engagement and Communities, said: “I am very pleased with what People PWR has already achieved in its first year.
“More and more clients are being helped as word about the service has spread, and almost £120,000 has been put into the pockets of Pembrokeshire residents, most of which will be spent locally.
“For some clients this service has been life-changing. I look forward to seeing the project continue to grow and further expand its reach in the year ahead.”
Geraldine Murphy, CEO of Citizens Advice Pembrokeshire, said: “In this first year of the project, our team of three advisers are going from strength to strength.
“They’re enthusiastic about helping parents to find solutions to their financial problems. They have forged strong links with schools and community organisations and headteachers and engagement officers tell us they have already seen the benefit of our service to their parents and children. Together we are building an effective and joined-up approach to helping families.”
If you are a family with a school age child in Pembrokeshire and think that you could benefit from connecting with the People PWR team, please visit the Pembrokeshire CAB website for more project information or email [email protected] to contact the team directly to request support.
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