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Welsh 20mph Limit Policy: Controversy and Confusion

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THE WELSH GOVERNMENT’S newly introduced 20mph speed limit policy has come under fire following a series of conflicting statements and criticisms over its implementation and potential economic implications.

Despite the Welsh Government’s earlier claim in a press release that fire service staff would work to stop speeding motorists in 20mph areas, a subsequent statement confirmed that only the Police and GoSafe would be responsible for enforcing the speed limit. This contradicts the assertion that motorists would be offered an educational video by fire service staff as an alternative to fines or prosecution.

Welsh Conservative Shadow Transport Minister, Natasha Asghar MS, criticised the conflicting information, stating, “It does nothing more than confuse motorists already in the dark due to Labour’s failed awareness campaign.” She further highlighted the potential financial implications of the policy, asserting that it would cost the Welsh economy an estimated £4.5 billion.

Further muddying the waters, the Shadow Minister for North Wales, Darren Millar MS, said that the Labour Government must reconsider its plans for the 20mph limit, emphasising that the Welsh Government appears to lack the necessary resources to police the scheme effectively.

However, a spokesperson for the Welsh Government emphasised the role of fire officers in the educational side of the roll-out, highlighting their frequent involvement in traffic collision aftercare. They were keen to clarify that fire officers would not be diverted from their regular duties.

Further controversies have arisen over the 20mph policy. An investigation by the Welsh Conservatives discovered instances of a Labour council removing 20mph signs outside schools before the official roll-out of the new speed limit. Natasha Asghar MS termed the move as “reckless and irresponsible”, adding that it risks the safety of children, especially as pupils return after summer holidays.

Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies MS, called for urgent clarification from the First Minister regarding the impact on the Welsh NHS budget, considering the financial implications of the speed limit change.

The 20mph speed limit policy, which was aimed at improving road safety, has inadvertently ignited concerns over its financial implications, clarity of enforcement, and potential risks to child safety due to premature removal of speed limit signs outside schools. The coming weeks will determine how these issues are addressed as the policy comes into effect.

DRAKEFORD LEARNS OF IMPACT

First Minister Mark Drakeford this week (Thursday, Sept 7) visited one of the first areas in Wales to trial the new 20mph limit to learn more about the impact of the “biggest step-change in community safety in a generation.”

With just 10 days to go before the default 20mph speed limit will be introduced across Wales, the First Minister met business owners, parents and school children in St Brides Major, in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Wales will become the first part of the UK to introduce a nationwide 20mph speed limit as most residential roads, which currently have a 30mph speed limit, switch to 20mph on Sunday, September 17.

St Brides Major was one of the first trial sites for the 20mph speed limit.

While visiting the village, the First Minister met with B&B owners Chris and Julie Davies who are happy with the slower speeds and said they make a positive difference to St Brides. Local community members who were successful in campaigning for safer streets through the group Safer St Brides were also keen to share their stories during the First Minister’s visit.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “Reducing speeds not only saves lives, it helps build safer communities for everyone, including motorists – better places to live our lives.

“It will help make our streets quieter, reducing noise pollution, and slower speeds will give more people the confidence to cycle and walk around their local areas and encourage children to play outdoors.

“Evidence from around the world is clear – reducing speed limits reduces collisions and saves lives.”

Wales will follow a similar approach taken in Spain where the speed limit on the majority of roads was changed to 30km/h in 2019.

Since then, Spain has reported 20% fewer urban road deaths, and fatalities have reduced by 34% for cyclists and 24% for pedestrians.

Research shows the 20mph default speed limit could save £92m a year by reducing the number of deaths and injuries. It could also help to reduce pressure on the NHS from a reduction in injuries from road traffic collisions.

Over the first decade, it is estimated a lower speed limit will save up to 100 lives and 20,000 casualties.

The change comes after four years of work with local authorities, police, and road safety experts to design a change in the law.

Local owner of St Bridget’s Farm B&B, Chris Davies said: “The people of St Brides have worked hard to get speeds lowered, and since the introduction of 20mph I’m pleased to say we’ve seen a noticeable difference in people travelling slower through the village and a lot less noise from speeding cars as a result.

“It now feels much safer for local people, especially children, and it’s lovely for guests at our B&B to be able to enjoy being out and about in the village.”

One of the campaigners for Safer St Brides, Nia Lloyd-Knott added: “The rollout of 20mph in St Brides Major has been fantastic. As a village we campaigned for slower speeds for a long time, so we were delighted to be chosen as one of the early adopters of 20mph.

“The village has a lot of families who are very keen walkers and cyclists, so the introduction of slower speeds has had a huge impact for the whole village, with many more parents feeling comfortable to let their children travel to the local school independently.”

Community

Pembrokeshire’s ‘Pure West Radio’ celebrates sixth birthday

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THERE ain’t no birthday like a Pure West birthday! 

Pure West Radio – Pembrokeshire’s multi-award-winning radio station is celebrating its sixth birthday this month – and is ready to move up a gear when it starts broadcasting on DAB later this summer. 

Pure West, which now has a staff of 12, and a team of over 90 volunteers bringing news, sport, entertainment and information to the airwaves of Pembrokeshire, celebrated its sixth anniversary on April 4 – and decided to share its celebrations with its loyal listeners – giving no fewer than 1,100 of them free tickets to some top local events. 

For the Pure West Team the birthday was marked with a staff party at Seven Spice in Haverfordwest – but for listeners the treats were more varied. 

Pure West Radio joined forces with Ocky White Travel – itself celebrating a 60th anniversary – to give away a cruise holiday to one lucky winner. On April 3 nurse Ffion Thomas, from Johnston, was announced as the winner of the seven-day P&O cruise to the Norwegian Fjords. She is taking her mum along with her as a 60th birthday treat when the Iona sets sail from Southampton on May 18. 

And the giveaways didn’t stop there… Mark Edwards kindly shared 100 free tickets for a celebratory Silent Disco at Eddie Rocks, in Haverfordwest, that were snapped up within an hour – so a hundred more were released; Pure West Radio also teamed up with Hangar 5, also in Haverfordwest, and offered two one-hour free bounces for listeners, but again demand far outweighed expectations, so another hour’s bounce was provided. 

In addition, Pure West Radio joined forces with The Palace Cinema, in Haverfordwest, for a free showing of Shrek – the Movie – but, yet again, a second showing had to be booked to accommodate all those who wanted tickets. 

And sports fans haven’t been left out of the party – Haverfordwest County AFC, media partners of Pure West, have supplied 100 free tickets for the Bluebrids final home game of the season against Colwyn Bay to the broadcaster’s listeners. 

“Our birthday celebrations were immense,” said Toby Ellis, Station Manager, “We gave away 1,100 free tickets to local events to make sure our dedicated listeners and followers were able to join in the party… putting a smile on the faces of more than a thousand Pembrokeshire people. 

“And while the birthday celebrations are winding down – Pure West Radio – the only radio station based in Pembrokeshire – is gearing up for the next phase in our story. 

“The licence for DAB broadcasting is in place – and we hope to go live within the next few months. 

“We’ve expanded our staff and are currently looking for a full-time show producer – so anyone interested should email [email protected] to find out more, and we have some new sponsors – Ocky White Travel is now the official sponsor of Pure West’s daytime show and Folly Farm sponsors the breakfast show. 

“And we’ve teamed up with yet more Pembrokeshire businesses who are taking advantage of our huge reach to spread their message across the county. 

“There really is something for everyone on Pure West Radio – tune in via app, smart speaker and check out our website for the latest going on in Pembrokeshire, he added.” 

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Crime

Suspended sentence for distribution and possession of child abuse images

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IN a controversial decision at Swansea Crown Court, 20-year-old Euwyn Draper of Goat Street, Haverfordwest, has been spared prison time despite admitting to possessing and distributing indecent images of children.

The court heard that Draper pleaded guilty to charges involving 74 Category A images — the most severe — along with 102 Category B and 385 Category C images. These were amassed and shared over a period last year, with specific distributions occurring on November 4, 2022.

Prosecutor Sian Cutter detailed that the investigation began with a raid at Draper’s residence on December 21, 2022. Although Draper was not present, and initial searches of his devices at his home returned no results, subsequent actions led to his arrest at his workplace. Upon confronting law enforcement, Draper immediately acknowledged his awareness of the reasons for their presence, lamenting, “I know why you’re here. I don’t do it anymore. I’m sorry.”

Further examination of his phone revealed not only the indecent images but also concerning internet searches and conversations indicating a focus on children. Notably, Draper had sent one image of each category to a contact named “Ralph” via WhatsApp.

Despite these admissions, Draper, who has no prior convictions, denied a sexual interest in children during his interview.

Representing Draper, defence lawyer Dan Griffiths stressed the defendant’s recognition of the gravity of his offences and highlighted his client’s age and immaturity at the time of the offences. The court also considered the prolonged period since the arrest to the trial, a span of 16 months.

Judge Geraint Walters addressed the court, underscoring the public’s disdain for such crimes and the harsh reality behind the images. “These are real children, they are not actors,” Judge Walters emphasized, condemning the market that drives such exploitative material.

Ultimately, Draper received a suspended sentence of 12 months for distribution and six months, concurrent, for making the images. Over the next two years, he must complete the Horizon programme and 30 days of rehabilitation activities. Additionally, Draper will be registered as a sex offender and is subject to a sexual harm prevention order for ten years.

Judge Walters concluded with a stern admonition for Draper to commit to rehabilitation and to move past this “dark phase” in his life, marking a pivotal moment for the young defendant and the community’s ongoing battle against such digital crimes.

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Community

The Harbourmaster: Special rail excursion draws crowds to Milford Haven

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MILFORD HAVEN witnessed an extraordinary event yesterday as a special charter train, operated by UK Railtours, made a unique visit to the town, drawing in 500 railway enthusiasts. Departing from London Paddington, the 13-carriage train, which included both first class and standard accommodations, travelled off the usual passenger routes to provide a scenic journey along the south Wales coast.

Starting the day with pick-ups from various locations including Slough, Reading, Swindon, and Bristol Parkway, the train ventured through the Severn Tunnel into Wales, showcasing a series of rarely used freight tracks. Notably, the locomotive switched at Newport to a pair of GBRf Class 66 freight engines, enhancing the experience for those on board by traversing tracks seldom seen by passenger services.

The journey took passengers through Cardiff, Bridgend, and Port Talbot Parkway, deviating at Court Sart Junction to follow the diversionary Swansea District line. The train paused at various locations including Llanelli and Haverfordwest, where passengers enjoyed a 90-minute break while the train was serviced.

A major highlight of the trip was the exploration of the seldom-visited Robeston branch, a treat for the rail enthusiasts who filled the train to capacity, necessitating a waiting list for hopeful travellers. The venture concluded at Milford Haven, where passengers disembarked for a photo session before the train commenced its return journey to London, including a final scenic pass via the Swansea Avoiding line and the Bishton flyover.

Local Councillor Nicola Harteveld of Milford Haven Town Council expressed delight at the influx of visitors, noting, “What an incredible sight at Milford Waterfront today with passengers enjoying our local scenery. It’s a testament to the unique charm and appeal of special rail tours.”

First class passengers were treated to The Great British Breakfast and a four-course dinner, while a buffet car served those in standard class, ensuring all passengers enjoyed their journey with comfort and style.

This tour, fully booked in all classes, underscores the continuing enthusiasm for unique rail experiences in the UK, combining a love for heritage rail with the exploration of less-travelled tracks. As the train made its way back to London Paddington, the participants reflected on a day filled with adventure and picturesque landscapes, leaving them with memories of a rare rail journey along the historic and scenic routes of Wales.

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