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Fire service’s High Court action against HM Coroner dismissed by judge



THE TRAGIC events of 17th September 2019 have once more surfaced in the public domain following the dismissal of an application made by the Mid and West Wales Fire & Rescue Service by the High Court.

Joshua Gardener, a promising young firefighter from the Service, met with a tragic end that day.

A training exercise on the River Cleddau, involving two boats operated by the Fire & Rescue Service, resulted in a collision that claimed Joshua’s life.

In the aftermath of the accident, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) undertook a detailed investigation. This culminated in a report, dated 4th November 2020, outlining various conclusions about the incident, many of which were very critical of the Fire & Rescue Service.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) explained that the fatal boating collision occurred due to ‘uncoordinated manoeuvres at speed within the same water area’. It was reported that neither of the boat helmsmen recognised the looming danger until it was too late.

Firefighter Josh Gardener suffered a fatal blow to the head from one of the boats involved. The MAIB emphasised that the tragedy could have been averted had there been someone in overall charge of the training exercise.

A significant observation made by the MAIB was that neither of the boat crews was maintaining an adequate lookout.

Chris Davies, Chief Fire Officer of Mid and West Wales Fire And Rescue Service, expressed deep condolences for the loss of Firefighter Gardener and acknowledged the findings of the MAIB report.

He added that, following their internal investigations, several of the report’s recommendations have been implemented by the service since the unfortunate incident of September 17, 2019.

Despite this, with an impending inquest into Joshua Gardener’s death by the HM Acting Senior Coroner for Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire, disagreements arose between the Fire & Rescue Service and MAIB regarding how the report and its findings should be presented and approached during the inquest.

The Coroner’s ruling of 28th October 2022 clarified that the findings of the MAIB report concerning the accident’s cause will serve as conclusive evidence in the inquest, meaning these findings would be indisputable. Interestingly, the Coroner’s Office was not present or represented in court as it chose not to actively participate in the proceedings.

Representing the MAIB’s interests were government lawyers, ensuring their stance was clearly presented and defended.

This dispute saw significant delays, with the inquest into Gardener’s death yet to commence even nearly four years post the tragic event. The delays, whilst procedural, have had a palpable impact on the grieving family of Joshua, leaving them in search of closure.

The Fire & Rescue Service subsequently sought a judicial review of the Coroner’s decision, based on seven grounds. This brought to light several pressing issues:

  1. Report Presentation in Inquest: A significant contention revolved around how the MAIB report should be presented before the jury. The Fire & Rescue Service challenged that fairness requires them to question criticisms in the report and to give evidence in response.
  2. Fresh Investigation Consideration: The Fire & Rescue Service claimed the Coroner misapplied the criteria to determine if a fresh investigation was necessary rather than relying on the MAIB report.
  3. Misunderstanding of Applicable Law: The Fire & Rescue Service alleges that the Coroner misunderstood regulatory standards, leading to a flawed perspective on the MAIB’s investigation and report.
  4. Engagement with Submissions: The Fire & Rescue Service believed the Coroner misunderstood its submissions and failed to engage with them adequately in the Ruling. This, they argued, resulted in an incomplete and potentially skewed analysis of their challenge.

Mr Justice Eyre, after a comprehensive review of the presented facts and arguments, dismissed the application brought forth by the Mid and West Wales Fire & Rescue Service in July 2023. The judge’s decision was rooted in procedural rigour, clarity over jurisdictional matters, and understanding the scope and purpose of the inquest.

As Pembrokeshire watches on, this case serves as a sombre reminder of the tragic events of 2019, and the ongoing journey to justice and closure for the family of Joshua Gardener as they await the final inquest nearly four years later.

Josh’s funeral in Milford Haven


Wales embarks on floating wind energy venture with £180,000 commitment



OFFSHORE RENEWABLE ENERGY (ORE) Catapult, in association with Floventis Energy, is set to boost the floating offshore wind sector in Wales. The partnership aims to prepare Welsh businesses for this rapidly growing industry.

This initiative, termed the Fit 4 Offshore Renewables (F4OR) programme, is tailored exclusively to propel the floating wind market in Wales. It marks the debut of such an initiative in the region, reflecting the nation’s progressive stance on renewable energy.

The joint venture sees a promising £180,000 committed by Floventis Energy towards the 12-18 month floating wind specific development scheme. Welsh businesses are set to benefit extensively with unique access to the team developing Llŷr 1 and 2 in the Celtic Sea. This, in combination with the forthcoming Celtic Sea Round 5 projects, promises lucrative prospects for local ventures.

Vaughan Gething, Wales’ Economy Minister, expressed his enthusiasm: “The offshore wind sector has an incredible potential for our economy and its people. By bolstering the awareness of Welsh firms, we aim to pave the way for them to harness the opportunities of the green future.”

The programme, commencing in 2024, will kick-start with an initial group of three companies. Since its inception in 2019, the F4OR initiative has flourished across the UK, boasting five successful regional programmes and aiding over 100 companies. Many of these beneficiaries have seen a significant surge in their turnovers.

Andrew Macdonald from ORE Catapult commented on the potential of the sector: “Our goal is to ensure a top-tier supply chain developed in the UK, ready to cater to the world. With the proven success of F4OR in other parts, we’re eager to tap into the vast opportunities that Wales, particularly in floating wind energy, presents.”

The Celtic Sea in Wales is poised to be a frontrunner in the UK’s net-zero ambition, targeting a deployment of 4GW of floating wind by 2035. Early estimates suggest the potential creation of over 3,000 jobs, injecting a staggering £682 million into the supply chain of Wales and Cornwall by 2030.

Cian Conroy of Floventis Energy, noting the importance of the programme, stated: “Initiatives like F4OR, in tandem with projects such as Llŷr, are vital for building a robust industry. Our end goal is to fortify the UK’s offshore renewable energy supply chain, both domestically and on the global stage.”

Applications for the programme are open for firms employing over ten individuals and boasting turnovers exceeding £1 million, provided they cater to the offshore wind sector. Interested companies can apply at F4OR – ORE ( by 10 November.

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Pembrokeshire identified as having too many empty properties



PEMBROKESHIRE has been identified as the third major empty home hotspot in the UK.

The recent study on the UK’s housing market, conducted by Alan Boswell Landlord Building Insurance, disclosed a startling fact – the country has 4,331 vacant properties. This figure contradicts the popular belief of a fully occupied UK property market, especially given the weighty 5.1% rise in rent over the last year.

Gwynedd, in north-west Wales, tops the list with a staggering 5,286 vacant properties per 100,000 residents, an actual number amounting to 6,204. Surprisingly, a significant 77% of these are second homes or holiday residences. This has consequently resulted in escalating house prices, pushing the average up to £136,095.

Following closely is Argyll and Bute, which, with its historical splendour and breathtaking vistas, now has 4,887 empty homes per 100,000 people. This makes up over 10% of the area’s households. Furthermore, to address the increasing number of vacant properties, the Scottish Government has augmented The Additional Dwelling Supplement (ADS) to 6% of the property purchase price for individuals who already possess one or more residential properties, anywhere in the world.

However, it’s Pembrokeshire’s standing at third place that’s turning heads. Despite its reputation as a sanctuary for nature and history aficionados, the county is grappling with a surge of holiday-home ownership. A vast 74% of its vacant properties are owned by individuals possessing second homes. The data indicates 4,331 empty homes for every 100,000 individuals in the county, summing up to 5,346 overall.

Concluding the top five are the Isle of Anglesey and Ceredigion, both in Wales, with 3,752 and 3,595 vacant properties per 100,000 residents, respectively.

This overwhelming number of vacant homes across these areas not only affects the local housing market but also impacts the native residents, many of whom find it increasingly challenging to own a home in their own community.

Methodology: The analysis used government data, StatsWales website information, and the Scottish Government’s figures. Data utilised spanned from 2021 to 2023, considering population and house price figures.

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Pembrokeshire restaurant fined for employing illegal workers



A PEMBROKESHIRE-BASED restaurant, Panache Indian, located on Queen Street, Pembroke Dock, has been slapped with a hefty fine after being found guilty of employing illegal workers over the past year.

The authorities acted on intelligence provided to the UK government, leading to raids at the Panache establishment earlier this year. Investigations uncovered that several staff members employed there had no legal right to either reside or work in the UK. The exact number of illegal workers discovered on the premises has not been disclosed.

As a consequence of these findings, the restaurant, owned and managed by Fahinoor Rahman, has been penalised with a fine amounting to £30,000.

Furthermore, Panache Restaurant now features in the Government’s quarterly report, which lists companies penalised for the use of illegal workers. This data is publicly released by the Home Office four times annually, with the most recent data spanning from January 1 to March 31, 2023.

The UK government underscores the severe repercussions awaiting companies or individuals found employing those without the right to work or live in the UK. According to, guilty parties could face up to five years imprisonment, alongside an unlimited fine, particularly if they knowingly or had ‘reasonable cause to believe’ they were employing individuals without the right to work in the UK.

This category comprises:

  • Individuals lacking the leave (permission) to enter or stay in the UK.
  • Those whose permission to stay has expired.
  • Individuals restricted from certain job roles.
  • Persons providing incorrect or fraudulent information.
  • In a related incident, the Nehar Indian Restaurant in Lampeter, owned by Ruhul Amin Choudhury, has also been penalised with a £20,000 fine for employing illegal workers.
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