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Maenclochog Hardware store’s move backed by planners

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An application for a new home for a long-established agricultural/hardware store in rural Pembrokeshire was unanimously backed by county planners.

Maenclochog Hardware had applied for the erection of a hardware/farm supply building with an associated yard at The Old Coalyard, Station Terrace, Maenclochog.

Members of the September meeting of the council’s planning committee were told the long-established Maenclochog Hardware had recently changed hands, with a need for new premises.

It was recommended the application – before the committee as it had been submitted by close family of a councillor – be conditionally approved under delegated powers, local community council Maenclochog raising no objections.

A report for members said: “The proposal is a full application which seeks permission for the construction of a commercial building and yard to accommodate a farm supplies and hardware business.”

It added: “The supporting statement advises that Maenclochog Hardware is a long-established business which has recently changed hands, hence the need for new premises.”

It finished: “The proposed development is an appropriately scaled commercial/retail building in a sustainable location within the settlement boundary of a service village. The proposed development would have an acceptable visual impact and an acceptable impact on the character and appearance of the area. There would be no significant adverse impact on amenity or highway safety.”

Moving approval, Councillor Brian Hall – who was seconded by Councillor Mark Carter – said he had “no qualms whatsoever in moving approval,” with Cllr Carter saying: “It’s great that this can continue in the countryside.”

Cllr Jamie Adams was also fully supportive: “It’s a good opportunity to ensure that local business survives in that rural area; it’s a huge area with a big hinterland, Maenclochog Hardware has supported that area for a long time.”

Members unanimously supported the application.

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

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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 (catapult.org.uk) by 10 November.

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Pembrokeshire identified as having too many empty properties

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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

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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 Gov.uk, 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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