IN A MAJOR announcement today (Dec 2) the Defence Secretaries of Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States have unveiled the Deep Space Advanced Radar Capability (DARC) programme – and one of just three sites chosen worldwide for this hi-tech system will be in Pembrokeshire, at Brawdy. This pioneering initiative aims to significantly bolster the defence capabilities of AUKUS nations (Australia, the UK, and the US) by providing 24/7, all-weather capabilities to monitor objects as far as 36,000 kilometers away from Earth.
The Cawdor Barracks in Pembrokeshire, Wales, have been earmarked as the preferred UK site for this state-of-the-art deep space radar, subject to a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment and Town Planning approval. The DARC programme is set to transform UK security, improving our ability to detect, track, and identify objects in deep space.
As the world faces increasing threats of space warfare, this development is a timely enhancement to the defence capabilities of the AUKUS nations. The global network of three ground-based radars, to be jointly operated, will play a critical role in space-traffic management and the surveillance of satellites in deep space. The geographical positioning of the AUKUS nations allows for unparalleled global coverage, including the detection of potential threats to defence or civilian space systems.
UK Defence Secretary, Grant Shapps, emphasized the importance of this initiative: “As the world becomes more contested and the danger of space warfare increases, the UK and our allies must ensure we have the advanced capabilities we need to keep our nations’ safe. Today’s announcement of a global radar network (DARC), based across the UK, US, and Australia will do just that, empowering the UK to detect, track, and identify objects in deep space.”
The selection of Cawdor Barracks, which currently houses a British Army Signals Regiment scheduled to relocate from 2028, is expected to bring significant economic benefits to the local Pembrokeshire economy. The project promises job creation during the construction phase and is projected to provide up to 100 longer-term jobs.
The DARC programme also extends beyond defence benefits. It is equipped to monitor and protect essential services that rely on space-based satellites, including communications and navigation systems crucial for daily life. This capability is vital for AUKUS’ commitment to maintaining peace and deterring conflict globally, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region.
Secretary of State for Wales, David TC Davies, hailed the project: “The proposed DARC project will provide jobs and bolster the local economy, underlining the vital role that Wales continues to play in the UK’s defence.”
Stephen Crabb MP, speaking to The Herald on Friday, said: “The Cawdor Barracks site was always a strong contender for this project…The 100 new jobs would certainly be welcome but won’t fully fill the gap if the Signals Regiment does eventually move out.”
Local councillor for Brawdy, Mark Carter said that he was in favour of the development.
He said: “As long as we can confirm that there are no health implications for the local residents I am in favour of this being in Pembrokeshire.
“It will have a positive economic impact during both the construction phase and over 100 long term jobs.”
The first DARC radar site, currently under construction in Australia, is slated to be operational by 2026, with all three sites expected to be fully operational by the end of the decade.
This development follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding in September 2023 and is a key component of the UK’s Defence Space Strategy, enhancing collective space domain awareness – a critical objective for national security.
AUKUS, a landmark security and defence partnership, is set to benefit significantly from DARC, marking a significant step forward in delivering enhanced security capabilities among the partner nations and supporting a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
However, the new American military branch, US Space Force, established by former president, Donald Trump, has been criticised as an unwise and costly escalation that could lead to a dangerous new arms race.
A spokesperson for the Campaign Against the Arms Trade said the plans were “totally misguided” and that the money would be better spent on reducing poverty.
“The huge sums of money involved would be far better spent building fairer and more equal societies here rather than further militarising space,” they said.
The stations, covering around a square kilometre, would host an array of large radar dishes, known as parabolic antenna, each 15 metres in diameter.
The US already operates an early warning system to detect ballistic missiles in space, which includes a facility at RAF Fylingdales in North Yorkshire. However, that can only detect objects up to 12,000 miles away while DARC would look much further into space.
Joe Mozer, chief scientist at the US Space Force, said: “We must overmatch our strategic competitors.”
Pop up museum opens in Haverfordwest whilst Castle works continue
WITH Haverfordwest Castle closed for the next couple years due to building works for the Heart of Pembrokeshire project the Haverfordwest Town Museum has had to relocate to the town centre.
Last September, plans to move temporarily Haverfordwest’s museum to the town’s Riverside Quay while levelling-up works in the town are ongoing were given the thumbs-up.
An application for a change of use of the former GAME electronic games store at 24-25 Riverside Quay to the temporary home for the ‘pop-up’ museum was submitted to county planners by historian and council presiding member Dr Simon Hancock.
The museum itself is moving from its current site at the Governor’s Office next to Haverfordwest Castle due to ongoing works connected with the £24m Heart of Pembrokeshire levelling-up redevelopment of that part of the county town, which is expected to last until Spring 2026.
Work is ongoing to set up displays and create a museum shop and the new Riverside home is hoped to open to the public on March 25.
Museum Curator Dr Hancock said: “We want to make the pop-up museum an informative and entertaining space. We will have models of the castle and Tudor Merchant’s house, displays on the Llewellin churnworks, the Port of Haverfordwest, items made in the town during the Victorian period, David Lindley paintings and the People of Haverfordwest panels.
“We will be open all year round in our new premises and so we will ensure there will be regular changes of content. We would like to hear from anyone who would be interested in volunteering for us.
“The pop-up museum would only be possible thanks to the stalwart support of the county council with funding from the Shared Prosperity Fund for which we are extremely grateful.”
Vandal-blighted house cannot be demolished without application
AN OFFICIAL application needs to be made before a deteriorated vandal-blighted house in Haverfordwest may be demolished by a social housing provider, county planners have said.
Social housing provider Ateb Group Limited recently gave county planners prior notification of its plans to demolish The Grove, St Thomas Green.
In its application, it stated: “The building has been unoccupied for several years and its physical condition has deteriorated significantly over that time. It has become prone to vandalism and trespass and is becoming difficult to manage and secure.
“Its demolition will allow the structure and resultant debris to be removed, improving the visual amenities of the locality. It will also enable the site to become readily available for a sensitive redevelopment in association with the adjacent Meyler House.”
It added: “The cleared site will become part of the adjoining Meyler House site, with proposals being prepared to redevelop and construct affordable elderly persons apartments and associated parking facilities.”
Ateb has said it expected the demolition works to take several weeks, starting this April.
Agent Evans Banks Planning Limited, in a supporting statement said The Grove, adjoining Ateb’s head offices at Meyler House, received permission back in 2009 for the “Demolition of existing dwelling and replacement with apartments, houses and landscaped grounds.”
Conservation Area Consent was also granted at that time.
“Those permissions were not implemented and have long since lapsed, but nevertheless indicate that the principle of demolishing The Grove was deemed acceptable at that time to the local planning authority,” said Evans Banks Planning Limited.
“A pre-application enquiry has recently been presented before the local planning authority which seeks to reignite such redevelopment proposals but on a much larger site, incorporating Meyler House and its grounds into a comprehensive redevelopment scheme to create elderly persons apartments.”
It added: “This current submission seeks to renew that 2009 Conservation Area Consent given that the existing former dwellinghouse has now reached a physical state where its deterioration is causing concern.”
County planners determined that prior approval is needed before any demolition works take place, with details of tree protection while the works take place needed, along with a suitable method statement to minimise noise, dust and a strategy for dealing with hazardous materials should they arise during the demolition.
A similar application by Ateb, for demolition works at the town’s former learning centre, near to the former county library, was recently made subject to broadly similar conditions.
Pembrokeshire council tax rise ‘highest in Wales in 20 years’
A UK campaign group is to target Pembrokeshire ahead of the county facing what the group says would be the largest council tax increase in England and Wales in more than a decade.
At the February meeting of the county council’s Cabinet, members backed a council tax increase in Pembrokeshire of 16.3 per cent.
The proposed increase, which will be decided by full council at its March 7 meeting, would see the basic council tax level – before town/community precepts and the police precept are included – rise by £219.02 for the average Band D property, taking it to £1,561.98.
It is expected to be the highest percentage rate in Wales, on top of previous Pembrokeshire increases of 12.5 per cent, 9.92 per cent, five per cent, 3.75 per cent, five per cent and 7.5 per cent.
The TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) has launched a campaign against the proposed increase, and will be in Milford Haven on Thursday, February 29, and Friday, March 1, delivering leaflets and speaking to residents about the proposed increase.
TPA research says that if the tax rise is agreed, it will be the largest in England and Wales since 2012-13, when referendum principles were agreed.
England differs from Wales in having a cap, needing a referendum for any rate above five per cent for the 2024-25 financial year.
Taxpayers Alliance says Pembrokeshire’s proposal would be the largest percentage increase in Wales since 2000-01 and the third largest since 1997-98.
The only larger rises were in 2000-01 and 1998-99, when Monmouthshire and Powys county councils increased their council tax by 23.15 per cent and 17.5 per cent respectively, the group says.
At the February meeting of Pembrokeshire’s Cabinet, potential rises of 18.94 per cent, and an eye-watering 20.98 were mooted, which would have placed the county in second place.
The TPA is calling on residents in Pembrokeshire to write to the leader of the council, Cllr David Simpson, expressing their opposition to the proposals.
Benjamin Elks, grassroots development manager of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “This record-busting rate rise would deal a devastating blow to household finances in Pembrokeshire.
“Local taxpayers face being punished for the council’s failure to find efficiencies, cut down on waste and balance the books.
“Councillors should show some backbone, stand up for their residents and say no to this ruinous tax hike.”
Pembrokeshire, currently facing a projected funding gap of £31.9m, has historically had the lowest council tax in Wales.
For comparison, the current 2023-’24 average Band D base council tax – before police and town/community council parts of the overall bill are included – for Pembrokeshire is £1,342.86, compared to Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire at £1,553.60 and £1,490.97 respectively.
If the council had Ceredigion’s level of council tax for 2023-24, it would have had an additional £11.758m income and if it had Carmarthenshire’s it would have had an additional £8.264m.
Pembrokeshire Cabinet Member for Corporate Finance Cllr Alec Cormack said: “For 2024-25, Pembrokeshire County Council is facing additional demand pressures in statutory services (adult and children’s social care, homelessness and education).
“This means we need an extra £17m to provide these services next year – this alone is equivalent to an increase of over 26 per cent on council tax. Additionally, we face inflationary pressures of £22.8m.
“Our funding gap, after the AEF money we’ll receive from Welsh Government, is £31.9m.
“We are legally required to balance our budget – to match the amount of money coming in against what we spend to provide services. We are planning to make savings on our spending of £12.2m, as well as utilising some council tax premiums to enhance the sustainability of our communities.
“This has allowed us to limit the council tax rise to 16.31 per cent. This weighs up the need to limit council tax rises on residents against the need to preserve services used by many of the most vulnerable people in the county.
“The demand pressures, particularly in social care, are affecting all councils in Wales, but particularly Pembrokeshire, since we have had the lowest council tax in Wales for decades.
“Based on current information, we expect Pembrokeshire to still have one of the lowest council tax levels – probably 18th out of the 22 Welsh local authorities.”
Neighbouring Ceredigion is recommended to back an 11.1 per cent increase at its full council meeting of February 29.
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