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TV firm where staff got free pizza and £500 bonus is ‘one of best places to work in UK’

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A PIONERING Welsh TV production company is celebrating a quadruple dose of good news – including being lauded as one of the best places to work in the UK.

Staff at Caernarfon-based Cwmni Da (which means Good Company) say they were delighted but not surprised by the accolade from Broadcast magazine because they “just love” working there.

According to the workforce, they’re even more committed to the cause after making history five years ago when they took over the company and became an Employee Owned Trust, believed to be a first in the UK television industry.

Just over 12 months ago every member of staff received a £500 bonus to help them cope with the soaring cost of living.

Cwmni Da named UK’s best TV company to work for. Owain Jones , Sophie Craig and Marian Griffith. Picture Mandy Jones

In naming Cwmni Da as one of the best places to work in TV, the judges were persuaded by the raft of staff perks – including free pizza, team-building escape room adventures and charity fund-raising social events – as well as the glowing praise in a survey of the 53 employees that was conducted anonymously.

As well as the recognition from Broadcast, Cwmni Da was named by Televisual magazine as one of the Top 100 Truly Independent Media Companies in the UK.

The good news kept on coming when they heard they had secured two big grants to help them develop and grow as a company.

They were awarded £25,000 from Media Cymru’s Innovation Pipeline fund to develop the use of state-of-the-art XR (extended reality) technology for their multi-award winning children’s show, Deian a Loli, which merges real life and virtual images on a greenscreen backdrop.

Cwmni Da also received £25,000 from the BBC’s Small Indie Fund which was established to support the growth of up and coming independent companies.

Managing director Llion Iwan said: “Being selected to receive this funding is a real feather in our cap that will help us develop and grow.

“As well as the finance and training opportunities that come with the award from the BBC, there are opportunities to be mentored by the people who commission programmes and have a regular dialogue with them about what they are looking for.

“There are also opportunities for training through the National Film School and this is going to help us make better programmes that are more likely to appeal to television commissioners

“There are fortnightly meetings with the commissioner who’s mentoring you and they then introduce you to the relevant commissioners in the genres you want to develop.

“It’s all designed to raise our profile beyond S4C and improve the perception of Cwmni Da in the wider broadcast industry.

“We have already established a successful track record for award-winning international co-productions and this is something we want to do more of.”

Llion added he was very proud that the staff genuinely feel that Cwmni Da is a brilliant place to work.

Among them is production secretary Marian Griffith, 65, who has worked for Cwmni Da from day one when it was established in 1997.

She said: “It’s been an interesting journey and I have been given the opportunity to do different things as the company has developed. It’s great to be able to work through the medium of Welsh morning, noon and night.

“Everybody works towards the same goal and we’re all supportive of each other – it’s like a family.

“From the very beginning, the company has been very willing to consider people’s own individual family circumstances if anything crops up.

“The fact that we all now have a stake in the company, means we are even more committed and hard working than ever. If you’re happy in your work, you are going to be better at what you do.

It was a view echoed by technical head Carwyn Dafydd, 34, who said: “I’m very lucky to be able to work in the broadcast industry and I just love it here, especially as I live so close in Felinheli.

“The best thing about Cwmni Da is the people who work here, they’re brilliant.

“The fact that the company is owned by the staff means that people are working even harder because they know they are working for themselves and their colleagues, with the opportunity of a bonus at the end of the year.”

Executive assistant Sophie Craig, 35, is one of the newer recruits, having started there just over a year ago.

She said: “One of the reasons I was keen to join Cwmni Da is because the staff turnover is so low which speaks volumes about the company.

“The company also invests in the staff by providing loads of training opportunities and professional development, as well as being great in terms of work-life balance.

“I really enjoy working at Cwmni Da because it’s such a friendly place. It’s always a pleasure to come into work because you feel valued here.”

“Cwmni Da has absolutely lived up to the name and more since I joined. It really is a good company. In fact, it’s a brilliant company. “

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Plans for house in Dinas Cross pub car park in Pembrokeshire refused

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AN APPLICATION to build a three-bedroom house on the site of a north Pembrokeshire pub car park has been refused by national park planners.

Julian and Alison Parkes, of The Ship Aground public house, Dinas Cross, sought permission to build the house on nearby land used as a car park for the pub, creating seven new parking spaces nearby to replace the site.

A report by Pembrokeshire Coast National Park planning officers, recommending refusal, said: “The principle of residential development is normally acceptable within centre boundaries, subject to detailed design considerations and compliance with other policies in the local development plan.

“Following consultation, objections have been received from statutory consultees including the Welsh Government Truck Road Agency who have concerns regarding the proposed parking that will serve the Public House. They have directed that planning permission is not granted on the basis of insufficient information.  Concerns have also arisen from third-party letters.”

The report said the design “incorporates a traditional form with modern features and design detailing and will ensure the privacy of neighbours is protected along with the special qualities of the National Park when viewed from the immediate and wider landscape” but added: “Key information relating to the loss of parking to the Public House has not been addressed and how the loss of parking could have an economic impact, also considering that the proposed parking does not meet parking safety standards and further amendments would be required.”

The application was refused on the basis of Trunk Road Agency concerns including a lack of information to demonstrate the number of parking spaces offered would comply with current car parking standards, layout designs for the proposed replacement spaces, and also that insufficient evidence submitted to support the granting of permission for the car park spaces to serve the public house.

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Scheme to upgrade Dinas Cross holiday park withdrawn

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PLANS to create a ‘five-star resort’ in one of Wales’s most popular holiday locations have been withdrawn.

In an application submitted to Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, Chester-based Boutique Resorts Ltd sought permission to relinquish 50 mixed touring pitches (caravans and tents) at Fishguard Bay Resort, Dinas Cross, replacing them with “36 high quality timber-effect holiday lodges”.

The application, recommended for refusal at the April 24 meeting of the national park’s development management committee, also included an increase in the site area of the approved park, a new entrance, a new reception lodge, staff and visitor parking area, with extensive environmental improvements.

The site, established in the 1950s, currently has planning permission for 50 static caravans and 50 mixed touring units, and it is intended 23 of the proposed lodges to be sited at the entrance, with a further 13 throughout the site.

Despite the proposals seeking a reduction in outright numbers, the applicants say the scheme would see an increase in the number of full and part-time jobs associated with the resort, from 29 to 62 jobs.

A previous application was refused in 2019, mainly on visual impact, ecological impact and highway impact, and the applicant has sought to address the issues raised by that refusal, a supporting statement says.

It adds: “The applicant purchased the site in 2014 with the intention to upgrade the site into a five-star luxury resort. This is very much still the applicant’s intention and whilst he has replaced some existing static caravans with luxury lodges, he also seeks to replace the touring caravans and tents with luxury lodges too.

“The resort is now considered one of the most desirable holiday parks on the Pembrokeshire Coast which is evident on the number of holidaymakers who return to the resort year on year. Such is demand for luxury lodges on the site, the applicant requires additional units.

“The applicant now wishes to move the resort further by replacing the mixed touring pitches with luxury lodges but also provide a much-needed new entrance into the resort.”

Objections to the scheme were received from the National Trust, the national park’s strategic policy and ecologist, and the South Wales Trunk Road Agency, and 12 members of the public, along with one letter of support.

The application was recommended for refusal for reasons including it was “likely to have a significant detrimental impact on the special qualities of the National Park by intensifying the visual impact and intrusion of a large static caravan site within the extensive coastal views of this section of the National Park,” it would represent an intensification of the site, and was likely to “have an unacceptable impact on neighbouring residential amenity through increased noise and traffic movements”.

The application, listed for consideration by park planners next week, has since been withdrawn.

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Bluestone National Park Resort payments expected to end 

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A CALL to end a legal agreement for financial contributions associated with the creation of Pembrokeshire’s Bluestone National Park Resort is expected to be backed next week.

In a submitted application to Pembrokeshire Coast National Park on behalf of Bluestone Resorts Ltd, legal firm Red Kite Ltd asks for a cessation of a 2004 Section 106 legal agreement used to pay towards various projects including enhancements to footpaths and bridges.

In a supporting statement says most agreements of this type are time limited, and “today such an arrangement without a timeframe would likely not be considered acceptable by either side.

“However, no such end date was placed on this one. More recently, it was agreed between the parties that the payments would cease in 2025, also known as a ‘statement of common ground’. This is why a formal agreement now has to be made by each of the parties involved.”

The statement says that, since the agreement was made, Bluestone has paid nearly £280,000 through the agreement, adding: “As part of the Statement of Common Ground, it was agreed by Pembrokeshire County Council, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority and Bluestone that a final fee of £113,000 would be paid, spread over 2023, 2024, and 2025 in annual payments of £38,000.”

A report by national park officers, ahead of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Development Management Committee meeting of April 24, where it is recommended for approval, says: “The applicant has applied to discharge the Section 106 Legal agreement but the supporting text notes that they applicant is agreeable to making two final payments.

“Having considered the information submitted, officers consider that provided the two final payments are received the legal agreement has served its purpose and can be discharged.

“In order to ensure the two final payments are made, a modification to the Section 106 legal agreement is supported.  This decision is supported by Pembrokeshire County Council, who have received a concurrent application which is also recommended by officers for modification.”

The report says the £280,000 figure presented by Bluestone actually amounted to £318,703.87, taking into account a 2023 payment of £38,891.73, with Pembrokeshire County Council’s S106 monitoring officer confirming the contributions have been spent on a range of public rights of way improvements, primarily in nearby Canaston Woods.

Recommending approval, the report adds: “The authority is satisfied that subject to two further payments of £38,000 to be made in August 2024 and August 2025, the obligation no longer serves a planning purpose and can be discharged and as such the obligation should be modified accordingly.”

The 500-acre Bluestone resort near Narberth has, since its opening, contributed to “more than £100 million to local suppliers, £7 million annually into the local supply chain, £13 million annually into the Pembrokeshire economy through its payroll, and more than £1.5 million spent annually on marketing Bluestone and Pembrokeshire.”

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