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Unite announces strike ballot dates for 1,500 steel workers at Tata

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UNITE, the UK’s leading union, which represents over a thousand members at the Port Talbot steel works has announced that it will begin the balloting process for industrial action on St Davids Day (Friday 1 March).

Unite will formally notify Tata of its intention to ballot for industrial action, on Friday 1 March, with the ballot opening on Friday 8 March and closing on Tuesday 9 April. Industrial action could therefore begin before the end of April.

The industrial action ballot is a direct result of the announcement last month by Tata that it intends to close its blast furnaces at Port Talbot with the loss of 2,800 jobs, primarily at Port Talbot but also at its Llanwern operation. Unite has secured investment from Labour for the site, so Tata’s actions are incomprehensible, with this investment around the corner. Unite will be balloting approximately 1,500 of its members.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Tata has failed to halt its disastrous and destructive plans for Port Talbot, the Welsh economy and the UK as a whole. Even though Unite has secured significant Investment for the sites from Labour. Tata’s actions is one of industrial vandalism and will be fought. Unite’s preparations for its industrial action ballot are complete, this will start on 1 March.

“Only determined action can break the spiral of decline that has gripped our steel industry. Demand for low carbon steel is growing and the UK must be at the forefront of the green steel revolution. This is an opportunity to grow jobs not cut them.

“Steel is a foundation industry that underpins a quarter of the UK’s GDP. Becoming reliant on imports in an increasingly unstable world will have disastrous results.

“Our political leaders must shock proof our economy and ensure that Tata’s catastrophic plans are consigned to the dustbin of history.

“Unite’s unremitting focus on its members jobs, pay and conditions means we always fully support them during any industrial dispute, with all the required resources needed, including the union’s multimillion pound strike fund.”

In a similar move, Senior officials of steelworkers’ union Community have this week (Friday, Feb 16) passed a resolution to ballot for industrial action in response to the threat of job losses at Port Talbot and downstream Tata sites.

The resolution, which was agreed at a meeting of 40 Community representatives from across the country today, gives the union the formal mandate to ballot its members on strike action.

Community represents more steelworkers than any other union, including the vast majority of workers impacted by Tata’s decarbonisation plans.

Community Union General Secretary Roy Rickhuss CBE said: “Industrial action is always a last resort but Tata’s actions mean we now have to prepare for that eventuality. Recent statements from the leadership of Tata Steel leave little doubt the company is determined to impose its devastating proposals come what may, making a complete mockery of the ongoing consultation process.

“There is still time for Tata to change their position, but as things stand we are heading towards a major industrial dispute. Community’s senior officials have unanimously endorsed balloting our membership for industrial action, and we are preparing for that ballot to take place as soon as is practically possible.

“Tata should take note – we are prepared to fight for our industry and our communities. We will not be walking silently into the night.”

Community Union Assistant General Secretary Alasdair McDiarmid said: “Whilst the consultation on Tata’s plan is still ongoing, recent comments from the senior leadership of Tata Steel have brought that process into disrepute. It is apparent that Tata are no longer considering alternatives to their disastrous plan to install a 3 million tonne electric arc furnace, which we have always said is completely unacceptable, and we are seriously concerned the consultation is a sham.

“Tata’s attempts to misrepresent and discredit the credible alternative Multi-Union Plan have been quite frankly disgraceful. Tata must think again, and engage with us in meaningful consultations to secure a just transition and the future of Port Talbot and all the downstream sites.

“Rishi Sunak has to step up too and back our industry to the extent the German Government is backing theirs. The Multi-Union Plan has received unanimous cross-party support in the Senedd, the backing of industry experts and MPs across the house, and can be delivered if only our Government matches the ambition of our European neighbours.”

Alun Davies, National Officer for Steel at Community Union, said: “No worker ever relishes the prospect of going on strike, but we are being pushed ever-closer to that option. Tata need to know that we are serious about fighting for the future of Port Talbot and the downstream sites, a future which their plans would damage irreversibly.

“Tata’s plan represented the cheapest option on the table and it is bad for jobs, bad for the economy, bad for the environment and bad for national security. We will not accept it.

“Today’s resolution confirms our intent to ballot on industrial action if Tata are unwilling to reconsider their damaging proposals. We will not stand back and allow our livelihoods, our communities and the UK’s steelmaking capacity to be thrown on the scrap heap.”

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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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