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Victory for WASPI women but the fight goes on

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A LANDMARK ruling by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman could benefit around 5,000 women in Ceredigion born in the 1950s.

As we reported in The Herald on Friday, on March 21 the Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman published his final report into the injustice caused by the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP)’s poor communication to 1950s women that their state pension age had increased.

The Ombudsman recommends that the DWP makes an apology to the women concerned and they receive compensation of between £1,000 and £2,950. He calls on Parliament to take his recommendations forward.

In the Commons yesterday (Monday) Pensions Minister Mel Stride faced a barrage of support for the WASPI women from MPs of all parties, calling for urgent compensation. His response was that he will look closely at the report and consider its contents. He refused to give a timescale for doing so.

“We have waited five years for this report,” said Pamela Judge, Joint Co-ordinator of Ceredigion Women Against State Pension Injustice (WASPI). “We welcome the recommendation of an apology and compensation though the level of compensation is disappointing. An All-Party Parliamentary Group of MPs recommended compensation at the top level on the Ombudsman’s scale, at least £10,000 which is much more realistic. We call on MPs to sort this out quickly. This is urgent – a WASPI woman dies every 13 minutes.”

Ceredigion MP Ben Lake commented: “It is high time that Parliament ensures that 1950s born women are finally afforded the justice that they deserve. The Ombudsman’s report has taken years to be completed. It officially acknowledges that WASPI women have fallen foul of maladministration by the Department for Work and Pensions. We cannot waste any time in bringing forward a compensation package which reflects the scale of the injustice suffered.

“Members of Parliament from all political parties have expressed their support for the WASPI campaign. Now we have an opportunity to deliver on these promises. We have not a moment to lose.”

Joint Co-ordinator Melinda Williams added: “The lack of notice we received that our pension age had changed was devastating for thousands of local women whose plans for retirement were wrecked. We suffered injustice and need compensation now”.

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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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