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Politics

Haverfordwest airport could be leased out to make it ‘cost-neutral’

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HAVERFORDWEST airport could be leased out as part of plans to make the council-run facility, currently forecast for a £119,000 deficit, cost-neutral to the authority.

Last year, Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet, members heard the financial position at the council-supported Haverfordwest/Withybush airport deteriorated in 2022/23, with an out-turn position for 2022/23 of £238,000.

At the March 26 meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council’s services overview and scrutiny committee members received a report on the airport, stating: “In the financial year 2022-23 the airport operated at a cost to the council in the region of £238,000, and, whilst highly valued, this level of spend cannot be justified in the current financial climate when placed against many of the statutory services the council has to deliver.

“Following an extensive review of the operations of the airport, this loss has been considerably reduced, however the airport continues to operate at a loss, which this financial year 2023/24 is forecast to be £119,000.”

The report lists reasons for the halving of this deficit, including: increased profit margin on fuel £40,000; increased landing fees £7,000; reduction in staff training £8,000; reduction in equipment and equipment maintenance costs £10,000; and a reduction in one off costs of hedges and sewers £53,000.

Five options were presented to members as ways of making the airport cost-zero: retain the airport with a drive towards becoming cost neutral; close the airport tower; sell the airport on a freehold or long leasehold basis; lease the airport to a current stakeholder and established aviation company; and finally to advertise the airport to let on the open market.

Of the options, the first, could generate around £15,000 a year extra through a number of opportunities, the report said, but added that significant capital investment was needed in the facility, including ground lighting close to the end of its useful economic life, which could cost £400,000-£500,000, along with a corroded fuel storage tank, needing to be replaced at a cost of £200,000.

Some informal conversations have taken place around the favoured option, to lease the airport to a current stakeholder, members heard.

“Although at this stage detailed conversations have only been had with one party, the opportunity to lease will also be offered to other existing stakeholders,” the report stated.

“It is also likely that an existing stakeholder might be a ‘special purchaser’ who would pay more than the market as their existing interests will also benefit.

“Following these discussions, it seems there is a potential that the council would be able to agree a lease of the airport to an experienced and well-established aviation company who is an existing stakeholder with a good track record.”

It finished: “This option would make the airport cost neutral to the council from the day the lease is signed whilst also ensuring that an operational airport remains for Pembrokeshire to benefit from.”

Councillor Di Clements proposed that option be backed, seconded by Cllr Rhys Jordan, with members unanimously approving the option.

A final, more detailed recommendation is to be presented to the council’s Cabinet at a future meeting.

If approved, the lease would be dealt with under the delegated authority of the Assistant Chief Executive.

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Politics

Council Leader confirms intention to stand down

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PEMBROKESHIRE County Council Leader Cllr David Simpson has confirmed his intention to stand down next month.

Cllr Simpson, who has been Leader since May 2017, will not seek re-election as Leader of the Council at the Annual General Meeting in May.

Chairing his final Cabinet meeting as Leader on Monday, Cllr Simpson said he was looking forward to spending more time with his family.

Cllr Simpson said: “I would like to thank my fellow Cabinet Members for their commitment to their roles and their support to me personally over the last seven years.

“I also want to put on record my gratitude and thanks to all Council staff for their hard work across all departments.

“I know just how dedicated these staff are, striving to improve lives here in Pembrokeshire.

“I must also thank the people of Pembrokeshire.

“It has been the honour of a lifetime to be the Leader of your council and the best part of the job has been meeting so many people who are committed to making this county a better place to live and work.”

Cllr Simpson will continue to serve as the County Councillor for Lampeter Velfrey.

A new Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council will be elected at the AGM on Friday May 10.

The meeting begins at 11am and will be webcast as normal.

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Politics

Conservative win for seat vacant after death of late Cllr Reg Owens 

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A FIVE-WAY fight for a new county councillor for the Pembrokeshire ward of St Ishmaels, vacant after the death of the late Reg Owens, has seen a Conservative win.

Earlier this week, Conservative candidate Claire Victoria George was elected county councillor for St Ishmaels after securing 297 votes, beating fellow ‘Tish hopefuls Richard Leighton Jenkins (242), Janie Anne Harwood (69), Robert Simister (52), and Terence ‘Terry’ Worsley (25).

The St Ishmaels county council ward includes the surrounding areas of Dale, Herbrandston, Marloes, St. Brides, Tiers Cross and Walwyn’s Castle.

Following her win, Cllr George said: “I am truly grateful and humbled by the trust the residents of the St Ishmaels ward have placed in me to serve as their county councillor.

“This by-election has been tough for me personally as my father passed away shortly after nominations closed with his funeral was just days before polling. I take comfort in the fact that he would have wanted me to keep campaigning in my ambition to serve the community.

“I am passionate about Pembrokeshire and the assets and opportunities the county offers.  Having worked across the private and public sectors in Pembrokeshire and further afield, I bring a wealth of solutions and experience to the complex world of local government.  My strength lies in working in partnership and maximising the skills and contributions of all.

“Having served as chair of One Voice Wales Pembrokeshire Area Committee for four years and community councillor for Tiers Cross Community Council for 10 years, I understand the concerns of residents and what makes a difference to their daily lives.

“Pembrokeshire, and indeed the St Ishmaels ward, is blessed with creative and responsive communities who come together to support each other.

“As a director of Pembrokeshire Lottery, I recognise the importance of small businesses to our economy and employment.  We must ensure small businesses are encouraged and grown through all the levers Pembrokeshire County Council has from procurement, industrial sites provision to skills and training opportunities.

“I will remember Cllr Reg Owens as a staunch local champion for all the villages and residents of the St Ishmaels ward and I look forward to building upon all his hard work.

“I look forward to working with Pembrokeshire County Council and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority to respond to the needs and ambitions of the residents of St Ishmaels ward.”

The seat became vacant following the recent death of Councillor Reg Owens.

Councillor Owens, who represented St Ishmaels as an Independent Group member, had served as a county councillor since 2012, and had also served on Herbrandston Community Council, as chair on numerous occasions.

He was also a member of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park for more than a decade, and was chair of its planning committee for five years.

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Politics

Apshalt plant go-ahead expected despite town council concerns

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A RETROSPECTIVE application for a mobile asphalt batching plant in a Pembrokeshire industrial estate is expected to be approved despite concerns raised by the local town council.

Pembrokeshire County Council’s planning committee, meeting on April 23, is recommended to approve the application by Mr Harries for the retention of the mobile plant at 10 Waterloo Industrial Estate, Pembroke Dock, despite is going against the local development plan.

A report for planners says: “The batching plant is a mobile unit which is raised above the ground on a chassis and wheels to a maximum height of 13.6m above ground level. The batching plant is sited centrally within the site with a stock shed in the western part of the site. There are staff parking and turning areas within the site, welfare facilities and a stock holding area.”

Pembroke Dock Town Council has objected to the plans, citing a lack of information presented with the application, a lack of detail in respect of potential flooding and contamination, no traffic management plan, and no details of a recently erected steel building.

One letter of objection has also been received, saying it’s unclear how the plant can be mobile and raising concerns about the retrospective nature, the accuracy of plans, traffic and highway safety, and potential contamination.

The application – partly in a flood zone – is before the committee as it is contrary to development plan policy but is recommended for approval, with conditions including works ceasing pending remediation if any contamination is found, and associated safety and environmental conditions.

The report adds: “In terms of potential impact on residential amenity, there are no nearby residential properties to the application site.

“The Head of Housing and Public Protection has stated that due to neighbouring business premises it would be appropriate to provide a form of noise abatement which could take the form of full or partial enclosure of fixed noise generating equipment or the provision of a close-boarded fence of sufficient height around the perimeter of the site to reduce the noise levels.

“This could be secured by way of imposing a condition. In addition, the application site has a historic use as a landfill, and it is possible that the land may contain some historic contamination.”

It goes on to say: “Whilst a conflict is identified with [policy], the development is a mobile asphalt batching unit, and whilst the intention is that this is for long term use it would be possible for the plant to be temporarily relocated should there be an impending flood event (tidal flooding is predictable).

“Even if the plant was to remain in the same position within the site, the majority of the plant is raised above ground level by approximately 1m and therefore any consequences of flooding would be minimal. On this basis it is considered that this is a material consideration of sufficient weight to outweigh any identified conflict.”

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