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County mourns the loss of a beloved surgeon and philanthropist



THE LOCAL community and beyond came together yesterday, on March 23 to bid farewell to Mr. Athula Withanage, a distinguished Clinical Director and Lead Clinician in General & Vascular Surgery at Withybush Hospital, whose journey ended on the 1st of March 2024.

The funeral service, held at Parc Gwyn Crematorium in Narbeth, was both a somber and a celebratory reflection of his remarkable life and contributions.

Born in Gonagalapura, Sri Lanka, Mr. Withanage’s illustrious career in medicine was marked by his compassionate care, surgical expertise, and dedication to mentoring the next generation of surgeons. His approach to medicine and surgery was not just about healing the body but also about nurturing the spirit of his patients and colleagues alike.

Beyond his professional achievements, Mr. Withanage was a man of profound creativity, making significant strides in both literature and theatre. As an accomplished writer and actor, he shared his talents generously, enriching the cultural fabric of his community.

Mr. Withanage’s legacy is carried forward by his family, including his wife Nelum, his children Triona, Shane, and Dylan, his son-in-law Rajindra, daughter-in-law Sumudu, and his beloved grandchildren Kian, Liam, Shian, Riyon, Roshan, and Resan.

His role as a devoted family man stood at the core of his being, mirroring the love and dedication he showed in every aspect of his life.

The procession on Saturday began from his residence in Prendergast Haverfordwest at 11:25 am, making a symbolic final drive past the Withybush General Hospital, acknowledging his 31 years of selfless service before reaching the crematorium.

This gesture reflected the deep connection between Mr. Withanage and the institution he served with distinction.

The service was not only a local event but also a global one, with the funeral live-streamed to accommodate those who could not attend in person, including international viewers, notably from Sri Lanka.

This digital bridge allowed for a global gathering of those touched by Mr. Withanage’s life and work, emphasising the wide-reaching impact of his kindness and professional excellence.

Following the service, the gathering at Hotel Plas Hyfryd in Narbeth offered a space for reflections and shared memories, reinforcing the community’s solidarity and shared loss.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations to Withybush General Hospital, a testament to Mr. Withanage’s enduring commitment to healthcare and the wellbeing of others.

These contributions will support the hospital in continuing to provide care that reflects the standards he set throughout his career.

As we reflect on Mr. Withanage’s life, we are reminded of the indelible mark he leaves on both the medical and broader communities. His legacy of compassion, dedication, and boundless achievement will continue to inspire and influence many.

Mr. Withanage’s life was a beacon of what it means to serve others with love and excellence, and he will be deeply missed.

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Little and Broad Haven RNLI to feature in Saving Lives at Sea



RNLI/Denys Bassett-Jones

As the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) marks 200 years of lifesaving, the volunteer lifeboat crew of Little and Broad Haven are set to take to the nation’s television screens on Tuesday 30 April as they feature in the ninth series of Saving Lives at Sea on BBC Two and iPlayer.

The new series comes in the wake of an incredible milestone for the RNLI, as the charity marked two centuries of lifesaving on 4 March 2024.

After a special first episode which took a closer look at RNLI crews’ involvement in the Second World War, nine further episodes in the series focus on the lifesaving work of today’s lifeboat crews and lifeguards, featuring footage captured on helmet and lifeboat cameras including Little and Broad Haven RNLI.

Viewers will be able to watch dramatic rescues as they unfold through the eyes of RNLI lifesavers, as well as meeting the people behind the pagers and hearing from the rescuees and their families who, thanks to the RNLI, are here to tell the tale.

This forthcoming episode, on Tuesday 30 April sees Little and Broad Haven RNLI tasked alongside St. Davids lifeboat to a mayday call for a capsized dinghy with three people in the water near Newgale Beach. The episode will also show rescue stories from fellow lifeboat crew volunteers at other stations and beaches around our coasts.

Andrew Thomas, Helm of the Little and Broad Haven lifeboat crew featured in the forthcoming episode, says: ‘The shout out to Pointz Castle is a great opportunity for the public to witness how our small community lifeboat station in Pembrokeshire operates.

‘It’s unusual to have the opportunity to work alongside so many other rescue services, including a local fishing boat who responded to the mayday call. A successful outcome to any shout is always a positive one. The sea can catch anybody out.’

Michael Bool, one of the volunteer crew on that rescue says: ‘The shout was an opportunity to put many aspects of our training into practice, alongside other RNLI assets. As volunteer crew we put the time and effort into training to be on call to assist others when in difficulty at sea, and this shout was a good example of why we do it.

‘Saving Lives at Sea gives an insight into why the RNLI is such an important service for coastal communities and visitors, both in terms of education and rescue when required. It was great to be invited to show some of what we do in Little and Broad Haven’.

Another volunteer crew member on that day, Gareth Light, says: ‘This was a great example of why the RNLI is such a valuable service and even better that everyone got to go home safely. Filming with Saving Lives at Sea was a great opportunity to give the general public a look at our lives and experiences as volunteer crew for the RNLI.’

Filming took place over the past year, with lifeboat crews and lifeguards carrying special cameras and welcoming film-makers into their day-to-day lives on the coast. Rescues from the RNLI archives are also revisited, and we get a glimpse into the everyday lives of the thousands of men and women who give up their time to save lives at sea.

Saving Lives at Sea
is broadcast at 8pm on Tuesdays on BBC Two and iPlayer.

RNLI media contacts
For more information please contact Denys Bassett-Jones, RNLI volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer on Denys[email protected].

Alternatively you can contact Claire Fitzpatrick-Smith, Regional Communications Manager on [email protected] or 07977 728315, or contact the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789.

Little and Broad Haven RNLI crew with St.Davids Lifeboat

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI – public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.

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Roch development would have just four affordable homes



A PEMBROKESHIRE residential development of 52 homes, with just four affordable houses, is expected to get the go-ahead from county planners despite calls for this figure to be 20 per cent.

Wakefield Developments Ltd is seeking permission for the development, which includes four one-bed affordable housing units, on land near Pilgrims Way, Roch, just 100 metres from Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.

Members of Pembrokeshire County Council’s planning committee, meeting on April 23, are recommended to approve the council’s head of planning be delegated to approve the application, subject to the completion of a Section 106 planning obligation.

That includes the four affordable units being secured in perpetuity, with a local lettings policy, and financial contributions totalling £360,336.

This made up of an education contribution of £207,360 to mitigate the impact of nine unfunded pupil places at secondary level that will be generated by the development, a public open space provision contribution of £92,976, and contributions towards parking provision, public transport access and footpaths, totalling £60,000.

Nolton & Roch Community Council has previously objected to the scheme, based on the number of affordable houses, but, at its most recent meeting of April 15, reconsidered its position “in light of new information available pertaining to the affordable housing provision and Section 106 contribution,” a report for lanners said.

It added: “Nolton and Roch Community Council are supportive to the proposed development in principle. Community councillors feel the development will bring an overall benefit to the wider community, much-needed families to the school and custom to local businesses.”

18 objections to the scheme were also received, raising concerns including an “inadequate” affordable housing level, it being a high density development for a rural area, a loss of green space, the size of some of the homes, and pressures on existing services and facilities, and fears it may lead to an increase in second homes.

Nolton & Roch Community Land Trust (N&RCLT) has raised its concerns about the development, believing it would still include 12 affordable units, as indicated previously.

“The N&RCLT objects very strongly to the developer’s proposal to significantly reduce the affordable housing. Our two Housing Needs Surveys (2020 & 2023), have established a major need for affordable housing in our local area. Furthermore, the primary demand is for two and three-bed properties. Importantly, the surveys demonstrate a high level of community support for the CLT’s aim to help meet that need.

“Therefore, we are confident in speaking for nearly 200 residents who responded to our surveys. We are confident that almost all of them would also want the 20 per cent affordable housing to be built in the proposed development.”

It calls for permission to be granted, subject to a 20 per cent affordable homes element.

An officer report for members, recommending conditional approval, concludes: “It is apparent that the proposed development is not fully policy compliant, insofar as it cannot deliver the indicative 20 per cent affordable housing sought [by policy].

“However, a substantial positive social impact will arise through the provision of housing, including four one-bed affordable housing units, in meeting identified needs for both market and affordable housing.

“Financial obligations identified to mitigate adverse impacts arising from the proposed development cannot be met in full. However, Policy GN.3 acknowledges that in such circumstances contributions may be prioritised on the basis of the individual circumstances of each case.

“Financial obligations have been agreed towards the mitigation of adverse impacts in relation to education and highways which officers consider to be essential to ensuring that the development is acceptable in planning terms.”

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Pembrokeshire embraces future with new e-bike scheme



PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL, under the chairmanship of Thomas Baden Tudor, has announced an exciting new initiative aimed at boosting sustainable transportation across the region. The council has introduced a “pay as you go” electric bike (E-Bike) service, now available in Haverfordwest, Fishguard, Goodwick, and Tenby as part of a 12-month trial that commenced on 8th April 2024.

The scheme, managed by Zeus Mobility, features the Zip bikes—electrically powered bicycles designed to make cycling less strenuous and more accessible to a broader demographic. Each location will start with 10 E-Bikes, with plans to increase the fleet to 50 by summer. The service will include three main charging stations and numerous satellite bays for convenient access and returns.

Priced competitively, the E-Bikes can be hired for £3.00 for the first hour, with subsequent time billed at 5p per minute. Daily and weekly rates are also available, offering users more flexibility for longer trips. The bikes are aimed at reducing reliance on motor vehicles, promoting healthier living, and contributing to national decarbonisation targets.

Councillor Tudor tested the new bikes himself, describing the experience as “brilliant fun for the whole family” and encouraging all residents and visitors to give them a try. The initiative is part of a broader effort by the council to offer eco-friendly travel options that align with environmental objectives.

To use the E-Bikes, riders need to download the Zipp Mobility app, which allows for bike unlocking, ride tracking, and payment. The app also provides information on bike locations, parking bays, and cycling routes within the county.

Funded by a £150,000 grant from the Swansea Bay and South West Wales Metro, the project focuses solely on this E-Bike trial, aiming to make Pembrokeshire a leader in sustainable travel. For further details on hiring and operating the E-Bikes, residents can visit the Cycle Pembrokeshire webpage or contact the team directly via email at [email protected].

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