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‘Alien’ telecoms mast refused

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PLANS for an “alien and incongruous” 20 metre telecoms tower within “one of the most splendid landscapes in Pembrokeshire Coast National Park” have been turned down by planners.

Applicants Cornerstone – in a Prior Notification application to Pembrokeshire Coast National Park – sought to install a 20-metre-high, timber-clad telecoms tower on land opposite the National Trust car park at Trehilyn West, Trefasser, near Goodwick, north Pembrokeshire.

The site is within the Pen Caer Registered Historic Landscape, located between the two Iron Age hill forts of Garn Fawr Camp and Garn Fechan Camp, both Scheduled Monuments, with two Grade II-listed buildings located within 200 metres of the site.

The tower would also be within view of what is known as John Piper’s cottages, where the influential 20th century artist, author and stained-glass designer stayed to paint the surrounding landscape.

In 2013 one of his paintings of Garn Fawr sold at auctioneers Christie’s for in excess of £37,000.

A heritage statement on behalf of the applicants said the tower’s impact on the overall significance of the Registered Historic Landscape would be ‘slight’ and ‘minor,’ with no objection raised by Cadw.

However, the national park’s building conservation officer Rob Scourfield recommended the application for refusal stating: “The mast will have a significant impact on the setting of a number of listed buildings, chiefly Garn-fawr and Studio Cottage both of which sit within one of the most splendid landscapes of the National Park.”

A report for park planners highlighted a lack of engagement over the proposal: “A significant number of objections have been received to the proposed siting and design of the mast, and whilst not relevant to the decision-making process, to the lack of engagement with the community council and local residents.

“The applicants would be recommended to engage in a more meaningful way with local residents and community council to discuss potential alterative sitings for the provision of this mast.”

It added: “The proposed base station, monopole and antenna would occupy an elevated position close to both Garn Fawr and Garn Fechan.

“The remote landscape would mean that the structures would be clearly visible and would have an adverse impact upon the special qualities of the national park, nearby listed buildings and ancient monuments by introducing an alien and incongruous feature into the landscape.

“The addition of timber cladding may contribute to the harm in providing a structure which looks neither like a utilitarian piece of infrastructure, nor which there is any detail provided for how the timber cladding would be added, what timber would be used, whether it would be treated, and how it would be maintained.

“This has the potential to exacerbate the negative impact of the mast in this location.”

The scheme was refused on the grounds “it will appear as a prominent and discordant landscape feature within the PenCaer Landscape Character Area and is thus contrary [to policies].”

One of those raising concerns about the scheme before the application was refused was Llandruidion resident Jill Rowley, who said: “This mast will be visible for miles and is considered to be to the detriment of this iconic area.

“It is within a stone’s throw of the Piper Cottages the famous artist who painted the area.

“There has been no consultation with the local community council, there has been no notice posted in the area, which I understand is a legal requirement for all planning projects.

“No-one locally seems to have heard about it. This is a travesty for this iconic landmark.”

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Cheesy names for Folly Farm’s five Humboldt Penguin Chicks

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FOLLY FARM has announced the arrival of five new baby Humboldt penguin chicks—the first penguin chicks to hatch at the zoo since 2021!

Keepers have resumed breeding Humboldt penguins as part of a managed European Breeding Programme for the species, facilitated by their membership with the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA). These chicks are the first to arrive at the zoo in three years!

Humboldt penguins are classified as a vulnerable species, facing numerous threats in the wild. Breeding had been on hold at Folly Farm, and the keepers are thrilled to be able to breed again.

The delightful new penguin chicks are growing rapidly and are snug in their nest boxes, cared for by both parents who alternate feeding duties while the other enjoys a swim in the pool. Chicks can double or even triple in weight every couple of days! In a few weeks, they will leave their nests and be taken by experienced keepers to their Penguin Nursery facility, where they will spend a few weeks learning to feed on whole fish and swim in their small ‘baby pool’, before graduating to the main pool with the rest of the colony.

The naming theme for this season is cheese, with the chicks being named Mozzarella, Camembert, Cheddar, Halloumi, and Gorgonzola. Who doesn’t love cheese?

Penguin Keeper and Assistant Zoo Manager Caz Davies shared her excitement: “We’re so excited to have chicks again. Each breeding season, keepers choose a catchy naming theme to easily identify the birds. Penguin chicks can’t be sexed until they’re a bit older and feather samples can be taken, so we’ll just have to wait for a gender reveal for now!”

‘Mozzarella’ was the first to hatch on 30 March to parents, ‘Magnum’ and ‘Feast’, followed by ‘Camembert’ on 2 April, whose parents are ‘Perci’ and ‘Puffy’. ‘Cheddar’ arrived soon after on 5 May to ‘Whippy’ and ‘Pippy’, and ‘Halloumi’ hatched on 10 May to first-time parents ‘Einstein’ and ‘Darwin’. ‘Gorgonzola’ is the youngest chick and hatched on 14 May to ‘Popple’ and ‘Pudding’.

Penguin Coast is currently home to 22 Humboldt and 14 Macaroni penguins. Guests won’t be able to see the newest arrivals quite yet—but keep watching Folly Farm’s website and social platforms for updates!

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Anticipation builds for more Northern Lights as solar activity peaks

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IN the wake of a mesmerising display of the aurora borealis last weekend, experts predict further celestial spectacles are imminent due to heightened solar activity. A substantial sunspot cluster, responsible for recent intense solar flares, is expected to face Earth again in approximately two weeks, potentially sparking more geomagnetic storms and Northern Lights displays.

Scientists at the Met Office, including space weather forecaster Krista Hammond, report that this activity is part of the approaching solar maximum, a peak phase in the Sun’s 11-year cycle marked by increased magnetic upheavals and sunspot production. This cycle, the 25th since systematic observations began in 1755, is proving more vigorous than anticipated.

Last Saturday’s geomagnetic storm, categorised as a G5—the highest alert level by both the Met Office and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—was the most severe since 2003. Triggered by multiple coronal mass ejections (CMEs), the storm disrupted high-frequency radio communications globally and posed challenges to various satellite operations.

The aftermath of the storm highlighted our vulnerability to space weather. SpaceX’s Starlink satellites experienced significant strain, leading to voltage spikes, as reported by the European Space Agency (ESA). The added radiation also disturbed GPS signals, impacting everything from aviation—necessitating the reroute of a transatlantic flight—to precision farming, with reported disruptions in GPS-dependent agricultural machinery.

On Earth, the heightened electrical currents tested power grid robustness worldwide. In New Zealand, some circuits were temporarily shut down as a precaution, while the UK’s electricity network operators implemented measures like extra back-up generation to manage potential voltage fluctuations.

This heightened solar activity brings not only stunning natural displays but also underscores the critical importance of preparedness for space weather impacts. The UK government ranks extreme space weather as a significant threat on its national risk register, citing potential severe consequences such as widespread power outages and infrastructure damage.

According to Sean Elvidge, a professor in space environment at the University of Birmingham, the recent storm serves as a reminder of the potentially devastating effects of more powerful storms, like the historical Carrington Event of 1859, which disrupted telegraph systems and caused widespread fires.

As the Sun continues its active phase, the role of advanced forecasting and international cooperation in mitigating space weather effects becomes increasingly crucial. Agencies like NOAA and the Met Office are enhancing their monitoring capabilities, ensuring that critical infrastructure and governments worldwide are forewarned of impending solar storms, thus safeguarding both modern technology and the daily lives dependent on it.

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Gething crisis: Tory Leader signals no-confidence motion in First Minister

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IN a bold assertion that could intensify the political instability in Wales, the Conservative leader in the Senedd, Andrew RT Davies, has indicated that a motion of no confidence against First Minister Vaughan Gething is increasingly likely. This comes in the wake of recent revelations and internal disputes within Welsh Labour that have put Mr. Gething’s leadership under severe scrutiny.

The controversy escalated following the dismissal of Hannah Blythyn, the minister for social partnership, who was accused by Mr. Gething of leaking confidential text messages to the press—an allegation she firmly denies. The leaked texts were reportedly from a pandemic-era group chat, which Mr. Gething admitted to deleting, details of which were first reported by Nation.Cymru.

This incident is part of a broader series of challenges facing Mr. Gething, including scrutiny over the substantial donations made to his leadership campaign. It was disclosed that his campaign had received £250,000, with a notable £200,000 contribution from a company led by a businessman previously convicted of environmental crimes. Mr. Gething announced he would be returning £31,000 to Labour from the campaign funds amidst this controversy.

In crisis: First Minister, Vaughan Gething

Adding to the upheaval, Mr. Davies criticised the First Minister’s leadership on BBC Radio Wales, questioning Mr. Gething’s transparency and ability to govern effectively. He emphasised the urgent need for Mr. Gething to justify his actions, particularly the sacking of Ms. Blythyn, to restore public trust in the government.

On Thursday, in an interview with ITV Wales, Mr. Gething defended his decision, highlighting the importance of trust and confidentiality among ministers and maintaining that his team was aligned on government priorities. He underscored the challenges faced by his administration and the need to focus on issues crucial to the Welsh populace.

Despite the turmoil, any formal motion of no confidence is not expected to be tabled immediately, owing to procedural and logistical considerations. With Labour holding half of the seats in the Senedd, the success of such a motion would hinge on cross-party support or abstentions from within the Labour ranks.

As tensions mount, the political landscape in Cardiff Bay remains fraught with uncertainty, with the potential for significant shifts in governance depending on the developments in the coming weeks.

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