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Public transport issues could affect thousands of older people in Wales

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THOUSANDS of older people across Wales may find it difficult to get out and about and do the things they want to do this bank holiday weekend due to difficulties accessing public transport, according to the findings of a new poll undertaken by the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales.1

A third of older people who responded to the Commissioner’s poll said they find it difficult to access public transport in their area, while the Commissioner’s findings also highlight that 1 in 5 people aged 70+, and nearly 1 in 4 older people living with health issues or disabilities, are now using their bus pass less compared to two years ago.

Reasons shared by older people as to why they were using public transport less frequently included fewer buses, unreliable or delayed services, changes to routes or the location of bus stops and difficulties finding information about routes or timetables.

Older people using their bus pass less frequently told the Commissioner they had less freedom and independence, and found it more difficult to access appointments and services. They also said they had become more reliant on others, or had no option but to use a car or taxi rather than greener public transport options.

The Commissioner is concerned that any further cuts to bus services would make it even more difficult for older people to use public transport, leaving people unable to get out and about and do the things that matter to them, and at greater risk of loneliness and isolation.

She says that where changes to services are unavoidable, it is crucial that older people’s voices and experiences are used to guide decisions and shape future plans, and that community transport services should be supported to fill gaps in provision.

Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, Heléna Herklots CBE, said: “Transport plays a crucial role in supporting us to be independent and do the things that matter to us regardless of our age, whether it’s enjoying ourselves on a bank holiday or doing other things such as attending health appointments, caring for loved ones, volunteering, meeting up with family or friends, or going shopping on the high street.

“And as we get older, we may come to rely on public transport more often to do these things.”

“My poll findings suggest that a third of older people in Wales – nearly 300,000 people – find it difficult to access public transport in their communities, and that use of the concessionary bus pass has fallen over the past two years, particularly amongst people over the age of 70, and those living with long-term health conditions or disabilities.

“Without access to public transport, a growing number of older people will find themselves with less independence, less active and engaged with their communities, and at greater risk of loneliness and isolation.

“Many of the issues highlighted by older people that make it more difficult to use public transport – such as the distance of bus stops from key facilities such as GP surgeries – could be tackled through ensuring that older people are involved in planning and decision-making, so their voices can shape bus services in a meaningful way, particularly where changes to services cannot be avoided.

“It’s also crucial that in areas where public transport provision is lacking, community transport services are supported, via longer-term, more sustainable funding, to fill gaps and help ensure older people can get where they need to go.”

Community

Campaign group calls to fight US Space Force-led Brawdy radar site plans

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A CAMPAIGN group, fighting against proposals to for a deep space radar dish array in north Pembrokeshire, described as “the United States’ lurch into an attempt to dominate all of space,” has raised more than £1,000.

The UK/US military plans for a 27-dish Deep Space Advanced Radar Concept (DARC) at Cawdor Barracks, Brawdy is part of AUKUS, a three-way security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States to build three DARC radar installations around the world, one in each of the three countries.

The radars would track foreign countries’ communications and military satellites in space, so that British, US and Australian aircraft could then destroy them with anti-satellite missiles at will.

A scoping report was submitted to Pembrokeshire County Council early last year, as reported by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, which said DARC would track active satellites above the Earth.

That application stated: “The Ministry of Defence has a duty to protect the UK national interest around the world. This includes the Space Domain, which offers both the UK and its Allies an important strategic advantage, but also emerging threats and vulnerabilities that need to be monitored.”

It added: “The Deep-space Advanced Radar Capability (DARC) is a United States Space Force (USSF) led programme that aims to set up three geographically dispersed radar sites to increase global Space Domain Awareness with the UK and Australia being offered to host one of the three sites.”

Late last year, Cawdor Barrack was identified as the preferred UK site, with the-then UK Defence Secretary, Grant Shapps.

It was said that retention of the base for DARC would create up to 100 jobs.

The DARC scheme would be subject to an as-yet unsubmitted planning application.

Campaign group, PARC Against DARC is hoping to stop the scheme, describing the proposals as a “monument to the needless, sabre-rattling, expansionist vanity project that is the United States’ lurch into an attempt to dominate all of space, against the stated wishes of almost every nation in the UN”.

PARC (Pembrokeshire Against Radar Campaign) was originally set up back in 90s when the US Military unsuccessfully attempted to build a similar radar installation on the Dewisland peninsula, north Pembrokeshire.

The revamped 2024 operation has launched a change.org petition webpage and an online crowdfunder page, along with social media pages.

On the crowdfunder page, which has raised just over £1,000 to date, it says: “In 1991, faced with a near-identical over-the-horizon radar array project barely a couple of miles away in Dewisland, the people of Pembrokeshire formed PARC (Pembrokeshire Against the Radar Campaign), and after one of the most sensational, national and viral UK campaigns of the 1990s, demolished the radar plans, and forced Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher herself to cancel the entire radar project.

“Well, PARC is back—and we’re here to repeat history.

“To pull it off, and defeat the US’s attempt to colonise space in a way that no citizen of the county, the nation or the world has ever voted for, we are going to need all the support and solidarity we can bring together.”

Identifying Cawdor as the preferred site last year, Grant Shapps said: “As the world becomes more contested and the danger of space warfare increases, the UK and our allies must ensure we have the advanced capabilities we need to keep our nations’ safe.”

PARC Against DARC is to is to host a public launch meeting at Solva Memorial Hall at 7pm on June 27.

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Community

New health concerns over Withyhedge Landfill site emissions

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LEVELS of a potentially harmful gas emitted by the Withyhedge Landfill Site have been recorded above World Health Organization (WHO) guideline levels, according to a recent report. Public Health Wales (PHW) conducted a health risk assessment on air quality data collected between 1 March and 3 April 2024 in the surrounding area.

The data indicates that during March and April, hydrogen sulphide, a colourless gas with a distinctive “eggy” smell, exceeded the WHO’s odour annoyance guideline. PHW warns that exposure to such odours can cause symptoms like headaches, nausea, dizziness, watery eyes, stuffy nose, irritated throat, cough or wheeze, sleep disturbances, and stress.

PHW stresses the importance of addressing the source of these offsite odours to mitigate potential health impacts on the local community. Despite an enforcement deadline passing last month, residents continue to report gas and odour issues in their homes daily.

“These are common reactions to unpleasant smells, and these effects should usually pass once the odour has dissipated,” PHW stated. “The long-term health risk is low.”

In response to the health risk assessment, PHW advises residents to keep doors and windows closed when the odours are present and seek medical advice if they feel unwell. However, they caution against blocking windows or vents completely, as these are crucial for ventilation and controlling dampness. Once the outdoor smell subsides, opening windows and doors can help eliminate any remaining odours inside.

Work to cap the landfill site has been completed, and PHW has welcomed plans to install static air monitoring equipment around the site to capture more detailed data. Dr. Sarah Jones, a consultant in environmental public health for PHW, acknowledged the stress and anxiety local residents are experiencing due to the odours. She emphasised the importance of resolving the issue swiftly and assured that the health risk assessment would be updated as new data becomes available.

Gaynor Toft, Chair of the Air Quality Group for the Multi-Agency Incident Management team, noted that the risk assessment from PHW is being used to refine and develop the air quality monitoring programme. Suitable locations for static monitoring equipment are being identified to ensure robust data collection for future assessments.

Huwel Manley of Natural Resources Wales (NRW) confirmed that NRW would continue to use its regulatory powers to drive improvements at the site and address the causes of the odour affecting the community. NRW had given RML, the company operating the landfill, until mid-May to undertake several remedial actions to control gas emissions.

The Pembrokeshire Herald has reached out to NRW for a detailed update on the current situation at the site. The community remains hopeful for a swift resolution to these ongoing health and environmental concerns.

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Community

Local projects benefit from Sustainable Development Fund grants

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SEVEN local projects have benefited from over £70,000 of funding through the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund (SDF).

The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund supports community-led projects in and around the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park that contribute towards a reduction in carbon and help respond to the climate emergency.

In the latest round of funding, grants were awarded to Southern Roots Organics, Narberth Museum, and the Crymych Arms Community Pub to install Solar PV systems. Additionally, the Narberth and District Community and Sports Association received funding to upgrade their existing Solar PV system and improve the energy efficiency of their squash court lighting. As well as generating new low-carbon electricity and offsetting higher carbon grid electricity consumption, these projects will reduce ongoing electricity costs for these organisations.

Cosheston Community Hall was another beneficiary, receiving support from the Fund to construct a bike shed. This project aims to encourage more people to cycle to the Hall, promoting sustainable travel within the community.

In Marloes, SDF funding has paved the way for the village clock to be retrofitted with low-energy and Dark-Skies-friendly illumination, which will reduce both energy consumption and light pollution in the area.

The VC Gallery also received funding to upgrade to more energy-efficient windows and doors, which will create a warmer community space and contribute to lower carbon emissions.

Jamie Leatham from Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority said: “These grants represent our continued commitment to addressing the Climate Emergency, supporting community-led projects that improve sustainability and reduce carbon emissions.”

“By funding initiatives like Solar PV installations, energy-efficiency upgrades, and sustainable transportation solutions, we are helping our communities to reduce emissions, generate their own low-carbon energy, and raise awareness to promote a greener, more resilient future for the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.”

The Sustainable Development Fund consists of money allocated from the Welsh Government Sustainable Landscapes Sustainable Places Fund.

Further information can be found at www.pembrokeshirecoast.wales/sustainable-development-fund.

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