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Plans to convert old bus depot into new adventure tourism hub

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NATIONAL park planners are being recommended to visit the site of a proposed new adventure tourism hub in north Pembrokeshire, which sparked fears that local wildlife will be disturbed by ‘noisy’ coasteerers.

In an application to be heard at the June 5 meeting of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park’s development management committee, Jet Moore, managing director of Adventure Beyond Ltd, seeks permission for an outdoor adventure centre, with art studio and storage space above, and associated works at The Old Bus Depot, Moylegrove.

The plot was originally used as a bus depot by the founder of the Richards Bros bus company.

Concern have been raised about the scheme, including local community council Nevern.

Opponents fear that increased business for adventure firms will worsen the plight of birds and animals, some of which are on the UK’s amber conservation list.

Dagmarr Moore, founder of the Moylegrove Mermaids sea swimming group, has previously said: “Visitors who speak to us when we’re in the bay say what a beautiful quiet place it is – then the adventure providers descend and the peace has gone.”

Local ecologist Steve Halton has said nesting birds were being disturbed by people scrambling on rocks and jumping into the sea.

In a supporting statement for the scheme, Jet Moore, managing director of coasteering, kayaking and field studies outdoor activities provider Adventure Beyond Ltd, says equipment and vehicles necessary for activities at Ceibwr Bay and surrounds are currently stored at Morawelon Farm in Moylegrove, about one kilometre from the village, but the owner who granted the lease passed away, creating a risk that the family will not renew the lease.

He adds: “Knowing the area well, the Old Bus Depot site is the only suitable commercial site for us to transfer our operations to.

The applicant says there has been “much positive feedback” to the scheme, but adds: “However, I am also aware that, sadly, a small but vocal group has taken against the development. I am not sure exactly what the objections are, all that has been communicated to me is that they are against ‘over-tourism’ at Ceibwr.

“In that regard their concerns should be addressed to the Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum and the other members of the Concordat group, as that is where capacity levels are agreed. The development for which planning permission is sought has no direct effect on activity levels, which are driven by the weather and the overall number of tourists coming to Pembrokeshire, but does help to alleviate the issues the community has identified as arising from high levels of tourist visits.”

He concludes: “This development has been part funded by a Shared Prosperity Fund Grant allocated by Pembrokeshire County Council. The grant must be spent by the end of 2024 or the funds are lost and will be retained by central government. Consequently, time is of the essence, and if planning permission is denied there is no time for an appeal and to construct the building before the end of 2024.

“Because of this the owner of the site, Consulting AM Ltd, has advised me that if planning permission is refused it will give the site to Pembrokeshire County Council, who paid for its acquisition through the grant.

“Assuming the council to be short of funds the site will then remain strewn with glass, metal and plastic and there will be no new replanting. The council may decide to fence it off to reduce its public liability risk, making the site an eyesore.”

Committee members are now recommended to agree to a site visit prior to formal consideration at a later national park planning meeting.

Business

Another ‘first’ for west Wales brewers Evan Evans

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AWARD-WINNING brewers Evan-Evans will launch the first Welsh zero alcohol cider at the Royal Welsh Show next week.

Blended and bottled in Llandeilo, the zero alcohol drink will be part of the hugely-popular RedHog cider brand.

“We pride ourselves in being an innovative brewery here in Llandeilo and we are delighted to be showcasing the new zero alcohol RedHog at the Royal Welsh in Llanelwedd, Builth Wells,” a company spokesman said today.

“Our RedHog wild cider is already a great hit with consumers. It is a subtle blend of delicious ciders from the Welsh borders. 

“The Buckley family has been brewing since 1767 and there are seven generations of brewing passion and expertise in the heritage of the Evan Evans brewery.

“Down the years, we have earned a reputation for quality beers and ciders. We also boldly go where other brewers fear to tread in developing new products. We get great feedback from our customers and they are hugely influential in telling us what drinks they like.”

The Evan Evans spokesman added: “Our new zero alcohol cider will help appeal to younger drinkers and those who love the taste of a great and refreshing cider.

“We are launching two new zero alcohol flavours – RedHog Medium Dry Zero, and RedHog Summer Fruit Zero.

“There is huge demand for zero alcohol products and we at Evan Evans have spent the last two years perfecting the Reverse Osmosis (RO) process for the dealcoholisation of cider and beers.

“We are the only Welsh company currently using the process. RO gives us the opportunity to retain and build flavours while stripping out the alcohol.

“We have spent a lot of time developing taste profiles, and getting the products right. Too often, the complaint is that zero products lack taste. These ciders are excellent, exciting, and provide a very real alternatives for designated drivers and customers who do not wish to drink alcohol.”

The RedHog zero alcohol drinks will be available from early next week from the brewery Rhosmaen Street, Llandeilo, or Castell Howell Foods in Carmarthen.

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Business

Steel industry faces turning point amid planned blast furnace closures

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THE CLOSURE of the UK’s last remaining blast furnaces has sparked significant debate and concern. As Britain plans to shut down the last blast furnace at Port Talbot and the two still in operation at British Steel in Scunthorpe, many are questioning the implications for the country that invented modern steelmaking.

The transition from traditional blast furnaces, which produce “virgin steel” by melting iron ore with coking coal, to electric arc furnaces (EAFs), which recycle scrap steel using electrical currents, is at the heart of this debate. Virgin steel production is notoriously carbon-intensive, while EAFs offer a more environmentally friendly alternative, aligning with Britain’s net-zero laws.

Critics argue that the UK will become overly dependent on steel imports, which could be problematic in times of international conflict. However, this argument fails to acknowledge that the UK’s virgin steel production is already heavily reliant on imported materials such as iron ore from Sweden, Brazil, and Australia, and coal from various parts of Europe. By shifting to EAFs, the UK would instead use domestic scrap steel, reducing reliance on foreign materials.

It was once true that EAFs could not produce advanced steel grades, but technological advancements have changed this. For instance, the finest grades of steel for aircraft landing gear and nuclear submarines are already produced in UK EAFs. While some argue that certain steel grades still require virgin steel, others in the industry believe EAFs can meet all steel production needs with the right materials.

Tata Steel UK’s plan to replace Port Talbot’s blast furnaces with EAFs could significantly reduce carbon emissions. While there are concerns about the economic and employment implications of this transition, it also presents an opportunity to recycle the 7-8 million tonnes of scrap steel the UK currently exports annually.

Despite these benefits, there is unease about the rapid closure of all UK blast furnaces. This drastic shift may lead to unintended consequences, especially given the high energy costs in the UK. If electric arc steel production proves more expensive, it could drive up the cost of steel, making imports from countries with less environmentally friendly practices more attractive.

Additionally, the UK’s steel strategy appears conservative compared to pioneering efforts in countries like Sweden, where hydrogen DRI plants are being developed, and the US, where electrolysis is being explored for steel production. The UK, once a leader in industrial innovation, risks lagging behind by committing solely to EAFs.

While the closure of the UK’s blast furnaces represents a significant step towards reducing carbon emissions, it also underscores a broader issue: the need for a more ambitious and innovative approach to steelmaking. The country that once spearheaded the Industrial Revolution must now rise to the challenge of leading the next wave of industrial innovation.

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Business

Calls for extra charges for holiday let owners to be relaxed

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A CALL for an update on Pembrokeshire County Council’s position on a potential relaxation of the ‘182-day’ rule, allowing self-catering accommodation to avoid paying a council tax premium is to be heard later this week.

Last year, the rules on holiday lets in Wales changed; Welsh Government criteria saying holiday lets must be filled for 182 days a year – up from a previous 70 – in order to qualify for business rates rather than pay second homes council tax.

In Pembrokeshire, second homes, and self-catering businesses not meeting the criteria, are now paying a 200 per cent council tax premium in the county, effectively a treble rate of council tax.

At the July 18 meeting of full council, a question submitted by leader of the Independent Group, Cllr Huw Murphy will be heard, a follow-up from a previously submitted notice of motion where he had called for a relaxation in the ‘182-day’ rules in the county.

Cllr Murphy will ask: “At full council on October 12, 2023, I submitted a Notice of Motion (NoM) requesting that PCC use its discretionary relief policy regarding the current 182-day occupancy rule for self-catering accommodation and reduce the eligibility criteria to 140 days in support of the tourism industry.

“This NoM was debated by Cabinet on Dec 4, 2023, where it was not adopted but would be reviewed in 12 months following the impact of legislative change where evidence to support potential change to the 182-day occupancy rule will have been gathered.

“Furthermore, Cabinet stated they would write to Welsh Government to highlight concern over the 182-day occupancy rule and to be provided with information on how the current regulations are working both in Pembrokeshire and the rest of Wales, to support a review in 12 months’ time.

“Nine months have elapsed since this NoM was presented to Council in Oct 2023 and seven months since Cabinet debated it with two recommendations and this question is submitted in two parts.

“Can Council be provided with an update of what data has been obtained since Dec 2023 to examine the impact of the 182-day occupancy rule for self-catering properties in advance of a review to be completed by December 2024 prior to any decision over what level of second home council tax to be levied for 2024/25 as it may be necessary to consider a reduction to support an industry under pressure?

“Have PCC received a reply from WG with regards to the concerns raised with regards to the 182-day rule and its impact on the Pembrokeshire tourism industry?”

Cllr Murphy’s questions will be heard at the full council meeting.

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