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Bluestone’s plans for Blackpool Mill rejected

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PLANS to turn Blackpool Mill into a heritage tourism destination were turned down by members of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park at a meeting on Wednesday (Nov 8).

The Park’s Development Management Committee met to discuss the application which would have seen the Mill transformed with new events barn and light narrow gauge steam railway at a cost of £2.5m.

However, the plans were recommended for refusal by Park officers who stated that insufficient information had been submitted with the application.

Bluestone were even taken by surprise that the application had been placed on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting after they had said that an amended application would have been submitted by the end of this month.

The Park’s officers stated that they had a duty to determine the application and the refusal allows Bluestone to come back with a fresh application.

The agent for the application, Mr Robin Williams, made a late plea asking the committee to defer the application but that was not supported.

Mr Williams added: “We have been engaging with officers in relation to ecology and highway issues. Significant progress has been made in this regard. The ecology season has just ended and we have been putting a report together which is anticipated to be completed in the next two weeks.

“We have been in regular contact with officers working towards a mid-November resubmission deadline and this came as a total surprise to find this report being presented today.

“We are confident that the reasons for refusal will be dealt with in our resubmission. Such an important application should be focussed on up to date information.

“Since the application was first considered, the membership of the committee has changed and the new members have yet to visit the site.”

Speaking against the application, Mrs Valerie Bradley said: “I’ve lived by Blackpool Mill for almost half a century and many of us have enjoyed the picturesque, unspoilt oasis full of wildlife and a stunning example of rural Pembrokeshire.

“I completely agree with the objections of Llawhaden Community Council and the concerns expressed by the National Park’s Ecologist.

“This proposal is a theft. Does Blackpool Mill have special qualities? Yes it does. Will there be light pollution? Yes there will. Biodiversity under this proposal will not be protected and it is not a sustainable design.

“It will fall out of favour and never be restored to its original beautiful state. It will not be an amenity; it will be a cheap eye-sore. It will destroy the local environment.

“The potential calendar of events is no more than a ghastly wish list and do we really need another petting zoo? As the proposal is a poor imitation of other similar established local venues I can imagine a brief life span.

“Sadly, Blackpool Mill is an easy target for in-principle development. Nathaniel Phillips, who built the Georgian Mill, would be turning in his grave.

“This proposal for a Victorian fish and chip shop, massively ugly events barn and meaningless railway and to fence it off with chain link fencing would do credit to Donald Trump.

“The Mill may be closed but it is most emphatically not unloved.”

It was mentioned that a previous site visit had been postponed and Mr Ted Sangster proposed that the application be deferred and that a site visit also be taken out but that was only supported by two other members with 11 voting against.

Mr Sangster added he was disappointed that they had not had the opportunity to visit the site and said he was also disappointed that there had been a lack of communication stating that the National Park had ‘jumped the gun’.

Cllr Michael Williams said that the site visit would be the worst possible outcome because there was no guarantee that the reports would come in the short term, adding: “We’ve got to determine it as it is. There are so many outstanding issues and this is an extremely sensitive site.”

It was also proposed that the application be refused and that was supported by 11 votes with three voting against.

Liz Weedon, Head of Projects at Bluestone, said: “Today members were pressed to make a planning decision in the full knowledge that additional information was to be presented to the authority within two weeks. As this meeting was brought forward by six weeks, we had no choice but to formally seek a deferral. Members voted against this and instead took advice to refuse the application, on the understanding that Bluestone would have the opportunity to resubmit within 12 months.

“We had been in regular contact with officers since May, thus it was a total surprise to us when without forewarning the application was scheduled for today’s meeting. We are confident that had the committee date not been brought forward, we would have been able to submit the responses that would have dealt with the draft reasons for refusal by officers.

“Decisions to approve or refuse any planning application should not be made without all of the facts.”

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One thousand march to save Withybush Hospital A&E services

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Over 1,000 people marched in Haverfordwest today (June 16) to show their support for the A&E department at Withybush General Hospital.

The protesters marched from Haverfordwest football club, leaving  at 11.30am and made their way via Bridge Street to Castle Square, and then around to the Riverside Shopping Centre, and back to the field behind the football club where a family fun day had been organised.

There were rumours that there would be inclement weather for the protest, but just on cue, the sun came out as the first walkers left the field for what many were describing as a “now or never” attempt to retain services at Withybush.

Conservative politicians joined the march including local MP’s Simon Hart and Stephen Crabb as well as Paul Davies AM. County Councillors and representatives from the Labour party were also at the protest, amongst others.

Stephen Crabb MP told The Herald that all of the University Health Board’s proposals for Withybush Hospital included a “downgrade”, and that this was not acceptable for the people of Pembrokeshire. In a passionate interview with Herald TV he said that today was the day that “local people fight for the services that they deserve.”

Mr Crabb said that he knew that recruitment of staff was a “challenge across the whole of the UK” but the Health Board need to be told they need to do more for Pembrokeshire.

Just before the protest, the admin of the Save Withybush Group on Facebok posted: “Over 22,000 have joined this group and almost 23,000 have signed the petition so we know there is massive support among the people of Pembrokeshire to save our hospital. Now we just need everyone to turn out this Saturday and show Hywel Dda Health Board that we mean business and that they will not get away with closing our A&E or any of the vital services at Withybush.”

Drivers of vehicles honked their horns as they drove past the protest which was led by musicians from the Saint City Jazz Band from St Davids.

Many people told Herald reporters that they felt that the hospital had been “deliberately undermined” ans that uncertainty created by the Health Board themselves in relation to hospital services was having a negative effect on the recruitment of staff.

This large march and fun day is described by organisers as the first stage in a summer of action to fight for services at Withybush Hospital.

Those who have not already done so are urged to fill in the consultation document published by Hywel Dda University Health Board.

  • Photography by Mike Hillen and Aad Oostermeijer.
  • Additional reporting by Matthew Roberts

 

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Pembroke Dock: Dog in black bag found dead in water

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A SHOCKING image of a dead dog which was found in the water at Pembroke Port, wrapped in a black bag, has been sent to The Herald.

The image was sent to us by a local man who pulled the bag out of the water.

Once on the dry land, he realised that tragically the remains of a dog was inside.

The shocking uncensored image is below.

WARNING: Upsetting imagery follows.

A witness at the scene told the Herald that police were called to the scene following the discovery.

The man who made the discovery told us: “The bag was down floating by the tugs, Pembroke Port, it looked like a tent bag at first.

“We pulled it up and took it on the walkway to cut it open – we didn’t know what it was.

“Once it was opened, we could see there were stones inside, and then as we opened it more it was obvious the dog was inside.

“To be honest, it looked like it had been in there a while.”

The man then told us that as he left the scene, a member of the tugboats called the police.

“It’s not nice, horrible to see, not nice at all. It didn’t look like a young dog but you don’t have any idea really with it in that state,” he added.

The Herald has contacted Dyfed-Powys Police for more information.

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Judge halves jail term for man convicted of fraud

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A FIRST CLASS honours graduate who targeted stores in Haverfordwest for fraud will soon be free after senior judges halved his jail term.

Siphosenkosi Hutton Maplanka was jailed for 12 months at Swansea Crown Court on March 22.

The 31-year-old, of Ger Yr Ysgol, Burry Port, near Llanelli, admitted three counts of fraud.

Maplanka targeted Debenhams and Tesco branches on July 12 last year, Judge David Stockdale QC told London’s Appeal Court today.

His mode of operation was to take clothing from displays and put it in a bag and then seek to exchange it.

He would claim to have bought the items previously from another store in the same group.

Using this method, he got Debenhams to refund him £260 and Tesco to shell out £140.

He came unstuck when he returned to Debenhams on July 23 last year and tried to repeat the scam but was recognised by staff.

Maplanka had been before the courts on 13 previous occasions for 22 offences, including 10 frauds, said the judge.

His barrister, John Tarrant, argued that his jail term was far too harsh and should be reduced.

Maplanka’s crimes were not sophisticated, nor the result of significant planning, claimed the barrister.

While he had ‘similar’ previous convictions, they dated back several years – and he had won a first class honours degree since then.

Judge Stockdale, sitting with two other judges, said Maplanka’s crimes were ‘not in our judgment sophisticated’.

The frauds ‘did not require significant planning’ and the loss to the stores was ‘modest’.

Maplanka’s previous convictions were ‘a significant and potent aggravating factor’, said the judge.

But he added: “In view of the absence of offences in the last five years and, allowing for all we have heard and read in mitigation, we do consider the sentence is manifestly excessive.”

Judge Stockdale reduced Maplanka’s jail term from 12 months to six months.

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