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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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Victim speaks out about the impact knifepoint robbery

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Teifion Lewis: Robbed the man at knifepoint

THE VICTIM of a knifepoint robbery has spoken out about the impact the incident has had on his life as Dyfed-Powys Police takes part in a national knife amnesty aiming to get weapons off the streets.

The 24-year-old was approached by a man he didn’t know while walking his dog in Carmarthen on July 20 this year. A knife was held to his chest, and he was forced to hand over the money in his wallet.

His attacker, Teifion Lewis, of Llammas Street, Carmarthen, was arrested and charged with robbery within four days, and was sentenced to 40 months in prison.

Looking back at the incident, the victim, who has asked to remain anonymous, said: “At first, I didn’t realise he had a knife on him. I just assumed he was another man who was out partying, given he was young and it was late on a Friday night.

“Even when he was right in front of me with his hand on my chest, I assumed he must have had too much to drink and just stumbled into me. Once I saw he was brandishing a knife, though, that changed everything. It was at that moment that I realised I was in far more danger than I’d first thought.

“I suppose the only real thing that was going through my mind at the time was to talk to him, do as he says, and get out of there as soon as possible without becoming hysterical. I just had to keep as calm as possible for the time he was blocking my route.”

He explained that it was only when Lewis had taken his money and walked away, that he realised what could have happened had things gone wrong.

“I thought about how easily he could have stabbed me and I’d have been left out in an empty street, cold and alone, bleeding to death, without even a mobile phone on me to call my friends and family to tell them I love them,” he said.

“I’ve never given much thought as to what my inevitable death will be like, but I’d never have thought it could have ended that way.”

The victim had walked his dog every night for two years – using this particular route for seven months – with no issue. Since being robbed, he has become wary of going out at night and hasn’t been able to walk down the lane where he was stopped without suffering flashbacks.

“It’s not necessarily the whole event that comes back to me, but different parts, such as when he started to sob to me about his home life, or when he apologised for ‘having to mug me’,” he said.

“By far, what’s stuck with me the most are the words said to me as I was being mugged. The words ‘I want your money, I don’t want your life’ have been repeating in my mind every day since then, without failure.”

On September 2, at Swansea Crown Court, Teifion Lewis was sentenced for robbery and possessing a knife in a public place. The victim read out a statement directly addressing Lewis, urging him to get his life back on track and forgiving him for what he did.

“You asked me that night to forget that the robbery had ever happened,” he read. “My assumption is because you were fearful as for what might subsequently happen to you. I’m afraid though, that the image of a knife being flicked towards my chest, and the phrase ‘I want your money, I don’t want your life’ is something I will never be able to erase from my mind, no matter how much I wish for it to go.

“I want you, however, to improve. I want you to use your punishment as your wake-up call, and as a doorway to improving both your future and the future of those who you are close to. There is help available for you, even in prison, and even when it seems all hope is lost. If I can get my life back on track after my autism diagnosis, so can you.

“You’re young, you’re able bodied, and you still have time. Use it wisely. I can’t forget what you did, but just this once I will forgive you.”

The victim has spoken out about his experience as Dyfed-Powys Police takes part in Operation Sceptre – a national week of action aimed at cracking down on the illegal possession of knives. A knife amnesty is taking place during the week (Sept 18-24), with people able to bin their knives at specific locations across the force no questions asked.

The 24-year-old has backed the operation, and the chance to get knives out of our communities.

“I’d prefer it if these people who carry knives with them be honest about who they are and why they have them on their person,” he said. “But it’s much more important that it’s an opportunity to get these weapons off the street.

“If the ability to do this anonymously is what gives these people the confidence to rid themselves of their weapons, then so be it.”

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Over £24,000 worth of fines handed out in first enforcement week

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IN the first week of new enforcement officers working across Pembrokeshire, 161 fines have been handed out, worth a possible £24,150.

160 of those fines are for littering, with 1 person fined for dog fouling, Pembrokeshire County Council have told The Herald.

Enforcement officers can give on-the-spot fines of up to £150 depending on the offence. This can be reduced to £75 if paid within 10 days.

If all 61 fines were paid within 10 days it would generate £12,075.

Fixed penalty notices can be given to people spotted dropping litter – including dropping cigarette ends – or allowing dog-fouling, as well as those responsible for fly-posting, graffiti, and anti-social behaviour.

The council has said that anyone who refuses to pay their fixed penalty will be prosecuted.

Cllr Paul Dowson told the Herald after the first 48 hours of the new policy: “This is a very big problem – we’ve been without enforcement for more than two years, so you’d expect people to get lacksey-daisy about it. Hopefully now with people being caught, it will cut it down.

“My overriding thought is you should know littering is bad, regardless where it is – so don’t do it.”

When questioned about the confusion over where the funds would go, Cllr Dowson told us that none of the profits would go to Pembrokeshire County Council: “As far as I’m aware, it’s a totally contracted out service where they self-fund and run like a regular business – if they don’t generate enough profit they will go bust. I’ve had info sent to me by the council that they are totally self-funded, there’s no money going back into the council.”

Cllr Dowson is pleased with the approach but is worried the focus is too much on littering: “My initial initiative was down to fly-tipping, not littering, I fought this one solo and nobody else is interested. It seems as though that’s not part of the remit, and I need to look into that because if it isn’t then my emphasis wasn’t listened to.”

Some members of the public have raised concerns that fly-tipping will only increase when black bag collections move to three-weekly.

Earlier this year, council plans were approved to move to three-weekly bin bags collections, on the basis that householders will need to place fewer items in black bags thanks to the increased recycling opportunities.

A maximum of three black bags will be collected per household every three weeks.

Any additional bags taken to the local civic amenity sites will not be charged for.

Additional containment will be provided for householders if required, upon request, for example for larger families.

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Minor tree incidents reported due to high winds

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THERE have been minor incidents involving trees around the county following high winds today (Sept 19).

Pembrokeshire County Council has reported three incidents, all relating to trees:

  • Large branch down in Bartletts Well Road, Sageston,
  • Tree in a precarious state in the grounds of Pennar Community School
  • Tree down in housing estate at Maes Hafren, Eglwyswrw

The last reported incident was at 11:45am.

A yellow weather warning is in place for Pembrokeshire tomorrow (Sept 20), with the Met Office warning of possible flooding and delays to bus and train journeys.

The warning is in place between 4am and 10pm.

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