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Milford Haven sets out vision for Haven freeport

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A freeport at the Port of Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire – the UK’s largest energy port – represents the best opportunity for Wales given the compelling strategic, economic and community case, combined with the alignment with the UK Government’s freeport criteria and the UK and Welsh governments’ wider industrial strategies.

A Haven Waterway freeport would amplify economic development efforts to safeguard recovery and employment and build economic resiliency in the long-term. The Port of Milford Haven is a nationally strategic energy asset and a key trade hub for the British energy supply. A freeport will be an essential vehicle to help safeguard the existing professional energy jobs and skillsets to utilise for low-carbon ambition while regenerating the economy.

The Port’s existing energy transmission and distribution infrastructure presents the opportunity for large-scale hydrogen production and injection with minimal additional infrastructure requirements. The existing strong wind, wave and tidal resource combined with deep water access has already accelerated an emerging renewables sector such as floating wind in the Celtic Sea. Freeport status could support supply chains from equipment manufacturing through to system integration and power connectivity, helping companies develop bankable projects and a lower cost of energy to UK consumers. The proximity to major shipping routes and existence of LNG terminals mean the Haven freeport could also support a cleaner global maritime sector.

“A Haven freeport has the existing resources, natural capital, hard infrastructure and skills base to stimulate the nationally significant energy and engineering cluster along the Haven Waterway as it continues its evolution. Whether supporting floating wind deployment or hydrogen production, this next chapter will make a massive contribution to the country’s Net Zero ambitions. We look forward to working alongside the Welsh Government on the specific details of the process in Wales,” commented Andy Jones, CEO for the Port of Milford Haven.

Cllr David Simpson, Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council, said: “The importance of the Port of Milford Haven to the economy and prosperity of Pembrokeshire cannot be over-stated. We support the Port’s bid for Freeport status to safeguard existing jobs and industry and support the evolution to exciting renewable developments and opportunities. We look forward to continuing our close working relationship with the Port.”

Hugh Kelly, Project Managing Director at Blue Gem Wind, said: “We set up our Blue Gem Wind Head Quarters within the Haven Waterway Enterprise Zone in May 2020 as an ideal location to manage the development of Wales’ first floating offshore wind project. The Port of Milford Haven’s Freeport vision and focus on a future low carbon economy aligns well with our plans for the Celtic Sea.”

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(Lead image: Port of Milford Haven)

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Two more Barclays Bank branches to close in Morriston and Tenby

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Banking giant Barclays have announced the closure of two more South West Wales branches, this time in Morriston and Tenby.

The Enterprise Park branch in Morriston will close on Friday 9 September, with the Tenby branch closing on Wednesday 16 November.

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The Barclays closure notice leaves Tenby with just one bank branch following the latest announcement. The move leaves Barclays with just one branch in Pembrokeshire at Haverfordwest.

Morriston saw its Woodfield Street Halifax branch close on 18 July and it’s Lloyds Bank branch, also on Woodfield Street close on 4 August.

Barclays closed its Gorseinon and Port Talbot branches in February.

The nearest Barclays branch for Morriston customers is now on Oxford Street in Swansea City Centre or on The Parade in Neath Town Centre.

Tenby Barclays customers who need to visit a branch are being directed to Haverfordwest or Carmarthen.

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Barclays are blaming the closures on changes in the way people use banking facilities, with more being done online and fewer customers visiting branches.

(Lead image: Google Maps)

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New Swansea axe throwing venue to include a ‘rage room’

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A 24-year-old business owner is hoping to make his new leisure venue all the rage in Swansea

Matthew Griffin, 24, opened the first Lumberjack Axe Throwing on Catherine Street, Cardiff in July, 2019 aged just 21.

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Now, thanks to a £35,000 micro loan from the Development Bank of Wales, Matthew has opened a Lumberjack site on Dilwyn Street, Swansea.

As well providing a venue for axe throwing – an increasingly popular indoor sport – the new venue will see the addition of Wales’ first permanent “rage room”, which gives customers the chance to work out their stresses by freely smashing up crockery and other items, which Matthew plans to open later in the year.

Matthew, who won Businessperson of the Year at the Cardiff Business Awards 2020, spotted the gap in the market for an axe-throwing venue in Cardiff and took the opportunity to open his first site while continuing to work as a self-employed carpenter and working towards his university degree.

At the Cardiff venue, which was the first urban axe throwing centre in Wales, guests have the chance to test their physical and co-ordination skills and compete against one another by throwing axes at targets, under the supervision of trained members of staff.

After opening in mid-2019 and successfully navigating the business through the difficulties posed by the Covid-19 pandemic by working in the Nightingale field hospital in Cardiff, Matthew set his sights on expanding Lumberjack in late 2021 and discovered a suitable site on Dilwyn Street in Swansea city centre.

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The £35k micro loan from the Development Bank allowed him to keep the business stable during renovation work for the new site, with the development also supported by Swansea City Council’s Property Enhancement Grant.

Matthew added: “Working with the Development Bank was a breeze – I’d always thought coming for a loan would mean a cycle of refusals as being a young person can have its limitations, but this was proven to not be the case and I can’t praise the Development Bank enough.

“I was funding Cardiff by myself and it took all my personal savings at the time to get it off the ground. The loan has assisted massively in ensuring the Swansea construction doesn’t have too much of an impact on the cashflow of the company as a whole.

“As you can imagine, running a company while trying to construct a premises twice the size of the one bringing in the revenue can majorly drop capital reserves, risking the whole company and making the project almost impossible after the years of economic uncertainties that we have had.”

“The process was straightforward, and investment executive Donna Strohmeyer was always on hand to explain things when needed, which I can’t be more grateful for. They took the stress out of it completely. I will always approach the Development Bank for any future funding I may need.”

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Matthew plans to host tournaments for the sport at the new site, as well as continuing existing relationships with hospitality partners Smoke Haus, who work alongside Lumberjack Axe Throwing to provide food and entertainment packages for customers.

Donna Strohmeyer, a micro loans investment executive at the Development Bank, said: “We’re very pleased to have worked with Matthew in helping him to secure new premises in Swansea, allowing him to expand his existing business and bring this exciting new sport to a whole new customer base.

“It’s great to see the Swansea site completed, and we wish Matthew the very best as he brings Lumberjack Axe Throwing to a new city.”

Bethan Cousens, new investments director at the Development Bank, said: “We’re keen to work with promising young entrepreneurs like Matthew, who might not think they have a strong base from which to look for investment.

“We can help check their suitability for any investment, and guide them through every step of the way, giving them the chance to make their business dreams a reality.”

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Lead image: Matthew Griffin, Lumberjack Axe Throwing, and Donna Strohmeyer of the Development Bank of Wales.

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Energy intensive industries could get further relief under new Government proposals

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High electricity using businesses like steel and paper mills could see further relief under new proposals to help subsidise their electricity costs.

The UK Government is consulting on the option to increase the level of exemption for certain environmental and policy costs from 85% of costs up to 100%.

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This reflects higher UK industrial electricity prices than those of other countries including in Europe, which could hamper investment, competition and commercial viability for hundreds of businesses in industries including steel, paper, glass, ceramics, and cement, and risk them relocating from the UK.

The proposal would help around 300 businesses supporting 60,000 jobs in the UK’s industrial heartlands. Looking at ways to reduce the cost of doing business for key industries would help secure the future of domestic manufacturing and maintain a competitive business environment in the UK, ensuring economic growth and protecting thousands of jobs across the country.

The Energy Intensive Industries Exemption Scheme provides businesses with relief for the costs of renewable levies, including Contracts for Difference, the Renewable Obligation and Feed in Tariffs, in their energy bills.

UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “British manufacturers are the lifeblood of our economy and central to our plans to overcome this period of economic uncertainty.

“With global energy prices at record highs, it is essential we explore what more we can do to deliver a competitive future for those strategic industries so we can cut production costs and protect jobs across the UK.”

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Director General of UK Steel Gareth Stace said: “The publication of this consultation is a significant step forward in delivering competitive electricity prices for the UK steel sector and should provide some much-needed relief in the face of extremely challenging circumstances at the current time. While there remain difficulties, this announcement demonstrates that UK Government understands the challenges of British industry and continues to support steelmakers and steel communities across the country.”

(Lead image: Gareth James / Geograph / Creative Commons 2.0)

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