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First cabinets installed in major milestone for ultrafast broadband project in Pembrokeshire

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A ground-breaking ultrafast broadband project run by Pembrokeshire County Council has reached a major milestone.

The first cabinets bringing full fibre, gigabit-capable broadband, with download speeds of up to 1,000Mbps have been installed at St Ishmaels and Woodstock Cross, to serve the surrounding project areas of Dale, New Moat and Ambleston.

Pembrokeshire County Council’s Ultrafast Broadband project aims to connect all of Pembrokeshire to gigabit-capable broadband, futureproofing the county against technological advances and boosting opportunities for businesses and residents in an increasingly digital world.

The scheme works by stimulating demand for fast-fibre broadband and accessing funding from the UK and Welsh Government. Local communities are invited to select a supplier of their choice, with no installation fee for customers.

Pilot areas New Moat, Ambleston, Dale and Crymych are now well advanced in their journey to enjoying the benefits of ultrafast broadband.

Herbrandston, Wiston, Slebech, Maenclochog, Llanycefn and Nevern have been chosen as the next project areas.

An additional four broadband officers have been recruited to engage with communities and build on the successes of the pilot areas.

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Cllr Paul Miller, Pembrokeshire County Council Cabinet Member for Economy, said digital connectivity is a top priority for the Authority: “While broadband provision isn’t technically an issue for local authorities I’ve always been clear that we needed to make it our issue and deliver a solution.

“I know we’ll never be the best-connected county in terms of road or rail, but I do believe we can be among the best connected digitally and the economic benefit of achieving that is too compelling to simply leave it to others.

“To that end I have committed the authority to delivering gigabit-capable fibre across the whole of the county by 2023 and the installation of these cabinets is the first, on the ground, step in making that a reality for our communities.

“Residents in our pilot areas can look forward to being connected to gigabit speeds over the coming months and I have recently approved the widening of the programme beyond the pilots and in to full delivery.

“Our recruitment of four new Broadband Engagement Officers has been followed by the selection of the next six project areas, underlining that despite the difficulties of Covid we are committed to this project and to delivering ultrafast broadband to Pembrokeshire.

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“We are committed to connecting every home in each project area. That means anyone who wants ultrafast broadband – regardless of where you live. Down a long lane? In a remote village? It doesn’t matter, anyone who wants to be connected will be.”    

A spokesman for Broadway Partners, who were selected to work with the four pilot areas, said: “We are thrilled to be supporting Pembrokeshire Council in fulfilling their digital vision for the county, and are delighted to be seeing the first tangible results of all our efforts materialising today. 

“Digital connectivity is already a must-have for many communities, businesses and households, and we look forward to future progress along the path to a 100% Gigabit-capable Pembrokeshire.” 

For more information and to express an interest in getting better broadband in Pembrokeshire, see: https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/broadband

Lead image: Pictured at the site of the first cabinets in St Ishmaels are (from left) Cllr Paul Miller, Pembrokeshire County Council Cabinet Member for Economy, Patrick Hannon, Broadband Delivery Programme Manager and Mike Odlin, Broadband Engagement Officer. (Pembrokeshire Council)

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Education

Council to review Swansea Valley ‘Super School’ decision made by previous administration

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A reprieve could be on the cards for Alltwen, Godre’rgraig and Llangiwg Primary schools as Neath Port Talbot’s new coalition administration say they want to review the decision made to create a new ‘super school’ in Pontardawe.

The new administration says it wants to establish if an alternative way to bring 21st Century School standards to the Swansea Valley can be achieved, which would be more acceptable to the community.

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The decision to establish a new £22.7m English-medium 3-11 school and specialist Learning Support Centre for pupils with a statement of Autistic Spectrum Disorder in Pontardawe to replace Alltwen, Godre’rgraig and Llangiwg Primary schools was taken by Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet on October 20th, 2021.

The controversial decision triggered a process of communicating with local schools around the next steps and general planning for the construction of the new school and swimming pool.

A successful tender exercise took place to secure a contractor to begin stage one of a two stage process.

Neath Port Talbot Council say that under its own procurement rules, it says it has been necessary to approve the appointment of the contractor to undertake Stage 1 contract works only, with no obligation on the council to proceed to the second stage. Stage 1 includes developing the design information; carrying out assessments of traffic and site conditions; ground investigations; and obtaining planning approval.

The council say that this first stage contract does not commit them to the construction of the school and pool, with a further contract being entered into at Stage 2, which is the actual construction phase. 

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It adds that allowing stage 1 works to progress will ensure that the opportunities to meet the timescales of the October 2021 decision could still be realised if a review does not highlight any changes are needed to the project.

This will avoid further anxiety for the school staff and families due to unnecessary delays, particularly important for those pupils in Godre’rgraig Primary School who are currently educated in temporary accommodation awaiting the new school.

Neath Port Talbot Council say they will now start discussions with Welsh Government Ministers to establish what information they might require from the council. This will inform the consultation process which the council will undertake with stakeholders.

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Books & Literature

Carmarthenshire author’s Carmarthen Crime series hits the bookshelves

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Ferryside author John Nicholl is celebrating the re-release of his Carmarthenshire-based detective books as the Carmarthen Crime Series.

His new publisher, Boldwood Books – winner of Publisher of the Year in the 2022 Independent Publishing Awards – has repackaged the four books with a strong emphasis on the Carmarthenshire setting and covers depicting local locations including Carmarthen, Dryslwyn Castle and the Tywi Estuary.

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The first two books, The Carmarthen Murders and The Tywi Estuary Killings, are on sale now, with the other two – The Castle Beach Murders and The Dryslwyn Castle Killings to follow soon.

The books focus on DI Gareth Gravel, an accomplished, old-school policeman affectionately known as Grav, who feels out of step with the modern world as he approaches retirement.

“Grav is something of a legend within the West Wales Police Force, liked and respected by the rank and file but not so much by the top brass due to his sharp tongue and a willingness to bend the rules to get results,” says Nicholl, who lives in Ferryside.

“Grav is overweight, loves rugby, drinks too much, particularly since the loss of his wife, and is struggling with chronic health issues. The job matters to him, victims matter to him, and he often goes the extra mile to protect the vulnerable victims of crime, particularly women and children, who he has a strong inclination to protect.”

The books draw on Nicholl’s own experience as a police officer and then as a child protection officer in Carmarthenshire. He started writing fiction after his psychologist recommended it as a way to process traumas he had witnessed during his career, which left him with PTSD.

He self-published his first book and it became an online bestseller; he went on to get signed by a publisher and now has 11 bestsellers behind him. His focus is on crime and the darker side of human nature, with a strong empathy for victims of abuse.

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“The four-book Carmarthen Crime Series, while fictional, draws on my real-life experiences as a police officer and child protection social worker,” he says. “I hope this gives the stories a gritty realism readers will enjoy.”

He adds that he is delighted to see the books republished as the Carmarthen Crime series.

“I grew up, live and write in west Wales, and so I’m delighted my publisher has given the books a strong Welsh identity, with stunning covers featuring some of the beautiful locations I know so very well,” he says.

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Port Talbot

Port Talbot RNLI shop open again for business

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Following refurbishment, visitors to Port Talbot will once again be able to visit the shop located at the lifeboat station at Aberavon seafront.

The shop refit marks the start of a new era. The shop was opened in loving memory of the previous shop manager, Phil Jones, who sadly passed away in early 2021.

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Phil had kept the shop open single-handedly for over twelve years with much success. Phil’s wife and daughter kindly agreed to officially open the new shop on Sunday 12 June when many memories were shared and there were plenty of best wishes for the future.

RNLI shops started out as simple cake stalls run by volunteers to raise money for their local station. Around 1920 commemorative RNLI products were added and shops were selling souvenirs and Christmas cards, all profits helping to save lives at sea.

The RNLI now has over 170 shops around the coast and inland all of which are run by dedicated volunteers: Port Talbot is no exception.

The shop volunteer team has grown since April 2021 from a team of one to thirteen and is also involved with fundraising.

New Shop Manager Kirstee David says: “It has been amazing watching the shop team develop over the last twelve months and to see how passionate the team is about developing what we offer – and about the RNLI!”

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(Lead image: Port Talbot RNLI)

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