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Marine Energy Test Area (META) secures Milford Haven Marine License

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META, Wales’ national marine test centre, has obtained its Marine License for Phase 2 of the project from Natural Resources Wales (NRW).

This marks a significant step forward for the project, enabling META to support wave and tidal stream testing, as well as testing of floating wind components; acting as a key innovation hub for research into wider blue economy activity.

META Phase 2 offers sites for accessible, real-sea testing and provides a dedicated facility for research and innovation. With eight pre consented test sites located within or adjacent to the Milford Haven Waterway, Pembrokeshire, META aims to help developers deploy, de-risk and develop their marine energy technologies enabling lessons to be learnt quickly and cheaply and acting as a vital springboard for advancing devices to commercial operation.

Providing the necessary stepping stone needed between university tank testing and testing at array scale at the proposed Morlais and Pembrokeshire Demonstration zones, together building infrastructure and capacity to both anchor this homegrown industry and continue to attract global innovators into Wales.

This Marine License issued by NRW’s Marine Licensing team, is the first licence awarded since NRW’s Offshore Renewable Energy Programme (OREP) was established. The £1.9 million project is being supported by the European Regional Development Fund through Welsh Government, alongside the Coastal Communities Fund.

Bethan Simes, META Project Manager said: “This announcement comes as a culmination of 3 years of hard work and we are delighted to announce that we have secured our Marine License for META Phase 2. We now have eight pre-consented test sites covering a wide scope of test parameters and so can accommodate a range of devices and testing scenarios, and I cannot wait to start welcoming our first customers and getting kit into the water.

“The purpose of META is to reduce the time, cost and risks faced by marine energy developers to accelerate development in the sector, and this growth has never been more critical. META provides an integral stepping stone from tank testing to commercial projects, supporting ambitions for the UK to continue to play a global leading role in marine renewable energy and complementing the existing UK test centre network.

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“I would like to thank our environmental consultants, RPS, for their support with our consent applications, along with NRW for processing our application and the wider Marine Energy Wales team for their support in this process.”

Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs said: “Welsh waters are a potentially rich source of energy, and the responsible use and deployment of marine renewable energy plays an important role in our efforts to respond to the impact of the ongoing climate emergency, while also contributing to our economic prosperity and boosting creating jobs.

“The marine licence approved for the second phase of the Marine Energy Test Area (META) is a significant step forward for the marine renewable energy sector in Wales.

“By supporting emerging technologies – including the wave and tidal stream sector and floating offshore wind – META will provide an incredible learning and research opportunity, and increase Wales’ profile as a nation which supports sustainable marine renewable energy.”

Nicola Simpson, Associate Director, RPS said: ‘We very much welcomed the opportunity to work with MEW on the META project, drawing on our in-depth knowledge of the Pembrokeshire marine environment and our expertise in marine renewables. We are fully supportive of such an innovative project and look forward to seeing this project being a springboard for growth in marine renewables and floating offshore wind in the Celtic Sea and beyond.”

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As well as offering sites for the testing of marine energy equipment, META will also support research, innovation and monitoring methodology projects, working closely with Welsh universities and the ORE Catapult led Marine Energy Engineering Centre of Excellence (MEECE).

Both META and MEECE are part of Pembroke Dock Marine; a Swansea Bay City Deal collaborative project which will develop a world class centre for the development of marine energy in Pembrokeshire. and also includes the Pembrokeshire Demonstration Zone and infrastructure upgrades at Pembroke Port.

The Swansea Bay City Deal is a £1.3 billion investment in a number of transformational projects across South West Wales, funded by the UK Government, the Welsh Government, the public sector and the private sector.


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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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