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Pembrokeshire

Penally Asylum Camp to close by 21 March says Simon Hart MP

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Local MP and Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart MP has confirmed that the controversial Penally Asylum camp in Pembrokeshire is to close from 21 March.

The announcement comes after inspectors said the camp was “run-down and unsuitable”.

As well as a lack of Covid protection, fire safety and living conditions concerns, the inspectors found that managers lacked the experience and skills to run large-scale communal accommodation and the Home Office did not exercise adequate oversight. The report also reveals that many residents at the centre said they had mental health problems.

The camp has also proved controversial, attracting protests from local people and complaints about additional costs incurred by the local council and Dyfed-Powys Police.

In a letter to local residents, Mr Hart said the decision “followed many weeks of discussions” between himself, the Wales Office and the Home Office Ministerial team.

Mr Hart said: “I am deeply conscious of the manner in which the use of Penally came about caused much frustration and anger”.

“The Home Office has recognised this contributed to heightened tensions, but stress they had little option at the time.”

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Simon Hart’s letter in full:

Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn said; “I’m extremely pleased to hear today’s announcement, and that finally we will see the closure of the asylum centre in Penally.

“I have been continuous in my condemnation of the Home Office’s decision to use the camp to house asylum seekers since September last year, and my concerns are vindicated following the findings of an independent inspection that were published in a damning report last week.

“It will be a welcomed relief not only to local residents in Penally and the surrounding area, but also to the asylum seekers within the centre.

“I am grateful to all local agencies who have worked tirelessly to make the best of this difficult situation.  I hope the Home Office have learnt a further lesson about how important it is to consult with local communities and key stakeholders”

“I have seen first-hand the difficult circumstances encountered by individuals residing at the centre. In January, I met with David Bolt, the Chief Inspector of Asylum and Immigration, who reassured me at the time that the independent inspection of the Centre would take place early this year.

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“The report findings that were published las week highlighted the concerns and fears that myself and other local stakeholders have raised with the Home Office on several occasions.

“The lack of strategic planning around the use of camp since September 2020, as well as the lack of community engagement has been extremely frustrating. This has led to unnecessary pressure being put on local resources at a time when we are trying to protect our communities from a global pandemic.

“I am glad to see that common sense has prevailed, and that plans are being put in place to relocate all asylum seekers by as early as next week, and that the camp will close once and for all.”

(Lead image: Google Maps)


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Transport for Wales

New trains for Wales and Borders services go on show

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Brand new trains that aim to transform services across Wales and the English borders have been on show today at Chester railway station.

Assembled by CAF at their factory in Newport, the first Class 197 train with its ‘Made in Wales’ tag was revealed to the public today (Friday 1 July), offering a taste of what’s to come for customers in the next few months.

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TfW are spending £800 million on new trains throughout their network and the Class 197 will be the first of the brand-new stock to enter service in North Wales before the end of this year.

Providing an increase in capacity, reduced emissions and enhanced comfort onboard, these trains will allow TfW to run faster and more frequent services to key routes including services in South West Wales – Manchester to Milford Haven, Cardiff to Fishguard and Swansea to Pembroke Dock.

Offering leather seats, modern air conditioning systems, wider doors and customer information screens, the new trains will transform the customer experience. They’ve also been fitted with electronic charging points and disability features for those with limited mobility.

The Deputy Minister for Climate Change with responsibility for Transport, Lee Waters said: “I am pleased to welcome the new Class 197 trains to the rail network. These new vehicles represent a real transformational improvement on the trains that they will be replacing, providing comfortable and frequent services, encouraging people to leave their cars behind and move onto a more sustainable form of transport.”

Alexia Course, TfW’s Director of Transport Operations, said: “At Transport for Wales we’re continually moving forward with our transformational plans to improve public transport for the people of Wales and the borders.

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“The Class 197s on show at Chester railway station today will be an important part of the transformation of the Wales and Borders network, and when they enter service, they will enable us to run more services and carry more customers in comfort.

“The construction of our new trains has been four years in the making, and customers and colleagues are incredibly excited to welcome passengers onto them from later this year.

“It’s also important to recognise that these trains have been made in Wales at the CAF factory in Newport and the building of them has provided jobs and supported the local economy”.

Richard Garner, UK Director CAF said: “CAF is thrilled that the first of our Class 197 trains for the Wales and Borders network has been officially launched.

“We are immensely proud of our key role in delivering Transport for Wales’ vision to transform rail travel for passengers.

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“The manufacture of our trains is taking place at our state-of-the-art facility in Newport, South Wales. We see ourselves as a local manufacturer, supporting highly skilled jobs and bringing employment opportunities to the local area whilst focusing on sustainability issues and addressing the needs of the Welsh economy.

Our trains are being built in Wales to serve the Welsh communities”

(Lead image: Transport for Wales)

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Charity

Pembrokeshire charity recruits community fuel champions

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Pembrokeshire FRAME has received funding to recruit a community fuel co-ordinator and five volunteer champions as they look to raise awareness about energy efficiency, whilst tackling fuel poverty across the county.

The funding from gas emergency and pipeline service, Wales & West Utilities, will allow the charity to act as a community point of contact for those facing fuel poverty issues and will help to make a positive difference to local communities most in need.

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The employed advisor and five volunteer champions will help individuals claim benefits, provide debt management advice and make referrals through to Wales & West Utilities existing network of partnerships. They will also be able sign people up to the Priority Services Register (PSR), make referrals for specialist support with fitting Locking Cooker Valves and distribute free carbon monoxide alarms.

Gas emergency and pipeline service, Wales & West Utilities, has provided the funding as part of its Vulnerability and Carbon Monoxide Allowance (VCMA).

Paul Hughes, Chief Officer at Pembrokeshire FRAME, said: “This funding will allow us to deliver far-reaching benefits. Not only will it allow us to get into the heart of Pembrokeshire communities to help those most in need to gain specific advice on energy efficiency and gas safety, but it will allow us to provide employment and volunteering opportunities to local people.

“We are all feeling the impacts of the rising costs of living, and this funding will allow us to run a 5 day a week hotline for fuel poverty and carbon monoxide enquiries, whilst having face to face contact across communities.

“It’s great that Wales & West Utilities is supporting our efforts by providing this funding and we are hopeful that many people will benefit.”

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Pembrokeshire FRAME is a supported employment and life changing charity that transforms hundreds of lives in Pembrokeshire each year, by providing access to learning, supported and meaningful occupation, voluntary and employment opportunities and help and support to enable individuals to reach their potential. The community fuel champion will be based at the charity’s Merlin Bridge site, however, will also work in Pembroke Dock.

Tom Robinson, Social Obligations Specialist at Wales & West Utilities, said: “We’re delighted that this funding will allow Pembrokeshire FRAME to support the most vulnerable by providing vital energy efficiency advice and safety information.

“We are committed to doing everything we can to support those most in need in our communities. Working with trusted partners like Pembrokeshire FRAME means we can help more people stay safe in their own homes.”

Between April 2021 to March 2026, Wales & West Utilities has £7m to spend on projects which support consumers in vulnerable situations and raise awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide and keep people safe from the ‘silent killer’.

Carbon monoxide (CO), known as the ‘silent killer’ because you can’t see it, smell it or taste it, kills 50 people a year in England and Wales and hospitalises many more. In the UK, there are more than 4,000 visits to Accident & Emergency for treatment of carbon monoxide poisoning – which can often lead to lasting neurological damage. Even low levels of exposure over an extended period can cause serious health issues, including brain injuries.

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Funding is made from the Vulnerability and Carbon Monoxide Allowance (VCMA), and 75% of the money will be spent on projects relevant to Wales and south west England only, while 25% will be spent on collaborative projects with the other gas networks across the whole of the UK.

(Lead image: Wales & West Utilities)

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RNLI

RNLI lifeguards return to their posts on Pembrokeshire beaches

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RNLI lifeguards are set to return to their posts this Saturday (18 June) on selected beaches on a number of Pembrokeshire’s busiest beaches as the charity’s lifeguards provide their annual safety service over the summer season.

From Saturday (18 June) RNLI lifeguards will be back offering their daily safety service between 10am-6pm for the summer season on the Pembrokeshire coast.

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RNLI lifeguards will be offering daily safety patrols until Sunday 4 September as the charity looks to ensure the safety of the public during the busy summer months. The RNLI lifeguards will be in daily attendance and welcome and encourage any questions you may have about water safety.

From 10am this Saturday, RNLI lifeguards will return to the following beaches: Saundersfoot, Tenby North, Tenby Castle, Fresh West, Broad Haven, Newgale South, Newgale Central, Newgale North, Newport Sands and Poppit.

RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor for Pembrokeshire, Peter Rooney reminds families of the importance of staying calm and to float if they get into difficulties on the coast: “If you get into trouble in the water, try not to panick and remember to Float to Live: lean back, using your arms and legs to stay afloat. Control your breathing, then call for help or swim to safety.

“RNLI lifeguards play a vital role in keeping beach visitors safe, but they can’t be everywhere. This is why we’re asking people to come prepared before you head to the beach; before the start of your day, take a few minutes to check local information such as tide times and the weather.”

Peter continues: “If possible, visit a lifeguarded beach and if entering the water always stay between the red and yellow flags – this is the area that’s carefully monitored by the RNLI lifeguards throughout the day. If you see someone else in trouble, as hard as it may be, never attempt the rescue yourself – alert a lifeguard or call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.”

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(Lead image: RNLI / Eleri Roberts)

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