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Environment

Green zone created outside Morriston Hospital

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A green oasis giving staff, patients and visitors a chance to escape to the country has been unveiled in the grounds of Morriston Hospital.

What was previously an unremarkable grass verge has been transformed into an amazing space with a grass-roofed roundhouse at its heart.

It opens on to a wildflower-lined, open-air corridor with seating where people can enjoy some precious moments of tranquillity.

Similar greening initiatives are taking place across Swansea Bay hospitals and dozens of other health board sites at a cost of £1.28 million – the majority of it funded by the Welsh Government.

It’s all thanks to Biophilic Wales, a collaboration headed by the National Botanic Garden of Wales, with Swansea Bay University Health Board, Swansea University and Natural Resources Wales.

Officially opening the new roundhouse: l-r Swansea Bay UHB Chair Emma Woollett, Deb Lewis, National Botanic Garden of Wales Director Huw Francis and Biophilic Wales Project Manager Kathryn Thomas (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Biophilic Wales has three main themes; Grasslands for Life, Plants for People, and Inspiring Spaces.

Swansea Bay’s involvement has been with Inspiring Spaces, which uses sites owned by the health board as focal points for green projects which have been co-developed with the local community.

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Des Keighan, the health board’s Assistant Director of Operations, Estates, said there were spaces available that had not been used effectively.

“During the pandemic staff didn’t want to go to the break-out spaces provided because of the restrictions,” he said.

“Having somewhere in the grounds were they can sit and reflect away from the hurly-burly of the hospital is a big improvement for them but also gives patients somewhere to sit and reflect too.”

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The roundhouse is a large gazebo made of solid wood with a grass roof and benches where people can sit if it’s raining.

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It’s located to the left of the road leading up from the hospital lower entrance to the multi-storey car park.

There is also a walkway heading downhill, bordered on each side by railway sleepers with benches in.

“People can sit inside there and it almost forms a tunnel effect with either side having soil banks that have been planted with wild flowers,” said Mr Keighan.

“When you’re sat in the seat, you’re screened from the hospital and the noise of the road.

“It’s not fully grown yet and there will be hedges along the top of the sleepers as well to protect people. So it’s a space away from the hospital that allows you to feel a bit closer to nature.”

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Morriston Hospital Service Director Deb Lewis said it had been difficult a year ago to envisage what it would look like. The end result, she said, was absolutely phenomenal.

“Those of us who have worked in Morriston over the last 18 months know the challenges we faced providing staff and patients with break-out areas,” Mrs Lewis added.

“Social distancing has been hugely challenging in the areas that we did have. Providing a space like this is fantastic. I know it will be really appreciated by staff and patients.”

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Biophilic Wales is funded by the Welsh Government, which awarded a grant of just under £1 million for the Swansea Bay project.

This was match-funded by staff time donated by the health board, the university and Natural Resources Wales, as well as the time donated by a small army of local volunteers who undertook the work.

They, along with Swansea Bay UHB’s gardening and environment teams, were thanked during the official launch of the green space there.

Health Board Chair, Emma Woollett officially opening the project (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Health Board Chair, Emma Woollett praised them for the imaginative way they had brought the project – the first of its kind in Wales – to life.

“Supporting well-being is absolutely fundamental to our staff and the patients that visit. It is also a positive experience for those who are involved in projects like this across our sites.

“This is all really important for us. It’s such an exciting project so thank you all very much indeed.”

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The project, led by Dr Natasha de Vere, Head of Science at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, is serving as a pilot study that will help develop models that can be applied throughout Wales.

National Botanic Garden of Wales Director Huw Francis said it had been a real privilege to work on it.

“The importance to health and well-being of green spaces is increasingly recognised,” he said.

“The development of this area and the other green spaces the project has worked on will hopefully provide valuable places for respite, rehabilitation and recuperation for the staff of the NHS, the patients they care for and the family and friends who visit.

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“We sincerely hope the green spaces that have been created will enhance the health and well-being of everyone who can make use of them, and support NHS staff as they undertake their essential and much-appreciated work.”

Swansea Bay Staff Experience and Organisational Development Manager Julie Lloyd was among the guests at the launch (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Green spaces large and small are being developed on a total of 40 health board sites across Swansea and Neath Port Talbot.

Biophilic Wales Project Manager Kathryn Thomas said every day she and the volunteers went out was an absolute pleasure.

“What we’re doing is just reinforcing that people are happier and healthier when they’re outside and working with nature. It’s been a privilege and a pleasure to create these sites.”

The health board is already developing a full-scale solar farm to supply almost a quarter of Morriston Hospital’s power, cutting the electricity bill by around £500,000 a year and significantly reducing carbon emissions.

This is part of a £13.5 million investment in energy-saving and carbon-reduction measures across the health board estate.

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Mr Keighan said: “It’s all part of the Future Generations Act, looking at how health interacts with the wider community and trying to make the space that we do have more useful.

“Where the roundhouse is located was just a green area that people drove past and didn’t think anything of.

“Now, it’s a space where staff and patients can retreat to and just have that little bit of stillness in what can be a very busy life.”

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Dyfed Powys Police

Four men fined £6,000 for ‘barbaric’ illegal foul hook fishing

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Four men caught using a barbaric and illegal fishing method by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) enforcement officers during patrols of the River Loughor, near Llanelli, have been fined a total of £6,000.

They each appeared before Llanelli Magistrates Court on 16 and 17 June and pleaded guilty to the offence of foul hooking – also known as snatching – which is prohibited under Section 1 of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975.

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They were fined a total of £6,000 and ordered to pay £10,300 to NRW for investigation costs.

The men were caught by NRW fisheries enforcement officers who were undertaking riverbank patrols of the River Loughor in summer 2021, working to address and prevent the use of foul hook fishing.

Each fish caught using the foul hooking method had been snagged on its tail, back or flank. All fishing equipment and illegally caught fish were seized by NRW and later confiscated by the court.

Alun Thomas, Senior Fisheries Enforcement Officer for NRW, said: “Foul hook fishing is barbaric, unethical and illegal. This method of fishing is not only indiscriminate on what species or size fish that are killed, but also inflicts untold damage to unseen numbers of fish which are likely to die of their injuries soon after. This is often made worse by using deliberately tampered fishing lures.

“NRW’s Fisheries Enforcement Officers and police take these incidents seriously, as do the courts. Hopefully, the small minority of anglers considering using illegal fishing methods will take heed of the heavy fines issued by the courts.”

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Romuald Krzysztof Biernacki of Dwyfor, Llanelli, was caught using the foul hooking method on 4 July 2021. He had illegally caught four mullets and six flounder fish.

Biernacki was fined £1,500 and made to pay part of NRW’s investigation costs of £2,500.

Hung Van Tran, travelled from his Gibson Road home in Handsworth, Birmingham, to fish on river Loughor on 25 August 2021. NRW fisheries enforcement officers discovered he had illegally caught four mullet fish using the foul hook method.

Hung Van Tran was fined £1,500 and ordered to pay part of NRW’s investigation costs of £1,800.

Duc Duy Tran of Brithweynydd, Tonypandy, and Tan Van Tran of Pentrebane Street, Caerphilly, were caught during another river patrol carried out by NRW fisheries enforcement officers accompanied by Dyfed-Powys Police’s Wildlife Crime Officer on 6 September 2021.

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Duc Duy Tran had illegally caught 14 mullet fish and was fined £1,500. He must also pay £3,000 to NRW for investigation costs.

Tan Van Tran had illegally caught four mullet fish. He was fined £1,500, plus £3,000 to NRW for investigation costs.

Alun Thomas added: “We would like to thank Dyfed-Powys Police, the local community and law-abiding anglers in the area for their continued support in reporting these illegal fishing activities. I urge them to continue to report such activity and we will investigate.

“We would encourage anyone going fishing to familiarise themselves with the rules and regulations before going.”

(Lead image: Natural Resources Wales)

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Science

Welsh insulation company partners with Swansea University to explore capturing carbon emissions

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Brigend-based insulation company ROCKWOOL Ltd. has announced it is partnering with the Energy Safety Research Institute (ESRI) at Swansea University to research the capture of carbon dioxide.

Researchers are aiming to develop new carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) technologies that can assist Wales and the UK achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

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Researchers at ESRI have been working on a process called Pressure Swing Adsorption to separate carbon dioxide from a mixture of gases. To date, this has been shown to work under laboratory conditions and so the next step is to investigate how it works in a real life industrial process.

Over the next 12 months, researchers will be experimenting with different adsorbent materials and operating conditions to determine the most effective method for removing carbon dioxide. Isolating carbon dioxide from a mixed gas stream is an important step in developing opportunities for use or long term storage.

Darryl Matthews, Managing Director of ROCKWOOL Ltd, said: “Alongside ROCKWOOL Ltd.’s membership of the South Wales Industrial Cluster, I am delighted we’re partnering with Swansea University to pilot new technology designed to capture CO2 emissions and are excited about its potential in supporting the drive to Net Zero.”

The demonstration unit is being developed as part of the £11.5m Reducing Industrial Carbon Emissions (RICE) project which has been part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government and is aimed at the deployment of industrial scale demonstrations of new technology.

The carbon capture demonstration unit at Swansea University (Image: Swansea University)

Darryl continued: “Taking these important steps to understand how we can develop CCUS technology further is another important piece of the decarbonisation puzzle for us as a business. The ROCKWOOL Group has long been committed to operating sustainably and in December 2020, ROCKWOOL announced commitments to accelerate the decarbonisation of our business, with specific long-term targets verified and approved by the Science Based Targets initiative.”

Professor Andrew Barron the Principal Investigator of the RICE project summarized the achievement, “with 2050 arriving fast, the time for research is over, it is imperative to get new technology onto industrial sites in order to demonstrate viability. Partners such as ROCKWOOL are vital in achieving this goal.”

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In 2020 the ROCKWOOL Group announced ambitious, science based global decarbonisation targets that have been verified and approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). The targets, which supplement existing sustainability goals, amount to an ambitious one third reduction of ROCKWOOL’s lifecycle (Scope 1, 2 and 3) greenhouse gas emissions by 2034 while at the same time continuing the reduce the carbon intensity of production.

These commitments build on ROCKWOOL’s existing status as a net carbon negative company, in that over the lifetime of its use, the building insulation ROCKWOOL sold in 2021 will save 100 times the carbon emitted in its production.

Welsh Government Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, said: “These are the partnerships that will drive a stronger, greener Welsh economy. Putting world class expertise into practice is critical to our journey to net zero and this work means Bridgend will play a leading role in these exciting developments. I’m delighted that we’ve been able to support the project through the European Regional Development Fund.”

(Lead image: ROCKWOOL)

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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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