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Carmarthenshire

Green light for multi-million pound Homes as Power Stations project

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Homes as Power Stations will facilitate the take up of energy efficient design and technologies in thousands of homes throughout South West Wales as part of a pioneering multi-million pound project.

The UK Government and Welsh Government have now approved the Swansea Bay City Deal’s Homes as Power Stations project, which will benefit residents and businesses in Carmarthenshire, Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire and Swansea.

Led by Neath Port Talbot Council, this £505 million project aims to help thousands of people save money on their energy bills, further contributing to cutting carbon emissions in the Swansea Bay City Region.

The project will work with Registered Social Landlords, private developers and other partners to use energy efficient design and technologies to retrofit 7,000 homes throughout the City Region as part of the project, with a further 3,300 new build homes also set to benefit.

The green light from both governments means Homes as Power Stations can now start drawing down on a £15 million Swansea Bay City Deal investment.

Solar panels installed at one of housing association Pobl’s homes in Penplas, Swansea (Image: Pobl)

Next steps will include the setting-up of a dedicated project team, along with a targeted regional financial incentives fund and a regional supply chain development fund. An open access knowledge sharing hub will also be developed to share learning across the region.

Cllr Rob Stewart, Chair of the of the City Deal Joint Committee said: “It’s great that another City Deal project in our £1.3bn portfolio has received full approval and will now enter the delivery phase.
“Especially as the technology delivered as part of the Homes as Power Stations project could help lower the fuel bills for many residents across South West Wales, with added health and well-being benefits aimed at reducing burden on the NHS and our social care providers”.

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Cllr Edward Latham, Neath Port Talbot Council Leader, said: “This pioneering project also complements Neath Port Talbot Council’s Decarbonisation and Renewable Energy Strategy (DARE), while forming part of a regional response to the Welsh Government’s declaration of a climate change emergency in 2019.

“The intention is to initially prove the Homes as Power Stations concept within the public sector at a relatively small scale before ramping up activity in other sectors. This will demonstrate the viability of the concept to the rest of Wales and the UK, helping create a new industry in the Swansea Bay City Region.

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“As the region emerges from Covid-19, the project’s focus on regional supply chain businesses will also help accelerate our economic recovery from the pandemic in a green and sustainable way, in combination with many other projects across South West Wales that are now moving into delivery.

“The City Deal investment will also enable detailed monitoring and evaluation of the energy efficiency technologies being introduced, with remaining project funding coming from the private sector and other public sector programmes.”

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Welsh Government’s Minister for Economy, Vaughan Gething MS, said: “Perhaps the most important commitments in our recently published programme for Government is to embed Wales’ response to the climate and nature emergency in everything we do. This is a transformation which can start in our local communities, with a focus on locally-generated renewable energy and avoiding waste.

“It’s important we are able to do so in a way which supports people and jobs; this project will not only tackle fuel poverty by helping residents save money on their energy bills, but also be of enormous benefit to the local supply chain.”

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Wales Office Minister David TC Davies said: “Delivering transformational projects across Wales is a priority for the UK Government and is why we have backed growth deals covering every part of the country.

“This project will make a positive difference to thousands of people across South West Wales as well as contributing towards our drive to net zero by 2050. Growth Deals are unleashing the potential of all areas of Wales as well as getting the economy moving as we emerge from the pandemic.”

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The Homes as Power Stations project is aligned to several other City Deal projects, including digital infrastructure, skills and talent, and supporting innovation and low carbon growth. The project is also aligned to the work of the Active Building Centre at Swansea University, which is the UK centre of excellence for transforming construction, and it builds upon the Active Buildings design concept pioneered by Swansea University’s SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre.

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The Swansea Bay City Deal is an investment of up to £1.3 billion in a portfolio of nine major programmes and projects across the Swansea Bay City Region, which are together worth over £1.8 billion and 9,000 jobs to the region’s economy in coming years.

Funded by the UK Government, the Welsh Government, the public sector and the private sector, the City Deal is being led by Carmarthenshire Council, Neath Port Talbot Council, Pembrokeshire Council and Swansea Council, in partnership with Swansea University, the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Swansea Bay University Health Board and Hywel Dda University Health Board.

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Llanelli

West Wales car dealership to double in size

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Dafen-based Llanelli Motor Company have broken ground on a new development that will see their forecourt double in size over the coming months.

Led by Managing Director Ian Jonathan, the two-phase project will see the independent car dealership increase the number of used vehicles it has on sale to over 400 by January 2023.

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“It’s certainly an exciting period for the business,” said Ian, “and with the significant changes to the used car market, we felt now was the right time to start the project, which has been in the pipeline for over five years.”

Although the business was potentially looking at 2020 as a start date for the developments, the Coronavirus Pandemic put the brakes on the project.

However, since the easing of lockdown restrictions and the delay in obtaining new vehicles, the used car market has seen an unprecedented spike in demand.

Dafen based Llanelli Motor Company is planning to double in size
The company have broken ground on an expansion that will see over 400 cars on sale by the end of January 2023

“The last 12 months have been exceptionally busy,” continued Ian.

“No sooner are we finalising our 140-point safety check on vehicles before placing them on the forecourt, than they are being purchased within a matter of days”.

With the ability to stock 150 nearly new vehicles of all makes and models at the moment, the 1-acre expansion will increase this to 250 by September before more than doubling it to 400 by the spring of 2023.

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In order to facilitate this growth, the company will also be entering a recruitment phase and looking to employ at least 10 new members of staff across its sales, workshop and admin teams as well as taking on new apprenticeships.

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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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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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