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Pembrokeshire

50 per cent council tax hike for Pembrokeshire second home owners proposed

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Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet has recommended placing a 100 per cent Council Tax premium on second homes.

It also plans to retain an existing 100 per cent empty homes premium.

The county currently has the second highest rate of second or empty homes and long term empty homes in Wales and in 2017 the Council introduced a 50 per cent Council Tax premium on second homes and a premium of up to 100 per cent on long term empty homes.

Reducing the number of second homes and long term empty homes is seen as desirable as increasing the supply of affordable housing across Pembrokeshire is a priority.

Second homes and empty properties reduce the number of houses available to local residents.

The additional money currently raised in Pembrokeshire is being used to support the development of affordable housing, such as a long-term housing project in Solva, as well as providing grants to local projects through the Enhancing Pembrokeshire Grant fund.

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The Council is currently developing an Affording Housing Strategy that will include a range of Low Cost Home Ownership options, and have submitted an Empty Property Action Plan to Welsh Government for consideration.

Councillor Bob Kilmister, Cabinet Member for Finance wanted to thank all those who responded to its consultation which closed in July.

He said: “Following our public consultation, Cabinet met this morning, October 4th and I proposed to recommend a 50 per cent increase in the second home surcharge to full Council, which was agreed.

“While people from elsewhere in the UK find it relatively easy to afford property in Pembrokeshire, it is much more difficult for those living and earning locally.

“A high proportion of second homes in a community also poses a threat to the viability of local schools and opportunities to nurture and grow the Welsh language.”

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The final decision will be made by all councillors on 14 October 2021.

(Lead image: Pembrokeshire Council)

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Education

Over £100m spending on Pembrokeshire school building projects agreed

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Councillors in Pembrokeshire have agreed a significant investment in schools in the county

Proposals backed include a £62.4m investment in the community of Milford Haven with the creation of new-build primary and secondary schools in the town through the use of the Welsh Government Mutual Investment Model (MIM).

Councillors also agreed the teaching and learning environments for children who attend Portfield School in Haverfordwest and the Pembrokeshire Learning Centre (PLC) in Neyland need to be significantly improved, with a £38.5m investment into the two sites. This work will be funded under Band B of the 21st Century Schools Programme.

A total of £20.3m will be invested at Portfield School, which provides education for pupils with statements of special educational needs aged between 3-19 years.

Meanwhile £18.2m will be spent on improving the Neyland site of the Pembrokeshire Learning Centre, which provides education for pupils aged between 11 and 16 with complex needs.

Cllr Guy Woodham, Cabinet Member for Education and Lifelong Learning, said: “While there are further stages as part of both the Band B 21st Century Schools funding and separate MIM proposal that we now need to successfully complete in partnership with Welsh Government, today represents a significant positive step forward in achieving Cabinet’s commitment to delivering all 21st Century School capital projects and significant investment in Milford Haven, Portfield School and the PLC.

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“My thanks go to all those who have worked very hard to get us to where we are today, and I look forward to continuing to work with all those now involved in successfully delivering these exciting school capital projects that will provide the best educational facilities for learners.”

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Carmarthenshire

Age Cymru Dyfed launches new helpline for over 50’s in West Wales

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Age Cymru Dyfed has launched a new helpline to help over 50’s in Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion access free information and advice, home cleaning and maintenance services, befriending, digital support and more.

The new Age Cymru Dyfed contact number for the public – 03333 447 874 – comes as the charity, which was borne out of a merger between Age Cymru Sir Gâr and Age Cymru Ceredigion in April 2020, supported over 2,400 older people throughout the three counties of Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion during its first year.

During the peak of the pandemic, older people were particularly hard-hit by isolation and dwindling access to food, medication and other vital services. Between April 2020 and March 2021, Age Cymru Dyfed carried out 10,238 phone calls, Zoom calls and essential home visits with clients who relied on the organisation during multiple lockdowns. Invaluably, the merger allowed Age Cymru Dyfed to utilise the pooling of expertise and resources to reach even more people who were struggling throughout the three counties.

Age Cymru Dyfed has also more than tripled its number of staff since the merger, opening a new office in Haverfordwest as its services expand to meet the growing demands of Wales’ ageing population.

The new ACD contact number will make it even easier for older people in the three counties to access crucial support, as well as valuable information and advice, and will connect callers to all offices and services throughout Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion.

Simon Wright, Chief Executive Officer at Age Cymru Dyfed, said: “I am so proud of how much we’ve achieved in the last 18 months, and would like to thank every member of staff, every selfless volunteer, and every member of the public who has supported us since the merger. The launch of our new telephone number will make it much easier for older people, their families, and their carers to contact our team, who will be able to provide tailored support and advice right from the start.

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“The challenges faced during the pandemic have merely highlighted the strength and resilience of the communities we serve, and we look forward to continuing our work and reaching out to older and more vulnerable people across Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion.”

The charity is also encouraging more people in their 50s to get in touch for free help and advice. Simon adds: “Last year, we supported over 300 people between the ages of 50 and 59. It’s important that people understand that we’re here to support everyone over the age of 50 and not just those in the later stages of their life. If there is anything that we can help you with, we will.”

For further information on Age Cymru Dyfed, go to: www.ageuk.org.uk/cymru/dyfed or email reception@agecymrudyfed.org.uk

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Carmarthenshire

New funding for 29 projects that will help tackle climate and nature emergencies in Wales

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From donkeys in Snowdonia to the salmon of the River Usk and everything in between, the Welsh Government has today confirmed 29 projects across Wales that will benefit from the Nature Networks Fund.

The Nature Networks Fund was confirmed in March this year with the Welsh Government promising to invest in the ‘condition and connectivity’ of the protected site network, supported by the ‘active involvement of local communities’.

The Minister will confirm £7m of Welsh Government support for these projects in the Senedd later today where she is expected to say: “Tackling the climate and nature emergencies is at the heart of everything we do – we must protect our environment for future generations to enjoy.

 “Recognising the importance of harnessing the power of local communities, this funding will support citizen science, school engagement programmes and volunteer training to build networks of people engaged with these sites, which are cornerstones of our nature recovery work. 

“We need a ‘Team Wales’ approach if we are to achieve our ambitious plans to restore nature. We want everyone in Wales to see nature – because if people engage with nature, they value nature.”

The sites supported provide a vital sanctuary and high level of protection to nearly 70 species, and more than 50 types of habitats which face threats worldwide.

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They also contribute significantly to the Welsh economy through tourism recreation, farming, fishing and forestry. And they provide vital life-support services for all of us – including purifying drinking water, and storing carbon.

National Heritage Memorial Fund has taken responsibility for administering the Nature Networks Fund, Andrew White – Director of The National Lottery Heritage Fund in Wales said:

“From restoring wetlands, to creating rich habitat for wildlife to flourish, it is vital that we preserve and rebuild our natural heritage.

“The Nature Networks scheme, in partnership with the Welsh Government, will allow projects to carry out direct conservation which is essential in protecting our biodiversity, and will also increase public awareness of how and why we need to protect our future.”

Project SIARC (Sharks Inspiring Action and Research with Communities), operating in Carmarthen Bay and Tremadog Bay is just one of the projects to benefit from this announcement.

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The collaborative project led by ZSL (Zoological Society of London) and Natural Resources Wales received £390,000, alongside funding from National Lottery Heritage Fund and On the EDGE Conservation, to carry out vital conservation research on Wales’ marine environment with a strong focus on sharks, skates and rays.

They will use the funding to catalyse links between fishers, researchers, communities and government to help safeguard these species and support a green recovery in Wales.

Joanna Barker, Senior Project Manager at ZSL, said: “We’re excited to scale up our collaboration with fishers and complete innovative research to better understand the amazing shark, skate and ray species that use two of Wales’ Special Areas of Conservation.

“With several opportunities for schools and local communities to be part of Project SIARC, we hope to generate a new appreciation of the underwater environment in Wales and identify ways for a wider range of people to get involved.”

The 29 projects getting funding

Cernydd Carmel restoration, Carmarthenshire County Council – £87,400

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The project would pay for a comprehensive survey to establish the baseline data to begin the process to restore the dry and wet heath to a favourable condition. Will bring community benefits in the form of more informative educational opportunities, opportunities to volunteer in the on-going maintenance of the SAC and providing an exemplar site for study and research into this threatened habitat.

Mewn Dau Gae – Achub Brith y Gors, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority – £99,100

This investment will provide both species with large networks of contiguous, species-rich grassland and heath to survive and thrive. Main focus is to safeguard the Marsh fritillary and Southern damselfly populations, who are hugely dependent upon large grazing animals, preferably cattle, to maintain their special habitats.

Former Tredegar Golf Course Biodiversity Enhancement Project, Newport City Council – £73,000

The construction of a specially designed Sand Martin Hotel on the bank of the River Ebbw at the Former Tredegar Park Golf Course. Gwent Ornithological Trust (GOT) will utilize the building to monitor the sand martin population. Will include other works such as litter removal, knotweed management and provision of Otter Holts and Amphibian enhancements.

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Ciliau Farm building nature’s resilience, Ciliau Farm – £65,000

The farm has four SSSI’s with otters, dormice and an exceptional range of habitats currently under threat in Western Europe. This project will link the SSSSI’s through creating woodland corridors to increase habitat and connectivity. Will host species walks bilingually, Open Days and a student biodiversity camp and work digitally with schools and produce a website for wider engagement.

Monkey Island Biodiversity & Visitor Project, Newport City Council – £88,000

Designated Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) due to its post-industrial grassland habitat as well as SSSI & SAC. A number of conservation management actions are included in this project to improve biodiversity & to encourage people to visit and appreciate the wildlife.

Shaftsbury Park Old Allotment Restoration Project, Newport City Council – £53,000

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The project will commission a contaminated land survey report, design/site investigation/regulators and licencing proposal as well as a costed work plan to remove / make safe the contaminated land to allow public access once more.

Nature Reserve enhancements for biodiversity resilience, Gwent Wildlife Trust – £379,800

Project will focus on 14 Nature Reserves within the protected site network including rich ancient woodland, flower strewn meadows and fragile wetlands, with 9 SSSI’s and 5 Local Wildlife Sites (LWS) that encompass over 253ha. The project will enhance vulnerable habitats across the protected site network.

Connecting the future: building resilient and sustainable nature Reserves, The Wildlife Trust of South West Wales – £497,700

Project will invest in essential infrastructure work and equipment to enable us to maintain and enhance these sites so that they continue to operate as key components in the Welsh nature network.

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Common Connections, Pembrokeshire Nature Partnership – £200,000

The project focuses on restoring connectivity to improve the ecological resilience of the Northwest Pembrokeshire commons SAC, connecting it to the costal SAC by creating, managing and protecting habitat corridors. Actions target our focal species, the marsh fritillary butterfly, and other notable species.

Coast to Commons, National Trust – £496,580

The project will focus on six areas across Wales where funding would lead to the greatest impact on site condition and wider landscape resilience.

Address underlying causes of inappropriate management, identify innovative solutions such as No-fence collars for cattle, contribute to the circular economy and promote stakeholder engagement.

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Reconnecting the Salmon rivers of Wales, Swansea University – £497,457

The project will help reconnect five iconic Atlantic salmon rivers in Wales (W.Cleddau, E.Cleddau, Usk, Tywi, Teifi) and revert the impacts caused by habitat fragmentation which is a leading loss of river biodiversity and responsible for the decline of salmon and other migratory fish in Wales.

Project SIARC (Sharks inspiring Action and Research with Communities), Zoological Society of London – £390,000

The project will catalyse links between fishers, researchers, communities and government to collaborate and safeguard elasmobranchs such as shark, skate and ray, and support a green recovery in Wales. The project will also include a diverse citizen science aspect, school education programme and will create three new positions in Wales.

Working together for nature in the Elan Valley, Welsh Water Elan Valley Trust – £87,500

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This project will implement priority actions on Elan’s designated sites identified by NRW and informed by the Elan Links HLF scheme.

Llanymynech Golf Club Restoration for Butterflies, Llanymynech Golf Club – £91,400

Part of Llanymynech Hill SSSI, has rare bryophytes and is one of the best sites for butterflies in Wales, with the very rare pearl bordered fritillary recorded there recently. The project will clear scrub and reintroduce some grazing using both sheep and cattle and also to restore and then manage areas of bracken that are infested with Bramble.

Low Density tree planting in protected areas, Coed Cyrmu Cyf – £93,800

The project focuses on native woodland creation in Powys in up to three locations adjacent to SSSIs. The project will bring more woodland into management and create woodland habitats that are not suitable for farming or timber / forestry.

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Nature Reserves Grassland Restoration, Radnorshire Wildlife Trust – £66,800

This project will focus on important areas of unimproved grassland and wetland on Radnorshire Wildlife Trust’s SSSI nature reserves: Burfa Bog, Llanbwchllyn Lake and Gilfach. The focus is on improving infrastructure, purchasing equipment and working with graziers to ensure better grazing management of these sites and make them more resilient.

Lower Wye Valley Nature Networks, Herefordshire Council/Wye Valley ANOB – £258,446

A collaborative project between the Wye Valley ANOB partnership, Gwent Wildlife trust and woodland trust focussing on designated sites in the Wye valley ANOB, their management and connectivity.

Afon Teifi SAC Catchment Phosphate Reduction and Mitigation Project (PRAM Project), Cyngor Sir Ceredigion County Council – £500,000

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This project will directly improve the condition of this SAC through reducing Phosphate inputs, improving water quality and reversing decline in nature.

Dyfi Biodiversity and Habitat Improvements, Osprey Protection Measures and Community Access, Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust – £161,900

Include number of programmes including habitat management, increase surveillance around the Dyfi osprey nest, resetting unmanageable areas of the peat bog back to ecological succession zero and wheelchair accessible boardwalk.

Resilient River Teme, Severn Rivers Trust – £150,000

This project will engage landowners and community groups with the multiple benefits of natural flood management, habitat connectivity and resilient river ecosystems.

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Creating new(t) Connections, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation – £99,694

Deliver direct benefits to improve condition and resilience at five nature reserves within or adjacent to the Deeside & Buckley SAC, improving connectivity and resilience of the site and of the metapopulations of the rare and threatened great crested newt for which it was designated.

Engage the local community in activities that contribute directly to the long term future of the wildlife on the SAC and increasing resilience to climate change and making nature accessible to people.

Restoring the Moelyci SSSI land, Snowdonia Donkeys CIO – £63,300

This project will aim to improve the condition of over 85 acres of SSSI land on Ffarm Moelyci and enable it to be better managed in the future and enjoyed by more people. Strengthen links with researchers and wildlife specialist and organisations, establish more volunteering opportunities and provide training.

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Lake Vyrnwy, RSPB Cymru – £499,500

Project aims to improve the condition and resilience of the RSPB’s landholdings around the Lake Vyrnwy Estate, benefitting from a wider programme of work. This funding would support key conservation actions including blanket bog restoration on former conifer plantation, predator control, landscape scale approaches, including farmer-led support, and enhanced conservation grazing.

Woodland Management in the Meirionnydd, The Woodland Trust (Coed Cadw in Wales) – £210,500

Work on designated sites will deliver against our woodland management plans, which will be approved by Natural Resources Wales. Progress the restoration and preservation of three planted ancient woodland sites in and around the SAC, reducing threats and reversing the decline in nature of these rare and valuable habitats.

Luronium Futures- Montgomery Cana, Canal & River Trust – £357,800

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Site of SSSI due to aquatic, emergent and marginal plant communities of exceptional interest. The towpath affords easy access for local people and visitors. This project aims to improve the canal channel conditions for rare plants and to enhance to conservation status of the SAC.

Restoring resilience to Welsh woodlands, North Wales Wildlife Trust – £500,000

The project will improve the ecological condition and resilience of woodland protected sites located across North Wales, including eligible North Wales Wildlife Trust-owned SSSIs and the Alyn Valley Woods Primary aims.

Upper and middle Dee invasive non-native species management, North Wales Wildlife Trust – £500,000

This project will manage invasive plants on the banks of the Dee between Corwen and Newbridge, including tributaries leading into the SAC and associated land. Will also carry out community engagement including awarding community grants for training and equipment to enable local groups to undertake the long term management of INNS.

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North wales Cotoneaster Control, North Wales Wildlife Trust – £500,000

The project will survey and monitor cotoneaster on 19 SSSIs and one local nature reserve. It will also carry out community engagement including training community groups and volunteers in cotoneaster monitoring and control for longer term site management.

(Lead image: Jake Davies)

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