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Free festive period car parking agreed for Neath, Port Talbot and Pontardawe town centres

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Free Christmas parking has been approved for Neath, Port Talbot and Pontardawe town centres from Saturday, December 11th 2021 to Saturday, January 1st, 2022.

Members of Neath Port Talbot Council’s Streetscene and Engineering Cabinet Board took the decision motorists will not have to pay for parking at Pay and Display car parks in the town centre locations during the dates to help local residents and to give a boost to local businesses.

An officers’ report to the Cabinet Board, which met on November 5th, said: “It’s acknowledged our town centres and the traders who operate in them have been significantly affected during periods of lockdown with many being prevented from opening. 

“To support our town centre economy it is acknowledged that providing free Christmas car parking will further support our local economy’s recovery.”

Signs will be placed at the relevant Pay and Display car parks (The Gnoll Estate Country Park, Aberavon Seafront and Afan Forest Park car parks are not included) informing drivers of the free offer over the Christmas and New Year period.

The Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, Cllr Ted Latham, said: “Pontardawe, Port Talbot and Neath all offer a diverse range of shops, attractions and places to eat or drink, and I hope free parking this Christmas will encourage shoppers to buy locally and also tempt visitors to see for themselves what the county borough has to offer.”

(Lead image: Neath Port Talbot Council)

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Motoring

New law change means £200 fine and 6 points for ANY use of hand-held mobile phones at the wheel

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Prosecution regulations have been tightened on the use of hand-held mobile phones at the wheel.

Police will soon be able to more easily prosecute drivers using a hand-held mobile phone at the wheel after the government strengthens existing laws to further improve road safety.

It is already illegal to text or make a phone call (other than in an emergency) using a hand-held device while driving. Next year, laws will go further to ban drivers from using their phones to take photos or videos, scroll through playlists or play games.

This will mean anyone caught using their hand-held device while driving will face a £200 fixed penalty notice and 6 points on their licence.

Drivers will still be able to continue using a device ‘hands-free’ while driving, such as a sat-nav, if it’s secured in a cradle. They must, however, always take responsibility for their driving and can be charged with an offence if the police find them not to be in proper control of their vehicle.

UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Too many deaths and injuries occur while mobile phones are being held.

“By making it easier to prosecute people illegally using their phone at the wheel, we are ensuring the law is brought into the 21st century while further protecting all road users.

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“While our roads remain among the safest in the world, we will continue working tirelessly to make them safer, including through our award-winning THINK! campaign, which challenges social norms among high-risk drivers.

“This follows a public consultation that found 81% of respondents supported proposals to strengthen the law and make it easier for culprits to be prosecuted.

“Following the public consultation, the government will revise The Highway Code to explain the new measures. It will also be more precise about the fact that being stationary in traffic counts as driving, making it clear that hand-held mobile phone use at traffic lights or in motorway jams is illegal except in very limited circumstances.

“There will be an exemption to the new law for drivers making a contactless payment using their mobile phone while stationary to ensure the law keeps pace with technology.

“This exemption will cover, for example, places like a drive-through restaurant or a road toll, and will only apply when payment is being made with a card reader. It will not allow motorists to make general online payments while driving.”

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Mary Williams OBE, Chief Executive of Brake – the road safety charity, said: “Driver distraction can be deadly and using a hand-held phone at the wheel is never worth the risk. This important road safety decision by government, coinciding with Road Safety Week, is very welcomed.

“This news is particularly welcomed by families suffering bereavement and catastrophic injury due to drivers being distracted by phones. The theme for Road Safety Week is road safety heroes – we can all be road safety heroes by giving driving our full attention.”

Edmund King, President of the AA said: “By making mobile phone use as socially unacceptable as drink-driving, we are taking big steps to make our roads safer. For years, the AA has campaigned hard and helped educate drivers to the dangers from bad mobile phone use.

“To help ensure drivers get the message, we also need more cops in cars to help catch and deter those still tempted to pick up.”

Simon Williams from the RAC said: “As our phones have become more sophisticated, the law has not kept pace and this has allowed some drivers who have been using their handheld phones for purposes other than communicating to exploit a loophole and avoid the maximum penalty.

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“While today’s announcement is clearly good news, it’s absolutely vital that the new law is vigorously enforced otherwise there’s a risk that it won’t deliver the sort of behaviour change that will make our roads safer.”

The Department for Transport has also today published a study by Ipsos Mori about drivers who use mobile phones while driving.

Among other findings, the research reveals younger motorists are more likely to have used a handheld device at the wheel, supporting the focus of the government’s award-winning THINK! campaign, which works to boost road safety by targeting higher-risk, younger motorists and road-users.

(Lead image: Roman Pohorecki on Pexels.com)

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Carmarthenshire

Vehicle charging hub, a first of its kind in Wales

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A new electric vehicle charging hub, a first of its kind in Wales, is soon to be opened in Cross Hands.

The superfast charging hub is located off the A48 and will provide four 50KW rapid chargers and one 150KW super rapid charger.

The chargers are supported by photovoltaic cells which will provide a source of clean energy and help reduce draw from the national grid.

The project is funded through the Welsh Government’s Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle Fund.

This latest scheme is part of Carmarthenshire County Council’s ongoing efforts to support sustainability as it works towards becoming a net zero carbon local authority by 2030.

The council has already installed 28 fast charging points across the county with a further 15 being added by the end of March next year.

Last week the council launched a new campaign Prosiect Zero Sir Gâr to coincide with COP26 – a global summit for climate action – which shines a spotlight on efforts being made to become carbon neutral.

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Investing in infrastructure to support sustainable travel is just one of the initiatives the council has underway to support its efforts to tackle climate change.

The council intends to build on its work to date, ten years ago the council became the first local authority in Wales to introduce electric pool car vehicles for staff to use.

Six years ago the current fleet of refuse and gritter lorries were renewed and the council procured Euro VI vehicles with reduced emissions technology which were the most advanced at the time.

As these vehicles fall due for replacement the council is trialling electric powered bin lorries for future use. Changes have also been made to refuse collection routes to reduce vehicle mileage.

Next year, working in partnership with the Wales Government and Transport for Wales, the council hopes to introduce electric buses on the Traws Cymru Carmarthen to Aberystwyth bus route.

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Some smaller scale projects have also been developed to support more sustainable travel including Carmarthen Bus Station which has a fully operational Bike Hire Dock with eight folding bikes. Two further locations will be operational before Christmas at Burry Port and Llanelli.

The council has also recently installed eight eBike charging locations at Carmarthen Leisure Centre, Amman Valley Leisure Centre, Llandovery Leisure Centre, Pembrey Country Park, Eastgate and the Beacon in Llanelli, Pendine Trip Attractor and St Catherine’s Walk with facilities to securely store bikes. These will be available shortly.

Five Taxi eBikes for children with limited mobility have also been installed in primary schools across the county and 12 eCargo Bikes will soon be available free of charge to businesses across the county.

Carmarthenshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, Cllr Hazel Evans, said: “The number of electric vehicles on our roads is increasing year on year and we need to ensure that drivers have access that is convenient and reliable. We remain committed to supporting the development of high quality, reliable EV infrastructure to the residents and visitors of Carmarthenshire and have recently produced an EV Charging Infrastructure Strategy that will allow us to plan and set targets for the next 10 years.”

Cllr Evans added that the council is continuing to pull out all the stops to progressing its commitment to sustainable travel.

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“We are working closely with partners and Welsh Government to identify new areas where extra provision will prove beneficial, not just along the strategic road network, but also inclusive of destination charging and for specific initiatives such as the ‘Ten Towns’. Our eBikes are intended to support more sustainable travel in our town centres, as well as reducing carbon emissions and improving the air quality of town centres this will contribute to improved road safety and a reduction in vehicular traffic. And we are already making better use of out of technology by allowing staff to work from home and meet online to reduce the need for travel.”

Cllr Ann Davies, Cabinet Member for climate change said investing in sustainable travel plays a significant part in the authority’s efforts to tackle climate change. She said: “We have to look at our whole approach, so for electric vehicle use to grow, the infrastructure needs to be in place. We have achieved so much already but recognise that we have much more to do – that’s why we have launched Prosiect Zero Sir Gâr to galvanise our efforts and ensure everyone plays a part in helping us achieve net carbon zero.”

Lead image: Carmarthenshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, Cllr Hazel Evans (Image: Carmarthenshire Council

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Motoring

Wales records the fewest number of road traffic casualties out of all the UK’s regions

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According to the latest government road safety data, there were 818 Welsh road traffic casualties in 2020 – a 13% decrease from the previous year, despite a regional reduction in car traffic vehicle miles of 24% due to the pandemic and resulting lockdowns.

Wales also recorded 71 road traffic fatalities and 744 serious injuries, making it statistically, the safest region in the UK in terms of total casualties. 

With Road Safety Week commencing from the 15-21 November, these statistics show that despite the best efforts of government and other road safety groups to reduce the number of casualties, there are still a large number of major incidents occurring, relative to the amount of traffic on the UK’s roads.

Jeanette Whyman, Serious Injury Lawyer from Wright Hassall commented: “Despite the significant decrease in traffic in 2020, we are still seeing a considerable number of serious injuries on our roads, often resulting in people needing compensation for their life-changing injuries.

“To give you a better understanding of how widespread road safety issues are in the UK, we have offered a regional breakdown of the latest government data, which details the situation on our roads and shows the need to seek expert legal advice if you are involved in any such incident.

“Although the latest figures show a decline in the number of road traffic casualties, this 13% reduction must be taken in context against an overall drop of 24% in car traffic vehicle miles.

“This shows major road traffic incidents are still a regular occurrence, which unfortunately means a lot of innocent victims will have their lives negatively impacted as a result. And ultimately, if it wasn’t your fault, then you shouldn’t be left to bear the emotional or financial consequences.”

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(Lead image: Dominika Kwiatkowska / Pexels.com)

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