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HRH The Countess of Wessex unveils tree at Swansea Arena’s coastal park

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HRH The Countess of Wessex has been helping celebrate Swansea as a Queen’s Green Canopy “Champion City” during a Royal Visit to the city on Wednesday 9th March.

To mark the occasion, Her Royal Highness planted a Jubilee tree at the city’s new coastal park, which is next door to the newly opened Swansea Arena.

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The Countess will tour the park, which is the first new urban park in Swansea for a century. HRH will meet VIPs, local groups and school children who are green champions in their communities, planting trees and promoting environmental initiatives in their areas.

Swansea has been recognised as a Queen’s Green Canopy “Champion City” as a result of ongoing work to plant thousands of trees across the city, and also to the Council’s future plans to plant even more trees. Tree planting has taken place as part of recent new school developments, major improvements to council housing stock and also during the development of new walking and cycling routes.

In November last year, Swansea University planted more than 1,600 whips at Ashlands Playing Fields. City centre major thoroughfares including the Kingsway and Wind Street have also seen dozens of new trees planted.

Rob Stewart, Leader of Swansea Council said Swansea was privileged and honoured to be a Queen’s Green Canopy “Champion City”, which is both a celebration of the city’s commitment to its local environment and a challenge to do more in the years ahead.

He said: “We are very proud to be designated a Queen’s Green Canopy Champion city. It is a huge honour. We’re delighted that HRH The Countess of Wessex is joining us at a significant time for the future of our city and during Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Year.

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The coastal park has only just been completed and the tree The Countess plants will be the final finishing touch for an innovative new destination that will be enjoyed for generations to come by countless visitors.”Being designated a Queen’s Green Canopy “Champion City” gives Swansea a special responsibility to make sure the legacy we hand over to future generations is a greener, happier and healthier city.

We’ve already established strong links with community groups and schools across Swansea to ensure there is a joint effort aiming to make that ambition a reality. This year we have plans to plant almost 1,000 trees and 5,600 whips trees. We’re also starting a major environmental mapping exercise to identify public land and roadside verges that would benefit from tree planting initiatives.

“It’s a way of putting down green markers now that will boost growth of green space in the years ahead.”

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Royal Family

Royal recognition for role in planning health board’s response to pandemic

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A Swansea Bay University Health Board staff member has been thanked for her work through the pandemic by attending a Royal Garden Party

Planning for and responding to emergencies is second nature to Karen Jones. As Swansea Bay’s Head of Emergency Preparedness, Resilience and Response (EPRR) Karen is used to expecting the unexpected.

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But nothing could have prepared her for the special invitation she received in recognition of her role in the health board’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

As a way of thanking her for her hard work, Karen (pictured) was invited to attend one of the Royal garden parties held annually at Buckingham Palace.

It is her duty to ensure the health board is prepared for high risks and emergencies and is able to respond and recover when necessary.

Over the last two years, much of her day-to-day work has unsurprisingly been focused on the response to Covid-19.

This has involved preparing and responding to various scenarios, the initial setting up of testing centres and creating a co-ordination centre where vital information could be shared between services.

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“My job is to try to be one step ahead to try and stop us going into an emergency situation but also being prepared to deal with them if they occur,” Karen said.

“I could see flurries of information coming through about the outbreak in Wuhan in December 2019. In January I spoke to our Executive Director of Public Health, Dr Keith Reid, about it as it seemed to be increasing in activity.

“After learning more, I said I think we should invoke our pandemic response plan. I dealt with the measles outbreak in 2013 and I knew this was a rising tide emergency and going the same way so we reacted early.

“I am very proud to say that we stood up our pandemic plans early in order to be prepared.

“We developed templates based on the information about what was going on in Wuhan and asked service groups to develop responses based on a number of ‘what if’ scenarios.

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“We had to set things up very quickly.”

As part of her role, delivering on training and exercising is paramount and Karen has to organise staff exercises as a way of testing the emergency plans in place, should they be needed in future.

Just months before Covid-19 emerged, she had arranged a pandemic response exercise, in conjunction with Public Health Wales, the learning of which went on to form the basis of the real-life response in Swansea Bay.

Karen said having a Covid co-ordination centre, known as Gold Command, where senior members of staff could receive situation updates and share information had been crucial in managing the response.

At the height of the pandemic, meetings were held three times a day as guidance and information was changing rapidly.

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“It was a lifesaver because in an emergency you need a central point for all information to come in so you can manage it and distribute it,” Karen said.

“It was like a tsunami coming towards us and we were trying to make sense of all of the information, especially when we were receiving several versions of guidance about the same thing within a short space of time.

“As well as the massive response within the health board, we also had to link in with multi-agencies and their equivalents to Gold Command structures.

“It was a phenomenal response.”

Karen said she was very surprised to receive the invitation to one of the Royal garden parties but she emphasised that it was a team effort thanks to the hard work from those around her, as well as wider health board staff.

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She added: “It was a complete and utter surprise and I was extremely humbled as I really wasn’t expecting it. I was honoured.

“It was a truly memorable day and the weather was beautiful. There were so many people present, all being recognised for their contributions to society, so I really did feel humbled to be part of it.

“At the beginning of the pandemic it was hard but I was in awe as I couldn’t believe how everybody pulled together. The camaraderie and teamwork – that community tight-knit feel was something I’ll never forget.

“It’s been a team effort from an accumulation of people who had to come together from all areas, led by Dr Keith Reid.

“It is an amazing job and I absolutely love it because no one day is the same. It is so varied and you can achieve so much.”

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Siân Harrop-Griffiths, Director of Strategy, said: “Karen was instrumental in establishing Swansea Bay’s response to Covid, meaning that we were in front of most health boards in our planning.

“For example, we were the first to establish a testing centre for staff.

“She has worked tirelessly through the pandemic, utilising her skills and experience on emergency planning and business continuity to enable us to respond so well as an organisation.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for her efforts to be rewarded.”

Lead image: Karen at the Royal garden party with her husband Martin (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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Neath Port Talbot

Royal visit for Neath Port Talbot Youth Service

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Neath Port Talbot Council’s Youth Service enjoyed a royal visit (Wednesday 9 March) when HRH the Countess of Wessex visited young parents, their children and staff involved in the Young Parents Provision project.

The Provision is funded by the Welsh Government Youth Support Grant run in partnership with the Youth Service, Flying Start and Thrive.

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The Young Parents can access Youth Workers, along with support from Neath Port Talbot Council’s Flying Start programme (an early years support programme for families of children under four) and support from Thrive Group Wales.

The Young Parents group provides valuable support and advice for young parents who are at risk of isolation and it has provided a lifeline for new parents as they navigated caring for babies and toddlers in the Covid-19 pandemic. Support for the group has included a Slow Cooker Project, walk and talk sessions, a parent nurture course and one to one sessions.

The Countess of Wessex has a strong personal interest in improving opportunities and help for young people and she champions national charities such as the NSPCC.

During her visit to The Young Parents Group at Playhem Play Centre, the Countess met parents, children, the Youth Council and staff and she was also welcomed by the Mayor of Neath Port Talbot, Cllr John Warman, Neath Port Talbot Council Deputy Leader, Cllr Leanne Jones, Education, Skills and Culture Cabinet Member Cllr Peter Rees, the Lord Lieutenant of West Glamorgan, Mrs Louise Fleet and Neath Port Talbot’s Deputy Youth Mayor, Maddie Pritchard.

Cllr Warman said: “We were delighted to welcome HRH the Countess of Wessex to Neath Port Talbot who was keen to meet the young parents being helped by our youth service in conjunction with Flying Start and the Thrive Group at Playhem. It is a first class project for helping and supporting young parents who would otherwise be in danger of becoming isolated.”

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Neath Port Talbot Youth Mayor Bethan Nicholas-Thomas added: “It was very nice for HRH the Countess of Wessex to visit us in Neath Port Talbot and talk to the Young Parents Group and Youth Council. It is important for us as young people to have these opportunities where we can voice our opinions on matters that affect our lives. The Young Parents project is an excellent example of the Youth Service working in partnership with others to help young people who need support.”

Earlier in the day, the Countess, a patron of the Scar Free Foundation, visited the London based charity’s research centre in Swansea University – the centre, working with Health and Care Research Wales, aims to enhance facial reconstruction techniques using 3D bioprinting.

Her Royal Highness also planted a Jubilee tree at the city’s new coastal park, which is next door to the newly opened Swansea Arena.

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Environment

Prestigious royal ‘green’ title to be given to Swansea

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Swansea is set to be a Queen’s Green Canopy Champion City as part of celebrations of the monarch’s Platinum Jubilee.

The Queen’s Green Canopy has announced that Swansea will be joining twelve other cities around the UK, including Manchester and Leicester, to help celebrate the 70th anniversary of Her Majesty The Queen’s year on the throne.

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Rob Stewart, Leader of the Council, said: “It is such an honour for Swansea to have been nominated a Queen’s Green Canopy Champion City.

“It is recognition of what’s been achieved in the last few years in creating a new city centre urban park – the first in Swansea for a century – and the planting of thousands of trees along key routes in Swansea.

“We’re also being recognised for the work we have done with partners to plant even more trees around the city, including thousands of new trees at sites including Mynydd Newydd Playing Fields and residential areas such as Penlan.

“But, just as important is what we intend to do in the coming months and years to increase our commitment to tree and woodland planting.

“Our plans for the coming year include proposals to work with schools, community groups and volunteers to create new hedgerows and small native woodlands within school grounds and local green space.

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“We’re also going to plant more trees in local parks and green spaces and support local groups like the Swansea Orchard Project, the Swansea Community Green Space Project and Coeden Fach Community Tree Nursery.

“Our ambition is that it will become a destination not just for entertainment and conferences but also a spot for sitting down on a bench or a grassy area to enjoy city and beach views or a chat over coffee with friends.”

There are more than 100 parks and green spaces around Swansea, boasting some of the finest views and finest biodiversity found anywhere in Britain.

Kingsway has been re-fashioned into a refreshing city centre green space boasting more than double the number of trees and greenery than it had before. The Council has been consulting on doing something similar for Castle Square Gardens with news on proposals due in the next few months.

Mark Thomas, Cabinet Member for Environment Enhancement and Infrastructure Management, said: “The news of the city receiving this title is a real credit to the work we have carried out in recent years and also for the plans we have for the future.

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“It clearly recognises the efforts we are making to improve the city’s green infrastructure and improve our local environment.

“All of our new cycle routes are benefitting from additional tree planting. We have recently planted more trees in many of our parks. It’s also important we recognise the work to manage our existing trees and remove diseased and dangerous trees and replace with more suitable species that we know thrive in urban areas.”

Tree-planting season started last month and areas getting new trees will be the area around the new-look Broadway junction above Tycoch, Kingsbridge, Sketty Park, Ynystawe Park, Wind Street, Townhill and in Gorseinon. Off-road cycling and pedestrian routes are also expected to benefit from extra tree planting as well.

In addition to that, tree planting is also being planned for roadside verges and in communities and sheltered housing complexes as part of environmental improvements under the £500m Welsh Housing Quality Standard programme.

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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