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Being homeless in Pembrokeshire

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By Tess Delaney

I HAD reason recently to get in touch with the homeless unit at Pembrokeshire County Council.
I spoke to a nice lady, and they can help me.
As I’m responsible for my son, we can be accommodated at the hostel in Pembroke. The thing is, I used to work at the Prince’s Trust, with kids that lived at the hostel, and there is no way on earth I’m taking my kid there.
Not happening.
And Pembroke? A forty-five-minute drive from my land, which I have to visit twice each day to tend my livestock. Given that one of the reasons for a Council officer’s refusal of my OPD planning permission was it involved too much driving, that’s a solution to a problem created by the Council which seems absurd, to say the least.
So now what?
Luckily, having procured a gig here at your favourite local newspaper, I’ve got a few more resources available.
So, let’s have a look, shall we?
Looking around at the prices of properties available to rent can leave one feeling pretty bereft.
What I want to know, is how does anyone afford these rents?
The cheapest two-bedroom I can find close to my land is in Clunderwen.
It looks fabulous in the pictures, but I know it’s rough because someone I know used to live there.
It’s a pretty little place, with a good amount of space, but the garden is shared – which isn’t mentioned in the particulars of course – and there are usually snails in the front room.
The fridge has to live in a cupboard under the stairs because the kitchen isn’t big enough, and there’s a washing machine, but it doesn’t work.
My point is, anything close to affordable is slightly sketchy.
It’s weird when you’re renting, and you lie there in bed, looking up at someone else’s peeling paint on the ceiling, unable to do anything about it because they don’t want you to, and you’re not really inclined to, being that your contract is at most a year long.
And who in Pembs is in a position to buy? Really? Are there any first-time buyers left? And what do they buy? There’s not much on the market locally for under 100k. How do people raise mortgages?
Some people have to rely on parents or suchlike, but some don’t have that kind of help. And there are no council houses because they all got sold.
I remember my grandad refusing to buy his council house. “They’re social houses for people in need” he used to say. The next people to live there bought it. Now, it’s a private let, with rent as high as any other three bed in that particular town.
I’ve put my name down on the council house register because the council are basically not giving me a lot of choice.
It’s daft.
I own and work on land that I have to leave at night times. I’m there all day. What’s the big deal about where you actually sleep? Why does that constitute home? What is home?
I can’t be homeless when I’ve got more of a potential home than someone who is actually proper homeless, but they’re telling me I’m homeless.
Define homelessness.
When I bought my land I tried to rent a house nearby.
Even though there are loads of empty and dilapidated properties, none are available for use. I put a shout out on the local Facebook page and got not one reply.
A week or so later, someone put a post on the same page, asking for a holiday let for their family to use at Christmas. About thirty people replied, with photos of lovely little houses that looked small enough to be affordable to a local family to rent. But they’re all holiday homes.
Every single one.
It’s no secret that many villages in our county are made up almost entirely of holiday lets and second homes.
Our prices are inflating all the time, especially when bright sparks at the Daily Mail publish articles on how you can get a house in Pembs for half the price of Cornwall, so why not move to Pembs, and buy up all the housing stock?
It wouldn’t be so bad if the housing stock got replaced, but every time someone puts a planning application in for affordable homes, or even any homes, the vigilantes come out, insisting on keeping as big a radius as possible around them, even though they’re usually people that moved here to retire, and all they’re really worried about is their property prices and the feeling that any new builds will spoil their postcard.
It’s an endless circular mess, and to be honest, who of you, reading this, would rather take your kid to the hostel than move onto your land illegally and face court? If that’s the choice, I know what I’ll be doing.
I’m lucky in that my son’s dad is letting me, as well as the kid, crash at his place while I look for somewhere, or get planning at appeal, whichever comes first.
So, ultimately, if you don’t have an ex that’s a brilliant dad and not only takes responsibility for the kid, but for me too, and steps in to help in this way, what do you do?
If you don’t have friends offering you places to stay, like I’ve had, you have the hostel as an option, and that’s it.
How can there be, as reported recently, so many homeless people wandering around Tenby that the Tenby Chippy is giving out free meals? How did that happen? When did that happen?
There was no homelessness back in my school days in Tenby. If there was one homeless person they were almost a curio, like that guy who used to wander around Whitland and tragically, and almost unnoticeably, died in that fire.
Now we have so many homeless that they’re noticeably cold and alone in a place like “Fair and Fashionable” Tenby, relying on the kindness of the chip shop?
According to the council’s reasoning, I’m eligible for free chips. Perhaps I’ll gather up everyone down there and let them live on the field.
It’s always an option…

Community

Start your career with the RNLI

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THE RNLI is in search of new recruits to spend a season working on some of west Wales’ most popular beaches, as applications open for 2020 beach lifeguards. RNLI lifeguards operate on 40 beaches in Wales in the counties of Bridgend, Swansea, Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Denbighshire.

In west Wales, the RNLI is particularly keen to recruit lifeguards to work the beaches of Aberystwyth north/south and Borth.

In addition to this lifeguards will be required to provide a seasonal service at Pembrey, Pendine Sands, Amroth, Saundersfoot, Tenby North/Castle/South,  Freshwater West, Broad Haven, Nolton Haven, Newgale South/Central/North, Whitesands, Newport Sands, Poppit Sands, Aberporth, Tresaith, Llangrannog, New Quay Harbour and Clarach.
Successful applications will be to be available to attend training between 29 June – 10 July 2020.

At the forefront of the RNLI’s lifesaving work, the charity’s lifeguards responded to almost 20,000 incidents and helped more than 32,000 people in 2018. Successful applicants receive world-class training in search and rescue, lifesaving and casualty care techniques, good rates of pay and the chance to develop valuable skills for a future career.

In order to apply, there is a requirement to hold a National Vocational Beach Lifeguard Qualification (NVBLQ) or equivalent. A health assessment (including an eyesight test) to ensure you are physically up to the job will be required. All lifeguards must be able to complete:

A 400m pool swim in under 7½ minutes, the first 200m of which must be completed in under 3½ minutes.
A 25m pool swim underwater and a 25m surface swim consecutively in under 50 seconds.
A 200m beach run in under 40 seconds.

Lee Fisher, Lifeguard Services Manager says: ‘Working as a lifeguard is a unique and rewarding experience – you get to call the beach your office for a start! But far more importantly than that, you are there to make sure the public stay safe while enjoying their visit, and ultimately to help save lives at sea.

‘This is a demanding job requiring commitment, skill and a clear head, but it’s also a job that is truly life changing. We’re looking for people with courage, determination and the ability to put their training into action and make the right decision if someone’s life is in danger. It is an incredibly rewarding role.’

And it’s not just on the beach where lifeguarding skills can be put into practice. The training provided by the charity can be an ideal first step towards many career paths, including continuing to work for the RNLI or for a career in the emergency services.

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Community

Historic estates conference

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On Saturday 22 February the Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society, the county’s
history society, will be holding a conference on the historic landed estates of south-
west Wales entitled “The Landed Estate in South-West Wales – A Force for Good?”.

It will be an opportunity to learn about the latest research into this important aspect of
the area’s history from specialist speakers.

Non-members of the Society will be very welcome at the event which is being held at
the Halliwell Centre at the Trinity St David’s University campus in Carmarthen.

Further details and a booking form for sending in by 10 February are available on the
Society’s website www.carmants.org.uk.

The Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society has a wide-ranging programme of talks and
visits to historic sites throughout the year.

Members receive full details together with The Carmarthenshire Antiquary,
the Society’s annual publication which is a long- respected source of information
about Carmarthenshire’s history and archaeology.

More information about the Society and how to become a member is given on the
website.

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News

Four out of five tenants satisfied with council’s housing service

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FOUR out of five tenants (82%) are satisfied with the overall service provided by the council’s housing department, with 44% very satisfied, according to a recent survey.

The STAR tenant satisfaction survey also showed that 79% of tenants were satisfied with the quality of their home, including 38% that were very satisfied.

Rent value for money had a satisfaction score of 77%; and three quarters of respondents (75%) were satisfied with the repairs and maintenance service overall.

The survey, using HouseMark’s STAR model which is the standardised methodology for tenant and resident surveys, was carried out during June and July. Questionnaires were sent to 5000 tenants selected at random by mail, email, online and text.

A total of 2087 tenants completed the survey giving a response rate of 29%.

Further results show:

85% of tenants were satisfied with their neighbourhood as a place to live
66% (two-thirds) were satisfied with the grounds maintenance service
58% (three out of five) of respondents were satisfied with the way in which the council deals with anti-social behaviour
64% felt the council listened and took their views into account
79% satisfied with the last completed repair

The overall satisfaction score of 82% also compares favourably with a 78% average score for other Welsh councils.

However, the results of the survey did show that satisfaction in services overall was lower among 35 to 54-year-olds and there were clusters of below average satisfaction in urban wards in Llanelli and Carmarthen.

Executive Board Member for Housing Cllr Linda Evans said: “I would like to thank everyone that responded to the survey. It is pleasing to see that generally satisfaction levels are high, but that does not mean there is room for complacency and improvements can always be made.

“We are now working with colleagues from other departments like repairs and grounds maintenance to look at ways of improving the services tenants receive.

“It is also very important to us when planning for the future, and we will continue to need your help to work with us in developing services in the way you want.”

The next step is to hold a series of workshops throughout the county where tenants will be able to go along and speak to one of the partnership and engagement team. Keep an eye out on the council’s website and Facebook and Twitter accounts for further information on when and where the workshops will be held. Remember you can also speak to an officer during a home visit or on the phone as well if you are unable to attend any of the events.

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