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Helicopter row reaches Westminster

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A LETTER sent to Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire MP Simon Hart has called into question the basis upon which the National Police Air Service (NPAS) intends to scrap the police helicopter based at Pembrey which serves the Dyfed- Powys Police area.

Despite assurances given to Dyfed Powys Police Commissioner Christopher Salmon that the helicopter service had a secure future, NPAS has announced plans to scrap the service from January 1 2016 and replace it with a fixed wing aircraft based at St Athan.

A letter to the MP from Mark Burns-Williamson, chair of NPAS’ strategic board, suggests that NPAS’ grasp of Welsh geography is, at best sketchy.

In the letter, Mr Burns-Williamson extols the virtues of a fixed wing aircraft flying from St Athan. In the course of his glowing endorsement of the plans, Mr Burns-Williamson also suggests that the transit time from St Athan to Haverfordwest is 31 minutes and claims that the transit time from St Athan to Caernarfon is only 21 minutes.

The distance between St Athan and Haverfordwest is 73 miles as the crow flies.

The distance between St Athan and Caernarfon is 126 miles or so as the crow flies.

As Mr Hart points out: “I think they have mistaken Caernarfon for Carmarthen, which is a bit of a concern.”

In Parliament, Plaid MP Jonathan Edwards’ efforts to quiz Secretary of State Stephen Crabb on the issue were thwarted as the Preseli Pembrokeshire MP ducked a question on the NPAS decision to scrap helicopter coverage in Wales’ most rural areas.

The Carmarthen East & Dinefwr MP was selected to question Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb on Wednesday. Mr Edwards asked that Mr Crabb meet with him to discuss the police helicopter announcement that will see the £2m state-of-the-art Pembrey base close on January 1 2016. Mr Edwards also requested the secretary of state seeks the involvement of the home secretary as the minister responsible for policing.

Instead of Mr Crabb fronting up to tackle an issue of concern to his own constituents, Wales Office Minister, Alun Cairns MP, responded on behalf of the Westminster government. The response, Jonathan Edwards says, has raised serious questions about what the police commissioner has agreed since the announcing the deal to save Pembrey in November.

Afterwards Mr Edwards said: “It’s quite suspect that the minister was quick to congratulate (Mr Salmon) on saving money, but made absolutely no mention to the reality that we will lose our police helicopter.

“The police commissioner announced just four months ago that he had secured the future of the helicopter and the Pembrey base, but NPAS has now reneged on that deal. That ministers are now spinning this as a good news story leaves me highly suspicious and raises serious questions about what has been agreed in the last few months.”

NPAS do not publish minutes of their strategic board meetings. The MP has therefore submitted a freedom of information request. The requests seeks: “Copies of minutes from the National Police Air Service Strategic Board meetings that took place in December 2014, January 2015 and February 2015. These minutes should, where applicable, include discussion and decision records (including all members who voted) on the proposal to remove Dyfed Powys Police Helicopter and its base in Pembrey, Carmarthenshire, from the National Police Air Service plan.”

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Mobile COVID-19 vaccination van to visit Ammanford

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HYWEL DDA UNIVERSITY HEALTH BOARD is pleased to confirm that its mobile vaccination van, in partnership with Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, will be located in Ammanford from Wednesday 28 to Saturday 31 July.

The mobile vaccination clinic will be based at Ammanford’s Tesco Superstore car park (Park Street, SA18 2LR) and will be open between 11.00am and 7.00pm.  There is no need to contact the health board to book an appointment. 

The vaccination van will deliver the vaccine to anyone aged 18 and over that requires either a first or second dose (Moderna and Oxford AstraZeneca).  Second doses can be given 8 weeks after the first dose. 

The fire service is providing one of its vehicles and members of the team will also be in attendance to provide the public with general community safety advice, including about home safety.

With the rise in cases across the UK, it is important as many people as possible to come forward for their first and second doses as soon as possible.

Bethan Lewis, Interim Assistant Director of Public Health at Hywel Dda UHB, said: “We are thrilled that we are able to bring our mobile vaccination van to Ammanford for four days.

“Over 2,000 vaccines have been delivered from the van to date and we hope many more people in Ammanford and the surrounding area will choose to have their vaccine with us during our time at Tesco car park.

“Everyone is welcome, if you have changed your mind having already declined a vaccine we will be happy to see you or if you would like to speak to someone before deciding whether to have it, our brilliant vaccination team will be more than happy to speak to you and answer any questions you may have.”

Chief Fire Officer for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, Chris Davies said: “I am pleased that we can, again, assist Hywel Dda in its vaccination programme, having recently concluded a hugely successful partnership where we were able to assist with transportation of people within our communities to and from mass vaccination centres. 

“This opportunity and partnership allows us to expand our assistance further within the health arena, and is going to make a positive impact on our response to this global pandemic and we are pleased to be able play our part and collaborate with our NHS partners to change the lives of many people.” 

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Four charged with conspiracy to supply class A drugs

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FOUR people have been arrested and charged as part of an investigation into an organised crime gang supplying class A drugs from London to Aberystwyth, Llanelli and Swansea.

Dyfed-Powys Police, with support from The Met Police, carried out warrants at four addresses on July 21, resulting in four arrests.

Mohammed Osman, aged 23, Yonis Mohammed, aged 20, Salman Mohamoud, aged 23 – all from Islington – and Amy Simmons, aged 21, from Dulwich were charged with a total of 12 offences:

  • Mohammed Osman: Two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine,
  • Yonis Mohammed: Two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine.
  • Salman Mohamoud: Conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine
  • Amy Simmons: Conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine.

All four appeared at Llanelli Magistrates’ Court on Friday, July 23, where they were remanded in custody. They are due to appear at Swansea Crown Court for their next hearing on August 20.

The investigation is being carried out by the Ceredigion Serious and Organised Crime Team, Aberystwyth CID and the Operation Orochi command of the Met Police.

Detective Sergeant Steve Jones said: “These four arrests and charges are the result of a coordinated approach to target an organised crime gang we believe is running a county lines operation into the Dyfed-Powys Police force area.

“We will continue to work diligently to disrupt gangs of this kind, to prevent the supply of illegal substances into our community.

“I would like to thank all officers involved, as well as the Met Police for their part in the operation.”

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New children’s play area in Bryn as part of new council housing development

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A NEW children’s play area has opened in time for the summer holidays in Bryn, Llanelli as part of a new £5.9million council housing development.

Carmarthenshire County Council is building 32 new homes on land close to the Dylan housing estate in Bryn.

The scheme will be made up of 22 two-bedroom homes, four two-bedroom bungalows and six four-bedroom homes and is part of the council’s ongoing drive to deliver more affordable homes across the county. It has been part funded through the Welsh Government’s Affordable Housing Grant.

The development also includes a new children’s play area, funded by the council in partnership with Llanelli Rural Council, which will take over the running and maintenance of the play area on completion.

Executive Board Member for Housing Cllr Linda Evans said: “I am delighted the park has been completed in time for the summer holidays for the local children to enjoy.

“We are committed to delivering more affordable housing across Carmarthenshire and this development will benefit dozens of families in Llanelli, as well as proving much needed facilities for the local community.

“I would like to thank the rural council for collaborating with this us on this and I hope the children are thrilled with it.”

Before designing the play area, the rural council liaised with local schoolchildren to find out what play equipment they wanted at their new park.

Llanelli Rural Council Chairman Cllr Tegwen Devichand said: “The council is delighted to be working in partnership with Carmarthenshire County Council to provide this wonderful new play area for the community.

“The opening of the play area couldn’t have been better timed to coincide with the school holidays. I hope the local children will enjoy the range of challenging play equipment on offer and that they have lots of fun using it over the summer.”

The housing development is due to be completed by the beginning of 2022.

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