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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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Charity

Co op helps out two Llandeilo community volunteer groups

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LLANDEILO Co op store manager Chris Rees and Member Pioneer Christoph Fischer successfully secured Co op funding for two Llandeilo community groups: “Friends of Llandyfeisant Church” and the “Dinefwr Orchadeers”.

Friends of Llandyfeisant Church was set up to restore the beautiful Llandyfeisant Church on the Dinefwr Park estate. The volunteers want to bring this unused building back into use for the community. “We’re currently restoring the floor according to the Listed Buildings specification, which is costly and labour intense,” explains Dafydd Thomas from the group. 

“The church is no longer consecrated but it would be wonderful for many other events.”

The group has a busy Facebook page and many supporters, locally and from further afield.

The Dinefwr Orchardeers are a community volunteer group based at Dinefwr Home Farm, looking after a 3-acre orchard of heritage apple and pear trees. They hire out fruit milling and pressing equipment to local fruit tree / orchard owners, run a cider club and recently built a juicing room. The money will be spent on aprons and juicing equipment.

“We would love you to join or observe our weekly orchard management sessions” says Philip James. “You can learn, amongst other activities, to prune, harvest and juice.”

“At the Co op we’re proud to support local initiatives and projects,” says store manager Chris Rees. “We have three local causes every year who get 2% of money spent by members in the store on co op products, but we also can help with ad hoc projects.”

“We encourage local groups to come forward if they wish to apply for either type of funds,” says Member Pioneer Christoph Fischer. “My role in the co op is to liaise with community groups and lend them our support.”

To join or meet the Orchadeers, please call Philip on 01558 685746.

To become a member or volunteer with Friends of Llandyfeisant Church, visit their Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/280218132732204 or email info@friendsofllandyfeisantchurch.org

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Education

St. Michaels School celebrates excellent A-Level results

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St. Michael’s pupils with their A-Level results

ST. MICHAEL’S School, Llanelli, is extremely pleased to announce another year of successful A-Level results, with 80.2% of all grades awarded either an A* or A grade.

The vast majority of pupils have earned a place at their chosen university to study courses such as Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and Economics.

This is the first year that traditional exams have resumed since the Covid-19 pandemic began with the majority of lessons in the first part of the A-Level being delivered online rather than in a classroom environment. This makes the results even more of an achievement considering the circumstances.

Headmaster Mr Benson Ferrari said: “We offer our sincere congratulations to our outgoing Year 13 class on the publication of their A-Level results, demonstrating that our pupils have worked so hard despite the challenges of returning to a conventional assessment approach.

“They approached the situation with resilience and dedication, which has resulted in grades that are truly representative of their ability.  I am confident that they will all go onto achieve great things at university and in their working lives.  

“We wish them the best as they move to this new and exciting stage of their education.  The preparation which St. Michael’s has provided will be built upon, along with our values and principles providing a lasting framework to tackle the challenges ahead.”

In 2020, St. Michael’s School was awarded The Sunday Times Welsh Independent School of the Decade and this was in part due to the excellent exam results that the school receives each year. 

St. Michael’s was also ranked 13th in The Times 2019 Co Ed League Table for UK Independent Schools, which was the last time that the results were published. The school hopes that this year’s results will continue to secure their place in the 2022 league table which will be published later this year.

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Former Debenhams building to be used to bring together key public services all under one roof

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Former Debenhams store

LOCAL public service providers are working together on an exciting new venture to take over the former Debenhams building in Carmarthen.

The Carmarthen Hwb aims to bring health, wellbeing, learning and cultural services all under one roof.

Carmarthenshire County Council and Pembrokeshire County Council have secured £19.9million from the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund to create town centre hubs in South West Wales.

The hubs will benefit local residents, businesses, and visitors, and create a more diverse and sustainable mix of uses for Carmarthen and Pembroke town centres.

The Carmarthen Hwb will be developed in the former Debenhams building in St Catherine’s Walk, in partnership with Hywel Dda University Health Board and the University of Wales Trinity Saint David alongside other service providers.

It will be the first venture of its kind in Carmarthenshire, bringing together a range of key public services under one roof providing convenience and a space for people to relax and enjoy their leisure time.

The proposals include state-of-the-art leisure, culture and exhibition space alongside health and tourist information, customer services as well as access to further and higher education delivered by the UWTSD Group, which includes Coleg Sir Gâr.

The aim is to complement what is already on offer in the town centre and to increase footfall for local businesses.

The project will receive £3.5million match funding from the council’s capital budget.

Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Leisure Culture and Tourism Cllr Gareth John said: “We are delighted to be working with our public sector partners on this ground-breaking project which will bring this prime commercial space back into use to help boost the local economy and transform the town centre.

“One of the main aims of our post-pandemic economic recovery plan is to strengthen the vitality and longevity of our town centres and by delivering a new mix of services to the traditional high street, we can attract more people and help to increase footfall for neighbouring shops and businesses.

“People will be able to call in to the Carmarthen Hwb to access health and social care services, a state-of-the-art town centre gym, access to employment support and public services, as well as university facilities and lifelong learning opportunities.

“It could also provide a more central home for some of our museum collections, with exhibition space, and act as a welcome point for visitors to the town.

“It is important that we work with local businesses on this project which will add value to the products and services already on offer in the town centre to encourage more people into town, and in turn increase trade for everyone.”

Lee Davies, Executive Director of Strategic Development and Operational Planning at Hywel Dda University Health Board said: “We’re excited to be working with our partners on the Carmarthen Hwb development. The new facility is an important part of our strategy for a healthier mid and west Wales, bringing health and well-being closer to home for our communities. It will provide a range of health, well-being, learning and cultural services to help people of all ages access key services all in one place.”

Professor Medwin Hughes, DL, Vice-Chancellor of the UWTSD Group said: “The University is delighted to be part of this exciting project. It offers a unique opportunity to collaborate with partners to revitalise our town centres by offering a mix of leisure, cultural and education opportunities to benefit residents and businesses.  The University looks forward to working with Carmarthenshire County Council on realising the vision for the Carmarthen Hwb.”

The project is complementary to a similar scheme at South Quay, in Pembroke town centre, which formed part of the bid to the Levelling Up Fund.

Both projects aim to bring health and wellbeing into the centres of the two neighbouring towns, creating an inclusive public service offer that meets changing local needs and which helps drive footfall and environmental benefit.

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