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Support uncertain for tidal lagoon

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Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 09.49.32

An artist’s impression: Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon

SUPPORT from the UK Government for the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon appears to be ebbing, following concerns from senior Conservatives about costs. 

Prime Minister David Cameron admitted that his enthusiasm for the project was ‘cooling’ and Secretary of State for Wales Stephen Crabb said that a ‘considered decision’ was needed.

“What we want to do is take a considered decision about whether it is in the best long-term interest in terms of energy, in terms of jobs and the economy,” he added, while claiming he was still a ‘fan’ of the development.

This contrasts somewhat with a government press release from December 2014, when Mr Crabb said: “This is great news for Wales and has the potential to provide a massive boost to the Welsh economy – creating thousands of jobs, attracting millions of pounds worth of investment and helping to secure Wales’ energy future.

“Wales is already home to some of the most cutting edge companies in the world and the country is uniquely placed to pioneer tidal power.

“I am a strong supporter of this project and I have long been making the case to my Cabinet colleagues that Welsh innovation should be supporting the next generation of low-carbon technology.”

The concerns appear to stem from the subsidies requested by Tidal Lagoon Power, the company behind the scheme. The proposed subsidy is £168 per Megawatt hour, which compares unfavourably with nuclear energy at the proposed Hinkley C plant, which will be around £90 pMh.

However, a spokesperson for Tidal Lagoon Power said that they were confident that they would reach a ‘viable’ price through negotiation.

Tidal Lagoon Power, has come up against a number of obstacles since the project was green-lighted by the UK Government last year. It was hoped that Natural Resources Wales would have granted a licence for the project by July – something that has still not occurred. It was originally hoped that construction would begin in March 2016, a target that the firm has accepted will not be met.

In addition, at the end of last year, a Judge ruled that Cornwall Council had ‘acted unlawfully’ in granting permission for stone to be quarried at Dean Quarry on the Lizard and transported to Swansea bay by barge without seeking an Environmental Impact Assessment.

Question were also raised about whether assessments of the power generated were accurate, and suggested more tests were needed to ensure the turbines were sited for optimum efficiency. However, Tidal responded by saying that they were using ‘proven technology’.

“The project has been awarded a Development Consent Order and its design has been validated through independent technical adjudication on behalf of government and on behalf of the investors who are backing it,” a spokesperson for the company added.

Following a recent presentation at a Carmarthenshire County Council meeting, Tidal Energy Ltd spokesperson Ioan Jenkins admitted that there was no date to end negotiations with the UK Government, but claimed that the company was in daily contact with the Treasury, and hoped to get the ‘green light’ by the end of March and begin construction in the summer.

Mr Jenkins claimed that, while the cost will be almost twice that of nuclear power, it would come down for later developments.

“The concentration with the press is around Swansea Bay – we are concentrating on the fleet of lagoons thereafter,” he explained.

“This is in some ways too small, every one after will be cheaper than nuclear,” he added, quoting prices of between £80-85 pMh.

Mr Jenkins failed to explain how building a demonstration which was not especially cost-effective would convince the UK Government that future projects would be cheaper.

The project is strongly backed by businesses, elected representatives, and a large number of residents across south and west Wales. In the build up to the 2015 General Election, candidates from across the political spectrum suggested that south west Wales, and especially Pembrokeshire, would be in a prime position to regenerate local economies on the back of the ‘green energy boom’ which appeared imminent.

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Warning of serious disruption on M4 and M5 today due to fuel prices protest

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POLICE have warned of “serious disruption” to drivers using the M4 and M5 on Monday 4 July due to a planned protest.

Protesters intend to block the Prince of Wales Bridge from 7am until 7pm as part of a nationwide campaign against rising fuel prices.

The protest is due to start at the M4 Magor services at junction 23A eastbound and the Clevedon Interchange at junction 20 of the M5 westbound.

It is also expected to cause disruption to the M48 Severn Bridge and the M32.

Drivers are being urged to avoid the area or plan alternative routes.

Bristol Airport has issued a warning urging travellers to allow extra time if heading to or from the airport.

Police said additional officers will be brought in to ensure the protest is carried out legally.

Drivers have been advised by Gwent Police to work from home where possible and avoid the area between 7am and 7pm, with protestors planning to block parts of the road between M4 Magor services, junction 23A eastbound, and Junction 20 of the M4 between those hours.

Chief Superintendent Tom Harding said: “Gwent Police, and Avon and Somerset Police, are working jointly with neighbouring police forces and partner agencies to ensure emergency and critical services continue and to reduce disruption to both road users and local communities, however we are preparing for serious disruption throughout the day.

“I would encourage drivers to reconsider their journey, consider working from home and avoid the area where possible.

“The right to protest under UK law must be balanced with the rights of the wider community who may be affected. We have additional officers and support in place on Monday to ensure the protest is carried out in accordance with the law.”

The planned protest is thought to have been organised by the Facebook group Fuel Price Stand Against Tax, and has attracted both criticism and support online.

The latest travel disruption comes following the closure of the Severn Bridge for a second consecutive weekend, as well as the Severn Tunnel rain line which will be out of use until July 10 due to essential work. Motorists will be unable to cross the M48 Severn Bridge until 6am on Monday as it is undergoing essential work for eight months.

The bridge was first shut last weekend as painstaking work to repair and replace corroded suspension cables began. Traffic on the bridge is likely to be very heavy on Monday due to the fuel protest.

Police have told protesters banners must be tightly secured to vehicles and nobody should be walking around on the bridge during the demonstration. Protesters will stay inside their vehicles or stand beside them.

An organiser said: “We will now only be doing it on the Prince of Wales Bridge. We have to keep in mind everyone’s safety and if we block the bridge totally and there is an emergency there would be hell. Yes it means only one bridge but [due to the amount of traffic caused] there will still be a massive impact.”

Two weeks ago one of the initial M4 bridge protest organisers Ashley Fowler said : “We’re all car enthusiasts and we have all been worried about fuel prices and when I saw the post about blocking the bridges we began talking about it. Then people started asking me to make an event so we could update each other.

“I made the event because I run a car club in Cardiff which I started on social media during the pandemic lockdowns to help people’s mental health. When we can we go out to car parks and just meet up and have a chat but during the pandemic we weren’t able to do it so I made the group.

“Now we can’t meet up so much again because of the cost of fuel. I know some of them can’t drive so much because they need to feed their kids. It’s serious. People are getting really depressed about it. One of the boys in the group has actually sold his car due to fuel price rises.”

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Business

Ascona Group announces new Car and Truck wash facilities

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Charlie's Truck Wash

ASCONA GROUP, one of the UK’s fastest-growing forecourt operators, is pleased to announce two new vehicle washing partnerships as part of improvements to its unique roadside retail proposition across its forecourt estate.

As part of a new partnership with the American based PDQ Manufacturing, a leader for in-bay automatic vehicle washing facilities, Ascona Group will be the first in the UK to install the ‘Laserwash 360 Plus’, a touchless car wash system for its customers.

The partnership will initially expand the wash options at the Hinton Service Station, with a view to roll out the system to other sites under the Ascona Group’s brand, ‘Charlie’s Express Car Wash’ later this year. The partnership is a significant investment for Ascona and demonstrates its commitment to ever improving the experience for customers.

Ascona Group is also delighted to announce a strategic partnership with WashTec UK that will see Ascona introduce a ‘First of its Kind’ truck washing facility at the Tenby Road site on the A40 Eastbound in Carmarthenshire, which offers the very best technology available to HGV drivers.

The truck wash employs a fully ‘closed loop’ total water recycling system, the first of its kind in Wales, which recovers all water used within the wash process, filtering it for reuse with little or no water entering the mains drainage system. This system ensures Ascona not only has the best commercial wash in South Wales, but also offers customers one of the more environmentally friendly approaches in operation.

Commenting on the announcement, CEO Darren Briggs said: “From the very beginning, we knew that our sites must present our customers with a unique and compelling offer which is why we are constantly seeking new and innovative ways to improve our roadside retail facilities.

“These two new partnerships further demonstrate our focus on creating industry-leading propositions and we are really excited to be working with PDQ Manufacturing USA and WashTec UK. Together, we are keen to continue to build on the success of these new operations and we are actively reviewing multiple opportunities across the Ascona portfolio to roll out more units such as these.”

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Community

Nearly £50,000 of National Lottery funding for community groups in Carmarthenshire

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FIVE local community organisations across Carmarthenshire are celebrating after being awarded a share of £49,575 of funding from The National Lottery Community Fund over the past month.

One successful project was MolTân Makers who will use their £9,820 grant to provide metal working workshops for people wishing to improve their mental health and well-being. The group will reach out to mental health groups and the wider community and also allow people to reconnect with the community following the pandemic.

One participant with MolTân Makers explained, “ The course was professionally run by four hard-working people who helped us with one to one tuition when needed. They were so welcoming and adaptable to individual needs and allowed me to attend the course at different hours due to health reasons.

“They were great company and created an interesting and positive atmosphere to help people with mental and physical health problems feel included and understood and we all took home what we made in the course.”

The Hangout received £10,000 and will help young people improve their mental health and wellbeing through structured outdoor activity programmes. The project will build on a previous pilot project that led to more young people becoming re-engaged in school following the pandemic and continuing to volunteer with the group after the initial sessions finished.

The Alternative Learning Company in Llanelli were awarded £9,955 and will recycle plastic bottles to build full size greenhouses. They will propagate plants for growing schemes in local schools and communities. The project will reduce the levels of plastic sent to landfill or polluting open spaces, and give young people an understanding of the impact of climate change.

Newcastle Emlyn Town Council will build an outdoor structure in collaboration with the community, to mark Her Majesty the Queen’s Jubilee. This £10,000 grant will fund building and design materials, and a water harvesting kit.

Messy Projects will use their £9,800 grant to run the activities and events they missed due to the pandemic. Activities will include celebrating the Queens platinum jubilee, a BBQ, and a Bonfire party.

John Rose, Wales Director at The National Lottery Community Fund, said “These groups play a vital role in supporting their communities and these grants will allow them to continue being there for people in future. 

 ”National Lottery players raise more than £30 million each week for good causes across the UK and the projects funded over the past month show the crucial difference players make through their tickets. I look forward to following all of their progress.”  

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