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‘Get on’ with Tidal Lagoon

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Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 09.37.14CARMARTHENSHIRE MP Jonathan Edwards urged the UK government to make progress with the proposed tidal lagoon in Swansea.

Speaking in the annual St David’s Day debate in Parliament, the Plaid Cymru MP promoted the “old fashioned and most cost effective way” of bringing the scheme to fruition through direct public investment.

Mr Edwards said whilst the ‘strike price’ for the lagoon seems high, it must be considered a long-term investment which will help deliver multiple lagoons across the UK, assist economic growth whilst and protect energy consumers from increased costs. With bond rates at an all-time low, Mr Edwards said, it is an investment in our long-term economic success.

The Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP also promoted the use of investment from pension funds for the project.

Plans previously announced by Chancellor George Osborne will see pension funds pooled into regional funds for investment. Jonathan Edwards has already warned against the possibility of Welsh public sector funds being diverted for infrastructure investment in England. He questioned why the Wales Office was not ensuring Welsh assets are pooled at a Welsh level to invest in Welsh infrastructure like the lagoon.

Speaking in Parliament, Mr Edwards said: “Despite Wales being one of the most advantageous locations in Europe for renewable energy, just 10.1% of our electricity is generated from renewable sources. This compares with 32% in Scotland and 14.9% for the UK as a whole. Despite Wales being home to the second highest tidal range in the world, and 1200km of coastline, we are lagging behind on tidal technology.

“Swansea Bay is the first of many lagoons that are planned. The proposed Cardiff lagoon would generate enough electricity to power the whole of Wales. The technology is very exiting in terms of helping to develop Local Energy Production Systems instead of the wasteful State wide grid at present where a third of electricity is lost in transmission. Considering the vast majority of the Welsh population lives within twenty miles of the coast, this technology has the potential to answer our future energy needs as a country – providing security of supply vital for attracting industry.

“The level of subsidy is reflective of the fact that the Swansea Bay lagoon is the first of its kind.

“The size of the Swansea lagoon is nowhere near as big as the planned Cardiff and Colwyn Bay lagoons are and therefore the strike price on a per megawatt basis seems high, but it must be considered a long term investment which will eventually deliver multiple lagoons across the UK.

“Funding green energy through a Contract for Difference or ‘strike price’ effectively passes the cost of upfront investment onto the consumer who inevitably will see their bills go up.

“If I was in the shoes of the Secretary of State I would be making the case that the Treasury should invest directly in the project by bringing it onto the books, just as they do for transport infrastructure such as HS2 for England.

“Raising money on the bond markets is cheaper than it will ever be in future – 50 year bonds at a negative rate and ten year bonds at less than 1.5%. In addition, these are rates available to the Government and are simply not replicable for a private energy company.

“Using an old school financing method – direct public investment – as opposed to an ultimately far more costly financing scheme such as CFD – will be far cheaper in the end for the public and the UK Government should be honest with the people of Wales on this.

“The Treasury will be aware of my calls for a specific Welsh public sector pooled pension fund. Instead of letting the pension assets of Welsh public sector workers be pillaged by a super pooled asset fund based in England – why isn’t the Wales office ensuring that Welsh assets are pooled at a Welsh level to invest in Welsh infrastructure like the lagoon?

“It is an investment not just in Wales’ energy security, not just in our efforts to lessen dependence on fossil fuels, but an investment in our longterm economic success.

“The Secretary of State said back in 2014 “I want Wales to have the world’s first power generating lagoon”. I fully agree, however the next question which then comes is how we deliver it. My message today therefore is instead of messing about with financing models, let’s do it the old fashioned and most cost effective way – by using direct public investment. Especially in the light of all time low bond rates.

“To close Mr Speaker, confidence is the magic trick in any economic policy. Moving forward quickly on the proposed lagoon will be a massive confidence boost for the South and West of our country stimulating further economic investment and growth.”

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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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