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New police air service ‘is delivering’

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Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 11.05.12DYFED-POWYS’ new police air service has completed its first two months, providing 24-hour coverage across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys.

Police and Crime Commissioner Christopher Salmon said: “Air cover is there 24 hours every day of the year where previously we had just 12 hours a day.

“In January last year our own helicopter was out of action 10 days for maintenance. Other than during bad weather, as was the case with the previous service, I’m pleased that figures show the new arrangement is meeting our needs so far.

“I am keeping a close eye on it to ensure that it delivers what we need.

“It costs us £275,000 less too, with further savings of £75,000 from April this year. I am determined to put that towards frontline officers to keep people safe.”

The police force asked for air support 41 times in January and February. On 18 of those occasions, the crew was stood down before take-off as incidents had been resolved by officers on the ground.

The 11 incidents attended included a counter-terrorism exercise in Milford Haven, concerns for the welfare of individuals in Sennybridge, Powys, and the Black Mountain, near Ammanford, people fleeing from a road collision in Aberystwyth and a missing person in Cardigan.

Poor weather prevented the air crews attending on nine occasions. Three incidents which the service could not attend for other reasons included missing people who were located shortly after the call to the National Police Air Service (NPAS).

Like-for-like data for 2015 is unavailable. However, January 2015 did see 24 calls for air support, with 14 being stood down. The Dyfed- Powys aircraft was unavailable for 10 days due to maintenance.

Supt Huw Meredith, of Dyfed-Powys Police, said: “I meet regularly with NPAS to review our demand and their response. We are working closely together to ensure that Dyfed-Powys Police gets the best possible service from NPAS.”

The home of the former Dyfed- Powys service, Pembrey, is being used as a forward operating base by NPAS. Helicopters have made a number of visits this year. Mr Salmon and the police force are considering how the base can be further used in the future. It is already being used for driver training.

The new air service began on January 1, supplied by the NPAS and offering 24/7 cover from air bases such as St Athan in South Wales and Hawarden in North Wales.

It replaced a Dyfed-Powys service which had been available 12 hours a day. The new service costs the taxpayer £890,000 a year, significantly less than the previous service.

NPAS Accountable Manager Chief Superintendent Ian Whitehouse said: “We are pleased to welcome Dyfed-Powys into the NPAS collaboration.

“We are committed to working with local staff to develop operational support that reduces the threat, harm and risk to communities.

“Since it’s foundation in 2009, NPAS has delivered 23% savings to forces across the country in the cost of air support.”

THE EYE IN THE SKY

Inspector Ian Richards tells The Herald what can happen in a typical day.

At Dyfed-Powys Police, the helicopter team gives ‘an eye in the sky’ for the Force. It can take as little as 12 minutes to search an area of one square mile at a cost of £160. In comparison it can take 12 police officers, 454 hours at a cost of £4,500 to cover the same area!

  • The crew respond to a variety of tasks including:
  • Searches for missing people, suspects and vehicles
  • Taking casualties to hospital
  • Transporting specialist teams around the force area
  • Gathering intelligence including using video and aerial photography
  • Reassurance from the air, to the communities of Dyfed-Powys

WHAT HAPPENS IN A DAY?

Early morning: First things first – The weather is an important factor and can have a massive effect on how our day will pan out. The crew will probably be looking at the weather on their way into work!

Once at the base, the aircraft is prepared for its activities – the fuel is checked, and fuel details are filled in. The equipment in the aircraft is checked and the daily pre-flight check is carried out. The planned events for the day are discussed and a weather report and details of any aviation activity which would affect our operations within the force area are given, such as military fast jet activity and the state of the various military ranges throughout the Force.

Any pre-planned tasks or requests made for the helicopter over-night will also be scrutinized and taking into account as the day is planned.

10.30am: A request is made for the helicopter to attend the areas of Mathry / Scleddau in north Pembrokeshire, to assist in a search. The crew look at the incident on the computer, and see that in the earlier hours of the morning a road traffic collision has occurred. There is only one vehicle involved and it is on its roof, the driver cannot be found and there is mounting concern for the driver, given the fact that it is located in a very rural area. The weather is good and the crew make contact with the officers at the scene, including a Police dog handler.

The helicopter makes its way to the scene (15 minutes) and quickly establishes communications with officers on the ground. The crew then carry out and extensive visual and thermal search utilising the powerful camera equipment fitted to the helicopter. Numerous field, tracks, lanes and roads are searched, but no persons area found and the helicopter resumes back to the base in Pembrey. The driver was later found at an address safe and well. Whilst the helicopter is coming back into the base at Pembrey, the crew spot what they believe to be some illegal cockling activity in the area of the estuary near to Llansteffan. Video footage of the activity is recorded by the crew and details of vehicles at the scene are obtained. The information will later be passed to our partner agencies to assist them in any future prosecutions.

3:00pm: Reports come in to the Police control room of a number of male persons in possession of shotguns, at a construction site in the Milford Haven area. The site is located in a rural area outside of the town. Firearms teams make their way to the vicinity and report that they have found an abandoned car in a gate way to a field. Inside the car are gun cases and they report hearing gunshots from the direction of nearby fields and woods. Based on this information the firearms teams request that Helicopter attended to carry out a search of the open areas and woodlands.

The crew make contact with the firearms officers via the radio and establish a search area. The helicopter then makes its way to the scene (10 minutes) and establish communication with the firearms officers. A visual and thermal search are carried out, in the areas identified by the firearms officers. During the search, the crew spot a heat source in a wooded area, using the thermal camera and whilst monitoring the images they establish that it is in fact a person and he can also be seen holding a gun.

The crew then direct firearms officers towards the male, whilst at the same time providing a commentary of the males movements and actions, and the footage is beamed back to the Police Control Room using the data downlink. A second male is also spotted on the thermal camera and firearms officers are updated. The males meet with officers and it transpires that they have permission to shoot on the land and are legally in possession of their shotguns. The Helicopter resumes from the scene back to Pembrey.

7:30pm: A report from the Ambulance service is received of a seriously ill 10 month old baby in the Rhayader area of Powys. The Air Ambulance is offline so the Ambulance service have asked if the Police Helicopter can carry out what we call a CASEVAC or casualty evacuation.

The crew immediately get airborne, it is now dark so the crew are wearing night vision goggles and they plot the route to Rhayader, taking into account obstacles and high ground en-route. Whilst travelling the crew are speaking with Police Officers on the ground, and ask then to identify a suitable landing area, check that the area is clear and free from obstacles such a telephone or electric cabling. The area chosen is a rugby field and ground units manage to get the flood lighting turned on in time for the landing of the helicopter.

One crew member then re-fits the interior of the aircraft, whilst the others meet with the ground units, Ambulance and Doctor. The decision is made that the baby will be carried by the mother in the helicopter and a Paramedic will accompany the crew on the flight to Morriston Hospital, Swansea.

The patient is safely transported to Morriston Hospital, giving a time of 1 hour and 12 minutes from the helicopter leaving the base at Pembrey to arriving at Morriston with the patient.

Evening: After return to base, the aircraft is re-fuelled, updated all our records and the last flight/ incident was debriefed. At 8:30pm it was the end of the shift for the aircraft.

As you can see, we are busy team and cover a large area. We can get to places quickly and safely to help the officers on the ground deal with a variety of situations.

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Carmarthenshire County Council cracks down on fly-tippers

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CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council handed out a total of £4,350 in fixed penalty notices (FPN’s) related to fly-tipping last month.

17 FPN’s were issued as a result of CCTV footage at Carway recycling facility, resulting in a total of £2,675 in fines being given.

This includes:

  • £125 FPN issued to a Carway female for depositing a bag
  • £400 FPN issued to a Carway male for depositing black refuse bags, blue recycling bags and paint pots at the site on several different occasions
  •  £125 FPN issued to a Carway female for depositing a bag
  • £400 FPN issued to a Carway resident for depositing blue recycling bags and other items

Fixed penalty notices issued at other locations in the county include:

  • £125 FPN issued to a female for depositing a black refuse bag at Red Roses recycling facility.
  • £300 FPN issued to a Gorseinon resident who failed in his duty of care when he had his household waste removed by a person not registered as a waste carrier.
  • £400 FPN issued to a Llanelli resident for fly tipping after CCTV footage provided by a member of the public led to his identification.  The male was seen driving along the rear lane between James Street and Swansea Road in Llanelli where he was seen throwing a blue recycling bag from his moving vehicle into the lane.
  • £300 FPN issued to a Llanelli resident who failed in their duty of care after their waste was found in an overgrown verge/hedgerow in the rear lane of their street.  The resident claimed to have paid a male to dispose of their waste but failed to provide their details.
  • £300 FPN issued to a Llanelli business for failing to produce waste transfer notes after waste produced by the business was found illegally deposited in Swiss Valley, Llanelli. The business was issued a notice requiring them to produce waste transfer notes within 7 days which they failed to do. The business was also issued a legal notice to ensure any waste from the business is disposed of correctly in the future.  

Cllr Aled Vaughan Owen, Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Decarbonisation and Sustainability said: “The introduction of CCTV at Carway recycling facility has enabled us to clamp down on the unlawful dumping of waste at this site. I hope this serves as a reminder that all waste deposited at our recycling facilities must be placed in the correct container, with all bags and boxed removed from the site.”

“The Council’s CCTV strategy will be extended to other recycling facilities in the county in the coming months to help combat instances of fly tipping in these areas.”

“I would urge anyone who needs to dispose of waste to do so responsibly. We have recycling centres at Nantycaws (Carmarthen), Trostre (Llanelli), Wernddu (Ammanford) and Whitland as well as a bulky waste collection service and weekly household waste collections. When paying for rubbish to be disposed of, please use a licensed business and ensure that you are given a valid waste transfer note when waste is collected.”

For more information on disposing of waste please visit Carmarthenshire.gov.wales/recycling

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Wales stands firm in support for Ukraine

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IN THE latest update on the Ukraine crisis, Wales’s Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt thanked all those households across Wales who have come forward to offer their homes to Ukrainians fleeing the War and encouraged more households to provide this vital support.

APPEAL FOR MORE HOST FAMILIES

The Minister for Social Justice said: “I’m delighted to say that over 5,650 people from Ukraine, sponsored by the Welsh Government and Welsh households, have already arrived in the UK.
“More than 8,200 visas have now been issued to people from Ukraine who have sponsors in Wales, so we expect the number of arrivals to continue to grow in the coming weeks.
“Thousands of Welsh households sponsored Ukrainians to arrive in Wales and committed to hosting them for at least six months.
“As we move into the autumn, we approach the end of that initial period.
“We hope hosts and Ukrainians will agree to extend many of those placements, but we need additional hosts to support those who cannot continue living where they are.
“To ensure a warm welcome to Wales, I’m inviting households across Wales to come forward and open their homes to welcome those seeking sanctuary.
“We’re immensely thankful to all those across Wales acting as hosts to Ukrainians, but more households must come forward.
“I completely understand that there are those who want to help but may not have the resources to do so, given the circumstances we’re all facing with the cost-of-living crisis.”

WALES WILL STEP UP TO THE PLATE

Jane Hutt continued: “What we all know, and has been proven countless times, is that the people of Wales are one of the most generous across the globe, and I’m sure we will step up to the plate once again.
“The idea of hosting can be daunting. That’s why we have funded Housing Justice Cymru to provide a Host Support service which includes expert and reliable information, training, advice, and guidance for people hosting, or those considering hosting, Ukrainians in Wales.
“More information on sessions and training can be found on the Housing Justice Cymru website. We also publish regularly updated guidance for hosts and sponsors at gov. wales/ukraine.
“We still need many more households to consider whether they could provide a home for those in need. This would normally be a commitment to hosting for 6 to 12 months.
“If anyone is considering this, we encourage them to register their interest at gov.wales/offerhome, and to attend one of the ‘Introduction to Hosting’ sessions, facilitated by Housing Justice Cymru. You won’t need to continue the process if you decide it is not for you.
“We have also partnered with Airbnb.org to ensure very short-term emergency placements can be provided to prevent homelessness.
“If you cannot host for more than 6 months but you could offer your property for up to 30 days at a time, you may also be able to contribute. Visit gov.wales/offerhome and follow the link to the Airbnb.org platform.”
Finally, the Minister stated: “We will continue to communicate with those who host Ukrainians, with updated guidance and information to support the valuable role you are undertaking.
“To all those that are already hosting and to those that are considering hosting, thank you, we owe you all a huge debt of gratitude.”

WESTMINSTER MUST BACK HOSTS
DURING COST-OF-LIVING CRISIS

Conservative MS Mark Isherwood raised how the cost-of-living crisis affects Ukrainian refugees.
Where families had taken in those fleeing Russian aggression, he noted a risk of sponsorships not continuing beyond six months because the hosts cannot afford the rise in fuel costs.
He asked the Minister what discussions she’d had with the UK Government about increasing the £350 contribution to households who’d taken in Ukrainian refugees.
The Minister agreed with Mark Isherwood that ending a specific ministerial post dealing with refugees was regrettable.
She noted a lack of information from the UK Government over the summer months and since Liz Truss replaced Boris Johnson as head of the Conservative Government.
Ms Hutt said: “We asked for an increase at least to £500, or up again, doubling to £700 per month. An urgent decision is needed regarding this as they reach the end of their six-month period.
“That period is underway, so we’re writing to all hosts to see if they will continue.”

UK GOVERNMENT URGED
TO PICK UP THE PHONE

The Minister thanked Mark Isherwood for introducing her to a charity offering support in North Wales, Link, and hoped that he and his colleagues would bring pressure to bear on their Westminster colleagues to ensure those in need from Ukraine and those in Wales helping them received support.
She added: “I look forward perhaps that we might have some telephone calls from the Prime Minister and other Ministers to us in Government. We must engage with them and follow this through.
“There is a huge job of work to be done here. We’re taking responsibility in the way I’ve outlined, funding our welcome centres and paying thank-you payments to hosts if they support a family who initially arrived in Wales under the Ukraine family scheme.
“That’s not happening in England. The commitment that we’re making is considerable.
“I hope everyone will join us today, saying that we need to press for those answers in terms of financial support.”

THE THREAT OF HOMELESSNESS

Sioned Williams of Plaid Cymru raised the spectre of Ukrainian refugees becoming homeless in Wales due to a lack of financial support and the end of existing hosting and housing placements.
The Minister praised the work of local authorities across Wales supporting refugees.
She said: “There are very imaginative programmes. That includes a whole range of issues like repurposing empty buildings.
“Local authorities are really coming up with a whole range of ways in which we can support people, perhaps, from a welcome centre, or a host family, into that intermediate accommodation, and then on to other longer-term accommodation.”
Pembrokeshire currently houses around 200 Ukrainian refugees, with the demand for assistance outstripping the availability of suitable accommodation.

NOT ONE PENNY FROM WESTMINSTER
TO SUPPORT FAMILIES FLEEING WAR

Responding to a question from Mabon ap Gwynfor about problems housing family groups, Jane Hutt hit out at the lack of support from the UK Government and how it’s u-turned on a commitment to help families.
“The UK Government has never given a penny towards the family scheme.
“The former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, in one of his last PMQs, actually said that he thought the Ukraine family scheme should get the same funding and support as the Homes for Ukraine scheme. It’s never happened.
“We have provided thank-you payments to people who are hosting Ukrainian families. It’s all Welsh Government money; it’s not UK Government, because they don’t provide a penny. And also, the British Red Cross—£246,000—who are actually supporting Ukrainian families who are hosting family members under the Ukrainian family scheme.”
On Wednesday, September 28, Eluned Morgan, Wales’s Health Minister, announced the continuation of free healthcare in Wales to Ukrainian residents displaced by the ongoing conflict.
The exemption will continue to apply unless there’s a significant change in circumstances in Ukraine.

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Carmarthenshire’s sensory garden: why locals should embrace this wellness trend

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WITH ‘#sensorygarden’ 499.1k views on TikTok – locals have the advantage of experiencing a sensory garden on their doorstep at the National Botanic Garden of Wales. Wildlife experts explain why you should visit.

Wildlife expert Sean McMenemy shares how sensory gardens can do wonders for our wellness whilst providing a safe haven for wildlife and encourages Carmarthenshire locals to visit their local sensory garden this autumn.

A sensory garden is an outdoor space that stimulates the five senses of sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste, and can be created in your own garden. Sensory gardens at home remain relatively rare, but the trend is growing with the TikTok hashtag ‘#sensorygarden’ amassing 499.1k views*. 

Carmarthenshire, dubbed the Garden of Wales, has a huge array of beautiful green spaces to explore. It’s home to the National Botanic Garden of Wales which spans a huge 568 acres, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. The stunning Great Glasshouse features a sensory trail that explores the largest single-span greenhouse in the world! From fluffy flowers from South Africa to a strongly scented Australian plant, it’ll engage all your senses. 

Having recently gifted King Charles with a beautiful oak sapling, the National Botanic Garden of Wales care deeply about the nation’s natural heritage. For those visiting the garden, the paths are wheelchair accessible with manual wheelchairs available on site. Open 10am – 6pm every day of the week.

Wildlife expert and founder of bird food provider Ark Wildlife, Sean McMenemy, explains the benefits of sensory gardening: “Sensory gardens provide a great deal of physical and mental benefits for different people and purposes. From getting vitamin D from sunlight to improving physical fitness by maintaining a garden, there are several physical benefits. Mentally, you can benefit from a mood boost and relaxation by spending time surrounded by calming stimulation.

“Sensory gardens can also have huge benefits for children, older people, those with learning disabilities and those who struggle with their physical and mental health. You can also create a sensory garden for your pets and garden wildlife!”

Top tips for creating your own sensory garden

If you do have the outdoor space, creating your own sensory garden is therapeutic in itself and doesn’t need to be a complicated process. The most important thing is to ensure that the garden engages all five senses. 

Melody Estes, landscape design gardening supervisor, says: “Whether you’re new to gardening or a seasoned pro, you can always improve your garden by adding some sensory elements.” 

Here are some tips from Melody for creating a sensory garden:

Sight – Plant colourful flowers that change with the seasons.

Sound – If you have a fountain or water feature on your property, consider adding some relaxing music to play alongside it. You could also place chimes near your front door to welcome people in.

Smell – Use scent. Consider planting scented flowers or herbs like lavender, rosemary and thyme that will give off a lovely aroma when they bloom.

Touch – Mix textures. The texture of plants can be as important as their colour and shape. Try using plants with soft leaves like ferns or grasses that are texturally different.

Taste – Planting herbs, fruits and vegetables not only provide tasty treats, but is a sustainable source of food.

Sean McMenemy adds: “Sensory gardens are an easy way to engage with wildlife and the outdoor environment. Growing your own plants and vegetables provides countless ways to learn about the natural world.

“You can bring your sensory garden to life by using bird feeders to attract beautiful feathered friends into your garden. They’ll bring the sound element to your sensory garden naturally. Fragrant flowers will attract colourful butterflies and other pollinators to your garden, giving you something to observe whilst helping nature to thrive.”

Some people may not have the time, money or space to create their own sensory garden. However, those with balconies and window ledges can still plant colourful, sweet-smelling flowers and edible plants. This mini sensory garden can still provide the benefits and satisfaction of an outdoor garden.

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