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£50,000 from National Lottery and Welsh Government will grow green spaces

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Brand new community outdoor spaces in Burry Port are being created with the help of a new £50,000 nature grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Welsh Government.

The project is amongst the first to have been supported via the new grant programme, Local Places for Nature, which aims to encourage and support community based projects to restore and enhance the natural environment on our doorsteps.

Pembrey and Burry Port Town Council will use the funding towards four projects across the town, at an overall cost of £98,500.

Work will include planting a new community orchard to encourage healthy eating; creating a sensory garden to enable elderly people and those with learning disabilities to better connect with nature; and building a children’s eco park to help youngsters appreciate their natural environment.

The existing allotment at Pembrey Community Growing Space will also be extensively updated, creating new facilities so older and less able members of the community can learn how grow their own food.

All four sites (Pen y Bryn Avenue, Tan y Bryn Park, Burrows Terrace and the Community Growing Space) total 0.78 hectares, and will be linked by a new nature trail so residents can enjoy exploring the town on foot with a dedicated quiet and calm walking route.

Louise Robinson from Pembrey and Burry Port Town Council said: “With our communities recovering from the COVID-19 restrictions, this exciting new project for Pembrey and Burry Port has become a top priority for us.

“We are working extensively with local residents and an army of around 200 volunteers to develop and deliver a project that is for their community, making the most of some currently underused outside spaces to support people’s emotional, social and physical well-being by encouraging wildlife and biodiversity.

“For instance, the new eco park at Burrows Terrace will transform what is currently a locked ex-playground into a space that will enable children to learn and play in a natural setting with wooden play equipment made from local logs, helping them learn to value their natural environment as they grow up. Children from the local school will even help design the play equipment themselves, as well as where to place bird and bat boxes, bug and hedgehog hotels.”

The Local Places for Nature Capital Fund will run until March 2021, and is still accepting applications until October. Grants will range from between £3,000 and £100,000, with the total funding pot available worth £2.3 million. The Fund is made up of £2.1m from Welsh Government and £345k from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Andrew White, Director of The National Lottery Heritage Fund in Wales, said: “We are delighted to be supporting this fantastic project for Burry Port, which will help revitalise and improve existing outdoors spaces as well as create brand new ones.

“The natural environment is one of our greatest assets and our oldest form of heritage, but it is under serious threat. This money from the Welsh Government and National Lottery players will work hard to ensure our important natural heritage is cared for. It will help reconnect people with the natural world on their doorstep as well as protect that environment for years to come.

“The National Lottery Heritage Fund has identified nature and landscapes as a priority in our new Strategic Funding Framework, as we believe that looking after nature and helping people to understand its importance has never been more important.

“With COVID-19, people are more than ever realising the value of having pleasant outdoor spaces to relax, enjoy and exercise in, and many have had the opportunity to appreciate the importance of Wales’s natural environment to our wellbeing.

“I look forward to hearing from more applicants to the Local Places for Nature scheme through to the deadline in October, and to supporting many new projects in the fight against climate change.”

Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, said: “We have seen a greater appreciation of nature during the pandemic and the way in which it underpins our health, our economy and our wider wellbeing.

“The Welsh Government is committed to halting and reversing the decline in nature and making sure everyone in Wales can enjoy nature from their doorstep, and the Local places for Nature scheme reflects the determination of organisations and communities in Wales to do more for nature, even in these very difficult times.

“The creation of new spaces for nature through this scheme will provide opportunities for communities to come together, to be inspired and to accelerate the transformational changes needed in our economy and society to respond to the climate emergency and to halt and reverse the decline in biodiversity.”

For enquiries about the Local Places for Nature Capital Fund and details on how to apply, please contact natur@heritagefund.org.uk or visit www.heritagefund.org.uk/funding/local-places-nature-guidance.

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Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, dies aged 99

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The Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen’s ‘strength and stay’ for 73 years, has died aged 99.

Prince Philip’s health had been slowly deteriorating for some time. He announced he was stepping down from royal engagements in May 2017, joking that he could no longer stand up. He made a final official public appearance later that year during a Royal Marines parade on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace.

Since then, he was rarely seen in public, spending most of his time on the Queen’s Sandringham estate in Norfolk, though moving to be with her at Windsor Castle during the lockdown periods throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and where the couple quietly celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary in November 2020. He also celebrated his 99th birthday in lockdown at Windsor Castle.

The duke spent four nights at King Edward VII hospital in London before Christmas 2019 for observation and treatment in relation to a “pre-existing condition”.

Despite having hip surgery in April 2018, he attended the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle a month later and was seen sitting beside the Queen at a polo match at Windsor Great Park in June. He and the Queen missed Prince Louis of Cambridge’s christening in July 2018, but he was seen attending Crathie Kirk near Balmoral in August, and driving his Land Rover in the surrounding Scottish countryside in September.

It is expected that flags on landmark buildings in Britain will be lowered to half-mast as a period of mourning is announced.

The First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford has expressed his sadness on the news of the death of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh and offered condolences to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal family on behalf of the Welsh Government.

He said: “It is with sadness that we mourn the death of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh. Throughout his long and distinguished life, he served the crown with selfless devotion and generosity of spirit.

We offer our sincere condolences to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, his children and their families on this sad occasion.

He will be missed by the many organisations that he supported as Patron or President over many decades of service”.Andrew RT Davies, the Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd, has led tributes to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, whose death was announced today.

In light of the sad news from Buckingham Palace, campaigning has been paused with immediate effect.

Mr Davies said: “This is a very sad day for the United Kingdom.
“The Duke of Edinburgh led a remarkable life, excelled himself with his career in the Royal Navy, was the strength and stay to Her Majesty The Queen, and has left a legacy to the nation through the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

“Dutiful, devoted, and diligent, his like will never be seen again, and Welsh Conservatives offer their deepest condolences to The Queen, and the rest of the Royal Family.”

Adam Price, leader of Plaid Cymru said: “On behalf of Plaid Cymru, I send my condolences to Her Majesty the Queen and her family. Many young people in Wales will have benefited from the Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme, a reflection of many decades of his public service. Thoughts are with the Royal Family at this time.”

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Fire Chief’s pay being formally investigated

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THE TERMS and salary of the re-employment of a Chief Fire Officer for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service (MAWWFRS) are being formally investigated, The Herald can reveal.

We have previously reported on the re-employment of Chief Fire Officer Chris Davies following his retirement.

Cllr Gordon Walker, a former firefighter and Fire Authority member, officially raised a complaint with The Welsh Fire Minister and Auditor General for Wales regarding the terms of re-employment for the Chief Fire Officer and has been calling for an investigation since last year.

Mr Walker had written to the Fire Authority and MAWWFRS on numerous occasions asking for a review on the situation, however after failed attempts, Mr Walker sent his concerns to the Auditor General for Wales.

The issues that have been highlighted relate to the Chief Fire Officer’s pay and the policy regarding re-employment following retirement.

Chief Fire Officer Chris Davies, who retired from the service a number of years ago, has since been re-employed by Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service in a more senior role.

Due to legislation in accordance with the Authority’s Policy on Re-employment of Retired firefighters, following voluntary retirement employees may be re-engaged and have their pensions abated.

However, this will not normally exceed a one year fixed term contract to retain specialist skills or knowledge, this will not normally exceed a one year fixed term contract.

Stating section 4.4 of the policy it clearly states ‘An individual will be re-employed on the same level of basic pay pertaining to the role they hold on retirement’.

A source within the fire service told us how Chief Fire Officer, Chris Davies, despite taking voluntary retirement and receiving a lump sum payment, has been re-employed by MAWWFRS on a salary that is almost £20,000 higher than his former basic pay.

Despite government legislation that says they should be re-employed for no longer than a one year contract, Chris Davies has been re-employed in his current role for five years.

As of now there is still no succession plan in place to replace Chris Davies with MAWWFRS.

The Auditor General for Wales have confirmed that they will be running a full investigation into the salary and the terms surrounding the re-employment of Chris Davies as Chief Fire Officer.

Speaking to The Herald, Gordon Walker said: “I have put my complaint in and I can confirm that we are awaiting the results of the investigation.”

Gordon has been campaigning relentlessly to have more transparency on the re-employment of retired fire service employees, especially those re-engaged on a rank senior to that on which they left.

A spokesperson for MAWWFRS said: “Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service is aware of the allegations made by a Member of our Fire and Rescue Authority and we can confirm that we are currently working with Audit Wales as part of their investigation.

“It would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

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Drakeford outlines road to normality

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PUBS and restaurants can reopen outdoors on April 26, the Welsh government has said.

Outdoor attractions can also open from that date.

The changes will come into force provided coronavirus cases remain low.

Non-essential retail and all other close contact services will also reopen on April 12, as well as travel between Wales and the rest of the UK.

The announcements come before a planned review from First Minister Mark Drakeford on Thursday (Apr 1), which is being held a day early because of the Easter weekend.

He is also expected to say that gyms can re-open sometime in May, alongside allowing up to 30 people to take part in outdoor sport.

Outdoor attractions are set to reopen April 26 and ministers could also allow gyms and leisure centres to open for individual training “by early May”, alongside organised outdoor activities for up to 30 people.

Both the Welsh Conservatives and Plaid Cymru said gyms should be allowed to reopen immediately.

Mr Drakeford will set out a “series of measures” to take Wales into Level 3 by 17 May, “subject to public health conditions remaining favourable”.

Pubs, bars and restaurants have been pleading with ministers to give them dates so they can prepare to reopen.

While parts of Wales’ lockdown have eased quicker than elsewhere in the UK, the Welsh government has been reluctant to set out a full list of when different sectors will reopen.

It has been critical of the London Government for aiming to end all rules on social contact by 21 June at the earliest – Mr Drakeford has said that was ‘very optimistic’.

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies

Welsh Conservative Senedd leader, Andrew RT Davies said: “Welsh Conservatives believe gyms across Wales should be reopened for the good of people’s mental and physical well-being.

“Two months ago, Labour said it would be a priority when it came to easing restrictions, but it’s been another broken promise from ministers. This should be corrected.

“And given the progress we’ve made on case rates and vaccination, we also believe consideration should be afforded to the reopening of outdoor hospitality in Wales.

“Labour ministers have lifted travel restrictions, but it’s created other issues such as a lack of public toilets, littering and anti-social behaviour.

“Some of the scenes over recent days have been concerning and ministers should see licensed, regulated businesses as part of the solution, instead of the problem.

“Welsh Conservatives have provided a detailed roadmap for families, workers and businesses across Wales and Labour should listen to our calls and do the same.”

Adam Price: Labour must explain why they’ve taken so long to give businesses certainty

Plaid Cymru’s Leader, Adam Price MS, said: “The Labour Government must explain why it has taken them so long to provide businesses with greater certainty on when they can expect to reopen. Having been closed for so long, the least they deserve is more time to prepare.

“While this news offers hospitality a glimmer of hope, it will be a while yet before the sector can fully re-open. Labour has a duty to provide extra financial support to help those businesses to get back on their feet – increasing the pot of cash that’s available to businesses.

“Time and again, hard-working Welsh businesses that form the backbone of our economy have been let down and left behind by this Labour government – the very least they can do is to dig deep and support key sectors of the Welsh economy.

“Meanwhile, gyms should be able to safely re-open now – not least to help with people’s wellbeing and mental health which has suffered so much during the last few months.”

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