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MP champions helicopter in debate

Thomas Sinclair

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Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards

JONATHAN EDWARDS has secured a meeting with Minister for Policing Mike Penning after a debate in Westminster Hall on Tuesday (Jun 9) concerning the future of the Dyfed Powys Police helicopter.
Mr Edwards opened the debate with a speech stating that the Dyfed Powys Police Helicopter was essential in helping the constabulary deal with the ‘unique policing challenges’ faced by a force that covers half a million people and approximately half of Wales. He added that the helicopter was used for vehicle pursuits, gathering intelligence, and transporting specialist teams around the region, as well as casualty evacuation.
Pointing out that this was a Wales and England issue, Mr Edwards stated that had the police force in Wales been devolved, as it was in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and as his party has argued in favour of, ‘it is highly unlikely that we would be having this argument’.
The decision to downgrade from a 22 base model to a 15 base model also came under scrutiny, and Mr Edwards quoted an NPAS document stating that the 22 base model was ‘the right one to deliver the operational capability needed for the public in England and Wales, which was written three months before the 15 base model was imposed.
Highlighting the fact that ‘great swathes of the Dyfed Powys force area were only reachable after a minimum of 30 minutes travel time from St Athan and Bristol, he added: “You don’t have to be a detective to work out that this will significantly reduce the safety and service available to my constituents.” He also pointed out that this went against NPAS policy, which was to reach 97% of people within 20 minutes.
The Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP also claimed that the decision was ‘on shaky ground.’ He advised Mr Penning, and the Home Secretary to read the minutes of February’s NPAS meeting and ‘satisfy themselves that the NPAS operational model was not open to judicial review,’ following the changes to the 15 base model, which Mr Edwards pointed out had happened without Dyfed Powys PCC Christopher Salmon, who signed in favour of the original model, knowing about it.
In what was later described by Mr Penning as ‘personal attacks on the Police and Crime Commissioner, Mr Edwards quoted Mr Salmon’s 2012 manifesto pledge to fight to keep the Dyfed Powys helicopter. “I want to put on record my deep sense of disappointment at Mr Salmon’s abject failure and apparent unwillingness to stand up for the best interests of the people of Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Powys, he said. “If the commissioner feels powerless, perhaps it is time for him to leave his job.”
JonathanEdwardsalsoquestioned the information published by NPAS on fixed-wing aircraft coverage as an alternative aircraft in the area: “For the [fixed-wing aircraft] maps to be accurate the aircraft would have to be constantly encircling Llandeilo, refuelled in mid-air when required, before being dispatched, which is plainly ridiculous”, he said. “In other words, the arguments being put forward by NPAS to justify its new enhanced coverage is purely hypothetical and deeply misleading”, he added.
Mr Edwards was supported by Ceredigion MP Mark Williams, who pointed out that Dyfed Powys Police have ‘expressed real concerns about the diminished service.’
Concluding his speech, Mr Edwards said: “The residents of Dyfed Powys have been failed by their police commissioner and ill-served by NPAS.” He added “If the Home Secretary is not prepared to order a similar review as she has done in the north of England, then I believe it will be seen, quite rightly, as if the residents of mid and west Wales are ignored by the UK Government.”
Responding, Mr Penning claimed that Mr Salmon was ‘trying to do the best job that he possibly can for the people he represents’. He was supported in this by the Conservative MP for Brecon and Radnor Christopher Davies. Mr Davies asked Mr Penning to point out how hard Mr Salmon had worked to get benefits from the NPAS model,’ without actually stating what these benefits were. He also pointed out that the Dyfed Powys helicopter had been grounded with gearbox problems for three weeks, and claimed that Dyfed Powys had no air cover at all during this period. He failed to mention that the South Wales Police Force helicopter was utilised during this period, and that this cover would in effect be what the NPAS model promises for the future.
He added that the coverage would be better because the new model offered 24 hour coverage rather than the twelve hours offered by the current model. He may have missed Mr Edwards’ earlier point, which was that in the last four years there have been a mere 13 calls for a helicopter outside of the twelve hour day.
“I think my honourable friend has been reading my speech – or perhaps he wrote it for me!” Mr Penning ‘joked.’
In terms of the cuts, he spoke in favour of moving away from traditional force boundaries to provide complete cover. Mr Penning referenced his work in moving the Coastguard service onto a national model, which he claimed had been a success.
He also said that it was not the role of the government to intervene in strategic decisions by NPAS. Mr Edwards intervened at this point, asking why, if this was the case, a review was being held concerning helicopter provision in the north of England. With refreshing candour, Mr Penning said that he didn’t know.
Mr Penning also championed fixed-wing aircraft, which have been tested in Dyfed-Powys with limited success, though the uses for them are open to interpretation. “I was counter-terrorism minister in Northern Ireland, and I have to be slightly careful what I say about how we used fixed-wing aircraft, but they are enormously useful,” he said. He also claimed that one of the more important uses for aircraft was tracking down cannabis growers.

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Four charged with conspiracy to supply class A drugs

Carli Newell

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FOUR people have been arrested and charged as part of an investigation into an organised crime gang supplying class A drugs from London to Aberystwyth, Llanelli and Swansea.

Dyfed-Powys Police, with support from The Met Police, carried out warrants at four addresses on July 21, resulting in four arrests.

Mohammed Osman, aged 23, Yonis Mohammed, aged 20, Salman Mohamoud, aged 23 – all from Islington – and Amy Simmons, aged 21, from Dulwich were charged with a total of 12 offences:

  • Mohammed Osman: Two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine,
  • Yonis Mohammed: Two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine.
  • Salman Mohamoud: Conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine
  • Amy Simmons: Conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine.

All four appeared at Llanelli Magistrates’ Court on Friday, July 23, where they were remanded in custody. They are due to appear at Swansea Crown Court for their next hearing on August 20.

The investigation is being carried out by the Ceredigion Serious and Organised Crime Team, Aberystwyth CID and the Operation Orochi command of the Met Police.

Detective Sergeant Steve Jones said: “These four arrests and charges are the result of a coordinated approach to target an organised crime gang we believe is running a county lines operation into the Dyfed-Powys Police force area.

“We will continue to work diligently to disrupt gangs of this kind, to prevent the supply of illegal substances into our community.

“I would like to thank all officers involved, as well as the Met Police for their part in the operation.”

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New children’s play area in Bryn as part of new council housing development

Carli Newell

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A NEW children’s play area has opened in time for the summer holidays in Bryn, Llanelli as part of a new £5.9million council housing development.

Carmarthenshire County Council is building 32 new homes on land close to the Dylan housing estate in Bryn.

The scheme will be made up of 22 two-bedroom homes, four two-bedroom bungalows and six four-bedroom homes and is part of the council’s ongoing drive to deliver more affordable homes across the county. It has been part funded through the Welsh Government’s Affordable Housing Grant.

The development also includes a new children’s play area, funded by the council in partnership with Llanelli Rural Council, which will take over the running and maintenance of the play area on completion.

Executive Board Member for Housing Cllr Linda Evans said: “I am delighted the park has been completed in time for the summer holidays for the local children to enjoy.

“We are committed to delivering more affordable housing across Carmarthenshire and this development will benefit dozens of families in Llanelli, as well as proving much needed facilities for the local community.

“I would like to thank the rural council for collaborating with this us on this and I hope the children are thrilled with it.”

Before designing the play area, the rural council liaised with local schoolchildren to find out what play equipment they wanted at their new park.

Llanelli Rural Council Chairman Cllr Tegwen Devichand said: “The council is delighted to be working in partnership with Carmarthenshire County Council to provide this wonderful new play area for the community.

“The opening of the play area couldn’t have been better timed to coincide with the school holidays. I hope the local children will enjoy the range of challenging play equipment on offer and that they have lots of fun using it over the summer.”

The housing development is due to be completed by the beginning of 2022.

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Burry Port Harbour lighthouse overhaul tops council’s £2million investment

Carli Newell

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A £2MILLION investment in Burry Port Harbour is nearing completion, topped off with the iconic lighthouse getting a fresh lick of paint.

Carmarthenshire County Council is behind a range of improvements to maintain and restore the historic harbour which is one of the county’s most loved and well visited beauty spots.

Restoration of the Grade II listed harbour walls, undertaken under the guidance of CADW, will conclude within the next few weeks.

The council has also been working alongside The Marine Group, which operates the harbour, to improve mooring facilities. They are working closely with fishermen to bid for funding for new commercial pontoon infrastructure.

It will add to investment made over previous years which saw the council spend almost £1.5million on new pontoons, and over £300,000 in maintaining the harbour railings and bridge.

A local operator has agreed a lease for a cafe and public toilets on east side of Harbour, and the refurbishment of the old RNLI harbour office has recently started by The Marine Group (TMG) to create a harbour-side coffee house.

TMG has also invested in a state-of-the-art dredger which arrived at the harbour last autumn. Dredging is well underway and will continue until targeted depths are reached.

Boat lifting equipment and new fuelling points are also planned.

The council has introduced community safety officers to patrol the harbour assisting tourists and local people during the summer months, especially to advise around Covid regulations, as part of a tourism hotspot plan to take care of issues such as parking, litter, street cleansing, enforcement and signage.

Temporary car parking surfacing has also been laid on the east side along with new pay and display facilities ahead of a wider multi-million regeneration plan that will transform the harbour with a mix of housing, commercial and leisure space covering around 13 acres of prime development site.

Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, Executive Board Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism, said: “We are proud of our continued investment in Burry Port Harbour. We are spending millions restoring and maintaining historic features that are much-loved by local people and visitors who come from far and wide to enjoy what the harbour has to offer.

“We continue to work closely alongside The Marine Group and Pembrey and Burry Port Town Council to plan and prioritise works and ongoing maintenance. We are as keen as everyone else to ensure it is well-maintained and continues to be a place people can enjoy.

“We appreciate that there has been some upheaval during these improvement works but we ask people to understand that our investment will make Burry Port Harbour an even better place for the future.”

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