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Doubts raised over feasibility of Milford docks master plan

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MilfordHavenThe Herald reported last month that Milford Haven Port Authority has unveiled a new £60 million Milford Dock Master plan is to radically change and regenerate “Wales’ largest fishing port”.

Details unveiled by the plan aim to create a high quality brand for its fish and other seafood. Part of the £60 million development aspires to transform the entire area around Milford Fish docks and the plan claims that this will bring further growth and job opportunities. The intention is to provide high standard storage, processing, retail and tourism facilities for the area, in order that ‘seafood caught in Pembrokeshire can be promoted as a brand to be sought after’.

Milford Haven was once one of the busiest ports in the UK and has even inspired writers such as Shakespeare who used Milford as a setting in the play Cymbeline referring to the location as ‘this same blessed Milford’. Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson said of Milford Haven, ‘It is one of the greatest harbours in the world’.

Having one of the deepest natural waters of any harbour in the world, Milford became home to a thriving and important fishing port during the 19th century and throughout the first half of the 20th century boasted a busy and bustling fishing port quayside. At one point, for every one job at sea there were four in the port. However, a decline in the 1950’s saw the fishing industry all but disappear and the port was transformed into what is now mainly a marina.

Alun Davies, Assembly Minister for Natural Resources and Food, is quoted in the web article as saying that, ‘The success of our proposed plan relies upon our ability to work in partnership with the Welsh fishing industry’. He also says that he hopes the plans announced will ‘help strengthen the local fishing industry and bring employment opportunities to the area’.

Kevin Hobbs added to this optimism by stating that he believes the Milford Fish docks have huge potential. He suggests that greater tonnages of fish could be handled there given the range of ‘quality and diverse species’ available in Pembrokeshire fishing waters. He goes on to applaud the plan’s aim to create wholesale and retail outlets, along with facilities for processing catch that is landed on the quay, which he sees as crucial in creating jobs and encouraging growth.

However, The Herald spoke exclusively to one local fisherman, who wished to remain unnamed, and who cast serious doubt over the viability of these ambitious plans.

“I believe this is just a way of getting grant money. Half of what they are saying might not happen. In my case, I have a shed on the quay for which I have been asking for a drainer for over eighteen months now. The public are even complaining about the smell and yet nothing has been done. We have a similar problem with getting ice which is really expensive.”

He went on to say that the fishermen who use the port find it very hard to obtain fuel which, he claims, is only available during ‘normal’ working hours and which, he says,‘would be available round the clock in any other port’, stating, “There is nothing here for fishermen”.

On the subject of Kevin Hobbs’ vision of greater fish quantities being handled at the port he pointed out that,

“Fish couldn’t be caught locally because of the fishing quotas. Under the new European rule (EU Fisheries) called ‘Kilowatt Days’ we are only allowed to fish a certain amount of days per year. So where is all this fish going to come from? If there are such good fishing stocks here, then why aren’t the fishermen here?”

He was also sceptical of the Port Authority’s ability to ‘get things done’ as he said that there wasn’t even anywhere for local fisherman to lift their boats in order to complete paint work, along with the lack of crane facilities available for them to use. He asked who would really benefit from the plans? He implied that only the port authority, rather than the local fishermen, would reap the rewards. He believes that of the £60 million the local fishermen would be lucky to receive two million pounds, the rest, he thinks, being spent on the port.

He pointed out that: “There are not enough fishing boats here, roughly twenty to thirty little boats. There are only two big trawlers here and one big shellfish boat. This is the port in Britain with the least amount of fishing boats. Do they want fishing or not? If they do they will have to change their attitude. There is only one fish shop in Milford, which is closed on Saturdays, and this is the biggest fishing port in wales!”

He explained that the problem was largely to do with who is actually fishing from Milford Haven.

“To bring fish here, in Pembrokeshire, process it here and then take it away from here is very expensive. What is happening is that Belgium vessels, for example, are offloading produce here at port and then it goes straight onto a foreign lorry and it’s off. They don’t use local crews and even their crew changes involve men being taxied from Belgium! They aren’t even using local transport services. The food they use for their vessels is 95% brought over in the back of a lorry from Belgium. Even the fishing gear comes from Belgium. The only thing they buy here is the fuel, and that comes from the Port Authority, so how is this helping local fishermen and traders?”

The Fisherman with whom The Herald spoke also complained that he has tried approaching the Port Authority for new property and was struggling, despite several meetings with the Port Authority Committee.

What seems to be clear is that, if the Port Authority’s plans are to succeed, it will be essential for them to work with local fishermen and traders if their redevelopment is truly to benefit the local community, creating jobs in the fishing industry. From speaking with a local and busy fisherman, it seems this is not the prevailing position and more co-operation would appear to be needed if the ambitious £60million ‘master plan’ is to reach its full potential, and succeed in making Milford Haven one of the UK’s best and more productive fishing ports. Local fishermen, businesses and retailers will be waiting to see how this develops.

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Communities and staff thanked for flood support

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COMMUNITIES and staff have been thanked for their work during the Storm Callum Floods. The October floods caused great damage to homes, businesses, roads and bridges in the south of Ceredigion. The floods were the biggest flood event in the last 31 years in Ceredigion.

During the flooding, the council supported the emergency services to prioritise the saving of lives. This included making sure that roads and bridges made dangerous by floodwater were closed. The council’s emergency response and recovery procedures were carried out during the event. Multi-agency emergency procedures were also carried out.

Ceredigion County Council Chief Executive, Mr Eifion Evans said, “Council staff went above and beyond their duties over the weekend of the floods. I saw their efforts with my own eyes; staff who weren’t on duty were offering to come in to help our residents. We had to send some staff home as they wanted to work longer than the 12 hour maximum that staff are allowed to work in one shift.

I have also been impressed by the huge efforts made by communities to help each other during, and in the aftermath of the flooding.”

After water levels dropped, council staff from Community Wellbeing, Housing and Highways Teams immediately went to the affected areas to offer practical support and advice. They also saw the extent of the damage that had been caused.

Everyone who has been in touch with the council has been offered help with housing, including being offered emergency temporary accommodation where needed. The Housing Team have worked with local landlords and B&B owners to provide additional accommodation, and to provide ongoing support for people who have been affected by the flood.

The Community Wellbeing Team have also provided advice and specialist equipment to residents to help to begin to dry out their homes. This support is ongoing.

The council organised drop-in sessions in Lampeter, Newcastle Emlyn, Llandysul and Llechryd. The sessions were attended by many organisations that can offer support and advice. The sessions gave residents the chance to ask the organisations any questions they had about recovering from the flood.

The Highways Team have arranged a free service to pick-up and dispose of flood damaged materials and have put skips in local household waste sites for flood damaged possessions. The team also cleared 100 tons of earth from the B4459 near Capel Dewi after a landslide covered the road. The Highways Team also repaired damaged roads and bridges.

Mr Evans continued, “The council is dedicated to helping our residents recover from the devastating effects of the recent floods. I understand that the impact is still very raw for people who have been affected, especially those who have been made homeless. I want to reassure every resident that our committed staff are working hard to help you. Despite severe pressure on council budgets, we will do everything in our power to continue to offer practical help to residents.”

A flood recovery group has met regularly to look at how the Council can target help in the most effective way. A further flood newsletter will be published in the near future. The Council will also be hosting flood advice surgeries and building on the work of developing emergency support groups for flooding.

More information about the help the council can offer is available on the website on www.ceredigion.gov.uk/stormcallumfloods

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Training company enjoy successful open evening

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HYFFORDDIANT CEREDIGION TRAINING (HCT) enjoyed a successful open evening on November 7 as it opened its doors to the public.

Opening HCT’s doors gave people the opportunity to see the fantastic range of training opportunities available for them. This included opportunities for young people who are interested in seeing what apprenticeships HCT has to offer.

Mark Gleeson, Manager for Post 14 Vocational Learning said, “It is important that HCT holds open evenings to showcase different learning opportunities that are available to all learners. HCT offers a large number of apprenticeships which ensures that the next generation of skilled workforce is being trained and employed by local companies. This is very important to the economy of Ceredigion.”

There was an opportunity to have a tour of the building, to speak to tutors, to have a look at the workshops, and to see trainees and apprentices in action. This gave a flavour of the kind of work that is done daily at the training centre.

Traineeships and apprenticeships, but also evening classes, are taught at HCT, as Councillor Catrin Miles, Cabinet Member for Learning Service and Lifelong Learning explains, “If studying towards a full qualification in a given trade is not what you are after, but you want to gain some of the basic skills in the various routes HCT specialises in, why not join an evening class? The next round of evening courses are beginning now. So, what are you waiting for? Contact HCT to see what it has to offer you.”

Evening classes run for six weeks and HCT offers these 2-3 times per year. HCT offers a range of vocational courses for people of all ages, including Hairdressing, Childcare, Business Administration, Information Technology, Carpentry, Plumbing, Electrics, Blacksmithing, Agriculture, Motor Mechanics and Welding.

For more information, find ‘Hyfforddiant Ceredigion Training’ on Facebook, or visit the website, http://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/public-it/hct/index.html

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Vandalism at coastguard lookout point

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POLICE are investigating vandalism at the old coastguard lookout point at Bird’s Rock.

A council spokesperson said: “We’re very sad to see vandalism to the old coastguard look out at Bird’s Rock on the coastal path a mile to the west of New Quay last week.

“All five windows was smashed – some even had their wooden frames ripped out.”

Melanie Heath, Ceredigion County Council’s Marine Protected Area Officer, added: “This act of vandalism is so distressing to see. The look-out was restored thanks to a special grant from the Crown Estate. It is used by our Dolphin and Porpoise Watch volunteers throughout the monitoring season. It is also a special place for many local people and visitors alike to sit for a while and take in the spectacular views of Cardigan Bay.”

If anyone has any information, contact Heddlu Dyfed Powys Police on 101

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