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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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New Quay RNLI in top ten for fundraising in the UK & Ireland

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Last week, as the RNLI’s Mayday Mile campaign came to an end, the New Quay RNLI team had earned the honour of being in the top ten for fundraising throughout the UK & Ireland. The team raised over £3,000 during the month of May, with local schools, individuals and the RNLI crew taking part. 

Both Ysgol Ceinewydd and Ysgol T Llew Jones pupils took on the challenge, taking to the school field to complete their Mayday Mile and then learning about water safety back in the classroom. 

Mr Lee Burrows, Deputy Headteacher of Ysgol T Llew Jones, said, “We wanted to take part in the RNLI Mayday Mile campaign as we wanted to raise awareness of the dangers in and around the water before the summer months. It’s really important for our pupils to remember water safety messages as we live by the sea. 

“We were able to use the RNLI water safety resources which are online and the children had great fun making water safety posters.”  

A local boy, Steffan Williams, aged 12, was another participant who raised over £2,200 by paddle boarding 10 miles in one day and is fourth on the individuals’ leaderboard for the whole of the UK and Ireland. 

New Quay lifeboat crew also took part, with crew members running and walking across Traeth Gwyn in full RNLI kit. It was tough going but they covered a total of 20 miles. Crew member Peter Yates took the challenge one step further, walking a total of 68 miles during the month of May.  

Pete said, “Having been on the crew for 14 years and having been taught so much and been given such great opportunities, I wanted to do my bit and give something back. I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me and the rest of the team.” 

Roger Couch, New Quay RNLI Operations Manager added, “We would like to thank everyone for their kind donations and also those who have taken part in the fundraising activities. The Mayday Mile campaign has been a great success and it’s great to see the community pulling together to raise much needed funds for the RNLI. With more people expected to be holidaying close to home this year, the RNLI predicts a summer like no other.” 

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New Quay RNLI rescues three persons blown out to sea

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ON THURSDAY afternoon (Jun 10) at 3pm New Quay RNLI’s inshore lifeboat launched on service to rescue three persons being blown out to sea on inflatable rings off Traeth Gwyn beach. 

In a strong offshore wind, the crew at New Quay Lifeboat Station had spotted three persons on inflatable rings in difficulty.   

Pete Yates, New Quay RNLI’s helm said, “We spotted the group about a quarter mile out from the beach so we observed them for a while. Initially they abandoned one of the rings and were making good speed back to the beach. All seemed okay, but then the group of three, each in a rubber ring started to slow, with one adult beginning to attempt a swim tow with the other two.  

“At that point I could tell they were in real danger so I went to prepare the inshore lifeboat. Once kitted up we launched and quickly arrived on scene. One person had made it ashore but the adult was still towing a young person who was quite shivery and cold. We got them both aboard and took them back to the beach to their family. I’d say they were a little shaken up and it was a very good decision to observe them and then launch, so a good outcome!” 

Roger Couch, New Quay RNLI’s Lifeboat Operations Manager added, “Many of the emergencies the RNLI responds to involve inflatables and that is a key reason why the RNLI strongly advises against taking them to the beach. Inflatables are not designed for open water and it takes very little breeze for them to be swept out to sea much quicker than you can swim or paddle back to the beach.  

“Remember if you get into danger in the water, relax and float to give yourself time to recover before swimming to safety or calling for help. If you see someone else in danger, please call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.” 

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Surprise interview with football superstar on Euros’ eve

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ON Thursday morning 10 June, pupils from Ysgol Gynradd Penrhyn-coch and Ysgol Gyfun Penweddig received an unexpected Zoom call all the way from Baku, capital city of Azerbaijan. The call was made from Ben Davies, Welsh professional footballer, who is currently located at a camp with the rest of the Welsh national football team in Baku, ahead of their Euro 2020 opener game against Switzerland on Saturday.

After the initial shock of seeing the live image of Ben appear on the screen in front of them, Pupils from Year 3 to Year 6 of Ysgol Penrhyn-coch and Year 7 puplis of Ysgol Penweddig were given the opportunity to interview Ben. The interview, which was organised as part of the Ceredigion Welsh Language Charter, was conducted through the medium of Welsh.

It was clear from the big grins that all the pupils enjoyed this special experience considerably and one that will be well remembered. The passion from the children was an indicator of the strong support there is for Ben and the rest of the Welsh team in Ceredigion.

Puplis wearing red from Ysgol Gynradd Penrhyn-coch, after interviewing Ben Davies.

None of the pupils knew about the interview beforehand. The only clue given by the schools that something was happening was that pupils were all told to wear red to school on Thursday.

Liwsi Curley, a pupil of Ysgol Penrhyn-coch said: “I’m in shock to see one of my heroes live on zoom! It’s been a special experience and one of the happiest experiences of my life. Thank you very much Ben Davies. Go for it Wales!” 

Ben answered many of the puplis questions. Twm Aron Williams and Caio Brychan, puplis of Ysgol Penrhyncoch, who are big fans of Ben were two of those lucky pupils. Caio asked Ben: “If you could choose a five-a-side football fantasy team who would be in it?” After answering, Ben asked the same question back to Caio, who answered immediately with: “You and then Bale, Ramsey, Moore and Henesey!”

Dr Rhodri Thomas, Headteacher of Ysgol Penweddig said: It was pleasing to see the response of year 7 pupils to the session with Ben Davies today. The pupils appreciated the opportunity to find out more about the experience of representing your country and the importance of practising, hard work and following advice from others in order to succeed. Year 7 pupils are excited now and look forward to supporting Wales in the competition over the next few weeks. Good luck to the team in Rome and Baku!”

Zoom call between Ceredigion pupils and Ben Davies.

Finley Saycell, a Year 7 pupil of Ysgol Penweddig said: “Today’s experience was a special one. I thank everyone who had given us the opportunity. It was excellent. I spoke to Ben Davies – one of Wales’s best players!”

Ben Davies has won over 50 caps for Wales and previously played in the Euros in 2016. Welsh-born Ben attended Ysgol Gyfun Ystalyfera, Neath Port Talbot.

Following the interview, Ben Davies said: “It was lovely to speak to the children and see the support that there is for us – WOW!”

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