AM asks for support for Holyhead Marina and for lessons to be learnt after storm Emma response

Ynys Môn Assembly Member Rhun ap Iorwerth today asked Welsh Government for an update on the clean up work at Holyhead following storm Emma at the beginning of the month.

However, he was disappointed with the response, considering the environmental and economic impact of the damage, and the concerns still being expressed by the marina and local people about the clean up effort.

In his question to the Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs at the Assembly today, Rhun ap Iorwerth asked:

“Looking back, I think there are some serious questions about the speed of the response to what happened in Holyhead. I think it’s quite clear that there was, and remains, a grave environmental issue. So, perhaps you could update us on whether, on reflection, there was a missed opportunity to get in early, to deal with the environmental impacts of what’s happened. And what lessons have been learned, in terms of making sure that, if there’s disagreement about who exactly should take over, Welsh Government can step in, or your relevant bodies?

“Secondly, looking forward, because that’s crucial now, we do need assurances about what is happening. I’ve heard reports this morning of people returning from sea to Holyhead for the first time since the events, and being shocked at what hasn’t happened up to now. We need assurances on rebuilding the marina, on help for individuals and businesses that have been affected, and of course on the need to step up in terms of the environmental clean up, of which there is a lot yet to do. Because this still is a desperate situation in Holyhead.”

He later added:

“This was another disappointing response from the Cabinet Secretary regarding how Welsh Government and its agencies reacted to storm Emma’s destruction in Holyhead. Those working in the marina, those who have lost boats, and those who have been to Anglesey’s north west beaches themselves to clear up polystyrene because of their concern about the environmental impact tell me that the response was not quick enough, that there was confusion over who should be doing what and that the problem still remains today.

“I appreciate the Cabinet Secretary’s consideration about possible financial support for public infrastructure repair, and environmental damage clean up, but I was really hoping for more leadership on Government on this, especially considering the impact on the environment and on the local economy in Anglesey.”

Rhun seeks government help to repair damage of storm Emma in Holyhead

Following the devastating effects of storm Emma on Holyhead marina last week, Rhun ap Iorwerth AM tabled an urgent question to the Welsh Government, which was answered in the Assembly today.

The Ynys Môn Assembly Member made a plea to Welsh Government for help for the businesses affected, for an assurance that all is being done in the short-term to limit the environmental damage of the polystyrene debris, and in the more long-term for research into the possible need for a sea defence for this part of the harbor in Holyhead.

Speaking at the Senedd today, Rhun ap Iorwerth said:

“I was at Holyhead marina on Friday, immediately after the storm. Many of you will have seen the pictures on television. It was truly heartbreaking, utter destruction. There were many pleasure boats, which were important to the area, but there were also commercial boats in the marina, and many of those had been destroyed or partially damaged. All of the businesses using the marina make up an important part of the marine economy of Anglesey, and I would like to know what kind of support package the Government can put together to support these businesses in their hour of need in the short term.

“Secondly, and looking beyond the short term, may I be given a commitment that the Government will assist to fund research into the possible need for a sea defence for this part of the harbour in Holyhead? And would you agree that there’s an important role for the oceanography department at Bangor University in this important work, including use of their research ship, the Prince Madog?

“Finally, and crucially, you have referred to this: in the short term we are facing a grave environmental problem as a result of the storm. Now, I understand that there wasn’t too much fuel in most of the boats, and most of it has been collected, but there is certainly a huge problem in terms of the polystyrene debris and the pontoons in the marina. Now, five days later, I would like an update on what is being done to deal with the pollution, and an assurance that whatever needs to be done will be done to ensure that we don’t face more environmental destruction that we’ve already seen.”

He later added:

“I was pleased to hear the Cabinet Secretary say that she was happy to give consideration to possible financial support for public infrastructure repair, and I look forward to being updated regarding the environmental issues after her visit to Anglesey tomorrow.”

AM praises ‘world first’ happening in Holyhead

Ynys Môn Assembly Member Rhun ap Iorwerth visited Minesto on Friday to see the progress that is being made with the project.
 
The office in the middle of Holyhead has now opened its doors since Wednesday and employs a number of local people.  The hope is that the first ‘kite’ will be put in the water in September, although the exact date depends on the weather and tide.
 
Speaking after his visit, Rhun said:
 
“It’s great to see the vision coming closer and closer to reality. Seeing the equipment being prepared for its launch into Holyhead Deep in September should make us all proud here on Anglesey.
 
“Already, the number of employees – almost all local – is steadily growing, and businesses such as Holyhead Boatyard are becoming key components of the Minesto project.
 
“This is a world first – and it’s happening right here. The potential for us in terms of jobs and other economic benefits are enormous, and I wish the Minesto team all the very best.”

Video: My speech in the Plaid Cymru debate on banking

“It’s quite clear that there is a pattern developing, and several Members have referred to it already—this pattern of centralising in a number of regional hubs, and what’s happening on Anglesey is an excellent example of this. On Anglesey, with the exception of Holy Island, it’s only in Llangefni that there will be any full-time bank open at all. Barclays is open part-time in Amlwch, but Holyhead, as the main populated area of Anglesey, has also heard recently that they will be losing their HSBC branch. So, there’s a pattern developing here. The announcements that we’ve heard recently are: closing NatWest in Amlwch, in Holyhead, in Beaumaris and in Menai Bridge, and HSBC going in Holyhead, in Amlwch, in Menai Bridge and Beaumaris recently. It’s not just the banks either, but financial institutions more widely—Yorkshire Building Society in Llangefni is also going to close.

“If I give attention to Beaumaris for a moment, in the same way that we heard from Llyr Gruffydd about services being sucked away, when the announcement was made by NatWest and HSBC about closing in Beaumaris: ‘Don’t worry—Menai Bridge is only four miles away.’ But now we’ve heard that the branches in Menai Bridge are also closing.

“The reason we hear is that there’s more banking happening online; of course, that is factually accurate. There are lots of services available in the post office, we hear; of course that’s also true. But with all respect to post offices that are offering more and more services for paying in and withdrawing funds, the advice, the additional services and the support available through branches is not available. That’s the kind of support that the most vulnerable people do require. I don’t expect to see a return to the days where every small town has every branch of bank, but it’s important to ensure that there are basic financial services available to all within a sensible distance.

“With regard to the consultations taking place, I have a letter from NatWest here about the closure of the Menai Bridge branch saying that there are five ATMs within a mile of the branch, so what does it matter that that particular ATM will be lost? Well, what I pointed out to NatWest was that four of those are on the mainland—one of them in Ysbyty Gwynedd and one of them in Coleg Menai; that is, misleading people by giving the impression that alternative services are available. There aren’t; there’s only one available in Menai Bridge, as it happens, and that itself isn’t in the town centre.
 
“There are, I think, a number of solutions or perhaps responses that we can look at. I believe that we should be seeking to put the onus on the banking and finance sector to provide a minimum level of access. As I said, that’s not a matter of saying, ‘Let’s have every branch open in every town’ as was the case years ago, but making it a duty for the sector to ensure that there is at least a suitable level of access. Plaid Cymru in the UK Parliament have requested that Government introduces a ‘last bank in town’ status as part of the British Bankers’ Association legislation. And here, of course, I sound that warning that we can’t have a race by the banks to make sure that they’re not the last bank in town.

“Access is vital, and we’ve already heard suggestions about how there could be shared facilities, perhaps including the current established financial sector, plus also the exciting prospect such as a Welsh people’s bank that could give us an exciting way forward, responding to a necessary situation. This is a crisis that we are facing of the haemorrhaging of our financial institutions. This isn’t a pipe dream. When we look at the North Dakota bank and see that it is a hugely profitable bank, able to pump money back into infrastructure projects in North Dakota, where the Government deposits its finances with that bank in order to ensure that there is a continuous flow of money, these are exciting prospects that I believe we can’t afford to ignore. Necessity is the mother of invention, they say. We know what is necessary; we need to make sure that we stand up to the haemorrhaging of financial institutions. We cannot continue to let that haemorrhaging go unchallenged.”

AM’s open meeting in Holyhead

Ynys Môn AM Rhun ap Iorwerth yesterday held a public meeting in Holyhead, where constituents controlled the agenda.
 
The meeting at the Sea Cadets Building in Newry, Holyhead, was an opportunity for local residents to have their say on matters of importance to them or the town.
 
Speaking after the meeting, Rhun ap Iorwerth said:
 
“Thanks to those who came along to the open meeting.  We had a constructive discussion on a range of issues – from local job opportunities to the single market, from transport connections between north and south to electricity connection across the island.
 
“For those not able to make it, I’m always available to discuss any issue of importance to you.  Get in touch with me – rhun.apiorwerth@assembly.wales – or come along to my next public meeting in Amlwch.”
 
Rhun ap Iorwerth will be holding another public meeting with a warm welcome to all at the Dinorben Arms, Amlwch on Thursday, November 10th at 6pm.

AM queries effect of UK Government border plans on Holyhead and Anglesey

Ynys Môn AM Rhun ap Iorwerth has raised questions in the Assembly chamber regarding the effect on the Holyhead-Dublin crossing if a border is to be placed around the isle of Ireland.

During this week’s FMQs, Rhun ap Iorwerth talked of the importance of Holyhead Port. He said:

“In my constituency of Anglesey, the question of borders with Ireland is one of the most crucial questions in terms of the debate on leaving the European Union. If a border is to be placed around the isle of Ireland, as is suggested—and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has said that he wants to strengthen border controls in the ports and airports of Ireland—then what’s the First Minister’s assessment of the likely impact of that on the most important crossing point in terms of trade between Britain and Ireland, and that’s in my constituency, the port of Holyhead?”

In his response, the First Minister also poured cold water over the UK Government’s plans to place the British border in Irish ports and airports, warning of a “number of problems” with the proposal, and saying that no-one had come up with a way to solve the problem, which was not good for the residents of Ynys Môn or Holyhead. However Plaid Cymru says it’s time Welsh Labour took a firmer and more consistent line.

Video clip of the question and answer in the Senedd:

Speaking afterwards, Rhun ap Iorwerth added:

“The prospect of placing a hard border in Ireland would make it very unattractive for people to travel and do business through Holyhead. Around 2.1 million passengers pass through Holyhead annually in addition to 500,000 cars, and 400,000 freight vehicles. The UK Government has stated that it wants to place the British border in Irish ports and airports, which means that passing through the port of Holyhead will create untold difficulty for these travellers and vehicles.

“This yet again demonstrates that ripping Wales and the UK out of the Single Market is folly, because it will mean an EU frontier at Welsh ports which will increase business costs substantially and risk trade and jobs. 

“Leaving the Single Market will have a massive impact on Welsh jobs and yet the Labour party has completely failed to set out a coherent position on it. Despite acknowledging that placing a hard Border in Ireland would create problems, the Labour government in Wales has taken a ‘hard Brexit’ approach and voted to leave the Single Market whilst the Labour party centrally has advocated remaining in the Single Market.

“It’s clear that remaining in the Single Market is best for Welsh jobs, trade and for Welsh travellers. Plaid Cymru will campaign for membership of the Single Market because that’s what’s in Wales’ best interests.”

Reconsider Courts decision and listen to local views, demands AM

Ynys Môn AM Rhun ap Iorwerth is asking the UK Government to listen to local views and reconsider their decision to close Anglesey’s courts.

Following the recent UK government statement that they are to close the courts at Holyhead and Llangefni, despite local opposition during the consultation process, Rhun has written to them to ask them to reconsider. He said:

“The consultation process proved that there was a clear opposition to closure. Out of all the respondents who commented on Holyhead Magistrates’ Court, for example, not one of them was in support of the proposal to close.

“But despite this, and despite the strong case that had been made by elected representatives from various parties at different levels, as well as by local solicitors, magistrates and other court users to keep Holyhead and Llangefni courts, the UK government came to the conclusion that both should be closed.

“Even though they say in their response that they are exploring alternative provisions for Anglesey, they give no details. Surely these should have been explored before the decision was made?

“I still believe that this decision to close will have a seriously detrimental effect on local justice and I have called on them to reconsider the decision and to take the majority of respondents’ views into account.”

Rhun visits Holyhead Coastguards

Ynys Môn Assembly Member Rhun ap Iorwerth visited Holyhead Coastguard Station to learn more about their work. Following the visit, he said:

“Since the restructuring of Coastguards throughout Britain in the past few years, Holyhead has become an even more important centre for the service. It looks after an area that stretches from the Lake District to Aberdyfi. It was important for me to understand the nature of that work – which ranges from controlling ship traffic on the sea to safety. I also had the opportunity to discuss the work of the teams of professional and volunteers involved with Search and Rescue on our coast.

He also had the opportunity to see the new helicopters that are used for Search and Rescue work. He added:

“Losing the familiar yellow RAF helicopters has been difficult in many ways, but I had the chance to see for myself how much more able and technologically advanced the new Coastguard helicopters are. What’s important is that there is a full service available to protect those who get into trouble in the sea or on the mountains, and the team of flying staff and support staff are as committed as ever.”