There is growing opposition to Milford Haven Port Authority's plans for developing the former Royal Naval Dockyard, in Pembroke Dock.
Champions of the town's maritime heritage are campaigning against the £multi-million Pembroke Dock Marine Project that will entirely change the landscape of what was once the centre-piece of the town and the very reason for its existence.
The Port Authority has submitted plans to develop the western side of the dockyard so that it will support the burgeoning alternative power industry. It includes proposals to create shed-like buildings of up to 40' in height.
"Already developers such as Bombora, BlueGem Wind and Marine Power Systems are working in the Haven Waterway - attracted by the energy source, the excellence of the supply chain and the promise of what’s to come", said a spokesperson for MHPA.
"Project partners are using Pembroke Dock Marine as a foundation to leverage additional investment; for example, Milford Haven: Energy Kingdom, ORE Catapult’s TIGER project and Coastal Communities Adapting Together.
"We look forward to continued work with our partners and Pembrokeshire County Council to ensure we maximise the positive impact for Pembrokeshire and the Swansea Bay City Region."
But critics, including historian Adrian James and Brian King, from the Pembroke Dock Maritime Heritage Society believe that the development will do untold - and irreparable - damage to the maritime heritage of the town.
The plans include 'capping' the former graving dock, the pickling pond - believed to be the only one left in existence in the UK - and the historic slipways on the western side of the dockyard - all listed as being of historical significance.
MHPA has said that the capping will be done in such a way that it will preserve what is underneath - and mean it can be exposed again at a later date, if required.
"The infill methodology has been devised by the specialist consultants and consulted upon with all statutory stakeholders," continued the spokesperson.
"Both structures will be preserved in a way that means they can be uncovered in the future and some features (the west wall of the pickling pond and entrance to the graving dock) will still be visible. All of this preservation work is likely to be a condition within any planning approval, so it has to happen.
"We have an ambition to reuse the mooring bollards from the graving dock in a way which sympathetically blends with the new slipway arrangement and the graving dock caisson gate will be carefully removed from the dock and preserved. All this work is being done in collaboration with CADW.
"It is worth noting that the two outer slipway walls will also be preserved and safeguarded as part of the works.
"As part of our plans, we have committed to restoring the listed Former Foreman’s Office which will come into our ownership as part of the scheme. The port also secured consent in 2019 to renovate the Grade 2 listed annexes to the two Sunderland hangars," she added.
The campaigners are adamant that a scheme to enhance and utilise the historic dockyard for a tourism and visitor experience is viable - citing other dockyards around the world that have been utilised in the same way.
"The Pembroke Dock Maritime Heritage Centre, in Front Street, already attracts around 3,000 visitors a year," said Brian King, "proving there is already a real interest in maritime history that could be built upon, and, with the help of things like National Lottery funding could bring real jobs and prosperity to the town, while maintaining its historic links."
In response MHPA said it had considered a heritage role for the former Royal Naval Dockyard but: "We are aware that there is some local interest in using the dockyard as a heritage/visitor attraction, however we do not believe this offers the same level of economic opportunity for the area as the marine energy sector. Tourism is seasonal and does not support the high-level, year-round jobs offered by the engineering sector.
"As a Trust Port with accountability to our stakeholders, we have a duty to deliver projects that offer maximum benefits to them, with our ultimate stakeholder being future generations. The Dockyard has continued to develop and adapt to changing requirements since its inception and has always been viewed as a source of significant skilled employment. Our aim is to allow this evolution to continue. Pembroke Dock Marine offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to create these employment opportunities for the community in which we all live.
"We do, however, agree that Pembroke Dock has a proud maritime heritage and a story to tell and we are passionate about it. We also recognise the important contribution tourism plays to the wider Pembrokeshire economy and want to play our part in maximising this opportunity too. For that reason, we are fully engaged with Pembroke Dock Town Council, Pembroke Dock Town Team, and others to explore collaborative opportunities in this area."
In addition the Port Authority believes that the job opportunities offered by the energy generation developers currently attracted to the area are going to be of real benefit to Pembrokeshire.
PDM is expected to create around 1,800 high-skill, well-paid, year-round jobs by delivering an appropriate operating environment for inward investors and local businesses, enabling them to attract new opportunities in the marine renewables sector. It will also improve current supply chain resilience and support local job retention, as many local businesses are heavily reliant on the county’s existing oil and gas industry which has a finite life when you consider the national commitment to move to a low carbon economy."
The campaigners are unconvinced - and are also concerned that the plans submitted for consideration currently vary from those that were the subject of a public consultation in 2019, although MHPA says that any alterations were in responses to the consultation with stakeholders.
Both Adrian and Brian and a growing group of people opposed to the plans are calling on residents to check out the proposals and add their voice, comments and concerns to the planning application.
There is advice on commenting here https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/planning-applications/commenting-on-applications
The planning application has the reference: 20/0732/PA and the official deadline for comments is January 22 2021.
This news item was taken from the Western Telegraph, 18th Jan 21.
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