News in brief: Delta variant cases more than double in the last week
Public Health Wales has reported another big jump in the number of people testing positive for the Delta Covid variant.
In the last seven days 1,917 new cases of the highly transmissible mutation have been detected, taking the total number of cases to 3,666, an increase of just under 110%.
The variant, first identified in India in April, has been dominant in Wales in recent weeks and over the last seven days accounts for over 99% of the total number of new cases.
Since last week’s update there have been just 36 cases of the formerly dominant Alpha (Kent) variant which fuelled the second wave of the pandemic last winter.
Meanwhile, PHW has confirmed 701 new cases across the country in the past 24 hours, with the weekly case rate rising to 117 per 100,000 people from 109.6 in yesterday’s report.
Cardiff (108) again recorded most new cases in the last 24 hours, followed by Wrexham (68) and Flintshire (59).
Wrexham continues to have the highest case rate in Wales at 280.2, jumping from 245.5 yesterday. It also has the highest positivity rate over the past week at 12.3% per 100,000 tests, almost double the national rate of 6.3%.
Former Tory MP urged not to return to Parliament
Disgraced Delyn MP Rob Roberts has been told to stay away from Parliament by the Conservative Party, according to the BBC.
Roberts was elected as a Conservative MP in 2019 but now sits as an independent after the whip was removed following his suspension from the Commons after he was found guilty of sexual harassment by an independent panel.
He refused calls from senior Tories to quit after he was found guilty and could return to Parliament today after serving a six-week ban.
Mr Roberts was suspended for sexual misconduct in May, but as the suspension was recommended by the Independent Expert Panel, which is not a committee of the House, the Recall of MPs Act 2015 was not triggered.
This means there will only be a by-election in the seat if Roberts resigns.
Suspensions of more than 10 days usually trigger a recall petition and potentially a by-election if it is signed by enough voters in the constituency.
He remains a member of the Conservative Party but this is believed to be under review.
Security probe announced following sale of Newport Wafer Fab
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed a security review will be conducted into the sale of Newport Wafer Fab, the largest manufacturer of semiconductors in the UK.
Nexperia, a Dutch company owned by China’s Wingtech, announced the deal, thought to be worth over £60 million, on Monday.
On Tuesday Welsh secretary Simon Hart said he was “satisfied” that security risks had been taken into account, following criticism of the deal from Labour and Conservative MPs.
Following the sale, Paul James, the operations director at NWF, said: “The acquisition is great news for the staff here in Newport and the wider business community in the region, as Nexperia is providing much-needed investment and stability for the future.”
“We are looking forward to becoming part of the global Nexperia team and are keen to keep the current workforce. Additional local resources may be required too.”
Newport Wafer Fab currently employs 450 people at its site in Tredegar Park.
Plans revealed for next stage of major development on former refinery site
Hannah Neary, local democracy reporter
A developer has revealed its plans to for the next stage of a £1.2 billion village in Neath, which include a metro link, shops and affordable housing.
St Modwen Homes has announced its vision for the next phase of developing Coed Darcy, a housing estate on the site of a former oil refinery in Llandarcy, Neath.
Rob Williams, managing director of St. Modwen Major Projects, said “thousands of hours and millions of plans have been invested so far” in the development, which as “not been without its challenges”.
The company hopes to provide 2,000 new homes, active travel works and community facilities.
Planning permission to build the 4000-home village was granted in 2008 and completion was expected to take 25 years. So far, 300 houses have been built on the 1000-acre site, where a BP oil refinery once stood between 1921 and 1998.
Neath Port Talbot Council gave St Modwen permission to expand Coed Darcy in June 2020, with dates set for the opening of new schools, affordable housing and a GP surgery.
A spokesperson for the company said it has since drawn up plans for a smaller scheme featuring sustainable, low-carbon homes, walking and cycle routes and a metro station linking the estate to the Swansea Bay Metro Network.
St Modwen aims to build the new homes in the northern part of the site and is looking into providing “a hub and co-working space” and “shops and services”, the spokesperson added.
They said: “The proposal would see a mix of housing, including open market ‘for sale’ homes, retirement homes, affordable and social rent, plus a range of purchase options such as shared ownership, rent-to-own and the Welsh Government’s Help to Buy scheme.
“Plans for a school are being developed with the local authority that could bring forward either a two-form entry Welsh-medium primary or possibly a ‘Through School’, serving children from nursery through to their GCSEs.”
Some residents have been living at Coed Darcy for almost a decade with no nearby shop, school or GP service, which were promised as part of the initial plan for the estate.
Matthew Gray, who moved to Coed Darcy seven years ago, said it would be “really convenient” for locals to finally have a shop on the site.
He said the development was sold to residents “on the basis that it was going to be a totally new town” but much-needed facilities like a shop, GP practice and schools are about a mile away, which means many people rely on cars to get about.
“We’re about a mile away from Skewen… and another mile away from the next village across so for little things like local amenities like getting a bottle of milk or getting cash, we’ve got to travel a mile each way.
“At the moment we’re just sort of like a cluster of 300 houses or so in the middle of an old oil refinery with nothing around really.”
James Dewitt, who has lived in Coed Darcy for six years, also said there is high demand for a shop on the estate.
The father of two said: It is a lovely community here. I do love living here… but we haven’t had any of the other facilities that were promised. We were supposed to have a medical centre and a shop… and we haven’t had any of them.
“In the short term what we probably need the most is a shop because the infrastructure here was built with walking in mind. So there isn’t enough parking, which would be OK but you kind of need cars because we don’t have the facilities we were supposed to be able to walk to.
“There are adequate doctors in Skewen but there is nowhere near enough parking and we have to drive because there isn’t one nearby. It’s not like we aren’t getting medical care but we aren’t getting the convenient local walkable medical care that we were expecting. It isn’t as convenient and local as we were hoping.”
Mr Dewitt said the park on the site is “excellent” and has been particularly popular among families during lockdown. He also said Crymlyn Primary School, the nearest school to Coed Darcy, provides good quality education but the building is “ageing” and he suspects it will soon reach maximum capacity.
He said residents are eager to know if/when a school will be built at Coed Darcy so they can plan ahead for their children’s education.
“We just want to know what’s happening so we can make plans with our families. The uncertainty is one of the most frustrating things.”
Mr Williams said: “We are determined to deliver on our promises of a sustainable and innovative new neighbourhood for Neath. This reimagined Coed Darcy may be smaller but it will be a greener, more accessible and deliverable scheme.”
He said residents have been informed about the new plans for the site and the company is “working hard to create something very special”.
“We look forward to hearing the views of the community and to seeing how they can help us develop our proposals to meet their needs and aspirations.”
Residents and locals will be asked to comment on the plans through an informal consultation this summer, follwed by a formal consultation. St Modwen will then submit a planning application for the next phase of the development to Neath Port Talbot Council.