First posted Friday, October 16, 2015
I live in a beautiful part of the United Kingdom. The coast is only ever a few minutes away from wherever I may be, if I turn inland there’s a choice of many pleasant and peaceful footpaths to follow, and there are several places where the night sky can be observed and enjoyed without the orange hue of light pollution.
These are just three reasons why so many people choose to make Pembrokeshire their home, or holiday destination. There are undoubtedly many more, and different people will have different reasons. Pembrokeshire caters for a diverse range of tastes.
However, there are challenges ahead. Infrastructure poses problems (by infrastructure I’m referring particularly to roads, public transport provision and the like), as does the need to strengthen the local economy to ensure future generations don’t feel it necessary to simply ‘up sticks’ and head off to the bright lights of Cardiff, Bristol, London or beyond. In a county that relies heavily on tourism, agriculture and the energy sector (petrochemical and LNG particularly at present), without some kind of diversification or expansion of opportunities, Pembrokeshire could find itself resembling a collection of ghost towns, with a predominantly aged population.
There is much going on at a local, and indeed regional, level in the corridors of power so to speak, seeking to make sure that Pembrokeshire continues to hold its own in an increasingly global market place, and strengthen and expand the offering of ‘product’ across all existing sectors and introduce new ones. This is driven partly by a need to change (public sector finances are under pressure) but also by a willingness and desire to change.
Pride and passion are often found burning brightly in people living and working in Pembrokeshire. A quick scan through social media sites will uncover a range of groups where residents and visitors share images, comments and observations of a positive and upbeat nature. Passion also comes keenly to the fore when it is felt that something has an adverse effect (local healthcare provision being one such example), but can be effectively utilised to motivate individuals to work with others to raise awareness or seek solutions.
Pride and passion have a part to play in allowing Pembrokeshire to develop its potential. There are opportunities to develop the tourism product, and do so sensitively (the natural environment and heritage of the county are both key features and to cover it with concrete and fill every town with the same high street would be unforgivable), and promote the renewable energy sector, and also introduce new sectors as services such as superfast broadband begin to increase their reach here.
It’s often easy to assume that ‘someone else’ will pick up the baton and lead the charge, and perhaps sometimes they will. However there is no longer room for complacency or apathy. The political landscape of Wales is changing, it will bring challenges for many. The provision of services locally is changing, as the public sector has to determine the best way to spend a decreasing budget whilst maintaining delivery of statutory requirements. Tough choices must be made, and some will inflame passions and leave pride feeling hurt, but if you’re asked for your thoughts do give them, they could make a difference.
The potential to make a difference, to add something good, create something new, improve what already exists, is in each of us. Keep hold of the pride and the passion, but put aside past differences, lay old grudges to rest, and look instead to the future, understand the potential and do something positive. Individually, doing something to make another person smile will improve both of your days, collectively working with others towards a shared goal and vision will bring greater reward for more people. Many towns and villages here already have strong community identities, just imagine what the impact of the whole county sharing in its own, unique and positive identity could be, capturing that pride, passion and potential.