Texaco offers to buy village

THE 32 families of a tiny Welsh village may not have struck oil but possibly the next best thing. Texaco, which owns a huge refinery next to Rhoscrowther, has offered to buy the entire village because its residents are worried over safety and blight to their homes.

Texaco's offer, said to be worth more than pounds 2m and reported to villagers at a meeting on Thursday night, is, by general agreement, a good one. Indeed, some feel it is too good to be true and are reserving judgement until the cash is handed over. One council tenant, who like many others did not wish to be named, said: 'Texaco is a giant; it could stamp on us at any time. It could still withdraw the deal.'

The village, near Pembroke, lies in a dell with panoramic sea views, and has a mixture of council and private homes. The parish church is 14th century and the pub Georgian, but most of the houses were built between the wars. Over the brow of the hill lies the mass of steelwork and pipes of the oil plant.

Texaco has said it will purchase private properties at an agreed market value - not the going rate for the village, which is blighted by the plant - plus reasonable expenses. Talks are being held with South Pembrokeshire District Council over the 19 council tenants. The offer may involve Texaco buying properties elsewhere and handing them over to the local authority. Texaco will not comment on figures, but pounds 2m is being bandied about as the potential cost of the offer.

Texaco says it is making the offer as several residents want to move away because of the proximity of the plant. Eddie Crosby, its superintendent of administration, emphasised anyone who wished to stay, could.

The company would ensure they would be left in a pleasant environment, not surrounded by 'a blitzed building-site or boarded-up buildings'.

It is the fear of blight that has caused divisions among the Rhoscrowther residents. There are some, mainly elderly, who do not wish to move, but they are worried that the heart will be ripped out of the village and oppose the campaign by some inhabitants to be rehoused which began after an explosion at the plant in January.

Vano Llewellyn, who has lived in Rhoscrowther since 1937, said: 'I am churchwarden, organist and bell-ringer. I love my village and the church and I am going to stay. In the war the bombs fell here, but nobody thought about leaving.'

At the inappropriately named 'Pleasant View', a row of concrete council houses close to the refinery fence, with steam from the 500- acre plant providing a constant backdrop, Albert Powell, 76, and his wife, Florence, aged 75, will also stay. Mr Powell, a retired farmworker, said: 'I think it is a shame. If people were that frightened they would have gone the following day; not still be here eight months later talking about it.'

But Cedric Rees, who also expected to end his days in the village, will take the offer. He fears his retirement will end prematurely and violently if he stays. 'We are looking at other areas. It is a lovely village and we could stand the noise but after those explosions it has been very worrying and we don't feel safe any more.'

Peter Prynne, landlord of the Crowther Inn, estimated that 80 of the 100 villagers would be moving. 'This is a very forward- looking scheme. I am sure other people living near large industrial concerns will be taking note. The refinery is a monolith that has grown to dwarf the village.'

(Photograph omitted)

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