IT WAS A PACKED Queen Vic in Llanelli on Thursday, September 29, as a public meeting regarding the future of Llanerch fields took place.
A panel made up of local residents set out what they described as an unacceptable set of plans for a new school on the playing field, which they claim is in full use by numerous local people and community groups including a thriving Boy Scouts group and a local Cylch Meithrin.
Campaigner Heather Peters chaired the meeting and told the large gathering that she was shocked and outraged that the council had gone ahead with tests without any local consultation having taken place.
The Herald spoke to representatives of the Football Association and we were told very clearly that they have always had an interest in the field but had foregone the use for one year only to allow the field to recover. Phil Jones from the Carmarthenshire League was also at the meeting and confirmed that they had never ever said that they did not want the field. He said: “We want to use the field – it was the best field in Carmarthenshire. We cannot afford to lose any more teams, clubs or pitches in the Llanelli area. When these green areas have gone, they are gone forever.”
Councillor Bill Thomas told the meeting that the ward councillors were not happy with the choice of site for the new school and asked: “Do you want us as a Town Council to save your field?”
Someone shouted: “We have been telling you that for two years.”
EVERYONE IS CLEAR WE NEED A NEW SCHOOL
Following the meeting, Nia Griffith MP told The Herald: “It is very clearly a decision which will be made by Carmarthenshire County Council and therefore people need to speak directly to those decision makers. There are a number of issues to be looked at but the only people who can actually change a decision or make a decision on this are the County Councillors in power and in particular, of course, the Executive Board members.”
In answer to some questions, Nia Griffith said: “We would love for the Town Council to take over Llanerch but we have to be prepared for the council to say no.”
The Llanelli MP called on the council to take note of legislation on consultation before making plans. She said: “Whereas previously it would have been good practice to have consultation, now it is actually in legislation. It is a requirement before they put planning in. That seems like a sensible way round. What everyone is clear about is that we need a new school.”
LEE WATERS FRUSTRATED
Llanelli AM Lee Waters told The Herald: “I am frustrated at the pattern of behaviour from the council. There seems to be a culture of ‘we know best’ and ‘don’t trouble yourselves with the details because we will decide anyway’.
“There is no doubt there is a need for more schools and a better school for Dewi Sant and Penygaer. What we are concerned about is these proposals which are well developed and the details have to be dragged out. Quite rightly, the residents around the areas most affected have concerns; they have questions and the council have to explain and take people with them. All we want to know is what the plans are and have a chance to influence them.”
Speaking about the political in-fighting in Llanelli and at County Hall, Lee Waters suggested: “There are two issues being mixed up here. There is the issue of asset transfer, which is who has to pay to look after the pitches and the parks of the town. Whoever is in charge – be it Labour, Plaid or Independent – will have to struggle with that. The second issue is the future of our schools and where new facilities go. The two issues do not need to be tied together.
“There is obviously local squabbling going on around that but the people here aren’t interested in that. They are interested in what’s best for their community.”
TOWN COUNCIL MAKES ITS MIND UP
There was another packed meeting at the Old Vicarage on Wednesday (Oct 5) when Llanelli’s Town Council met to discuss whether they should express an interest in the assets on the asset transfer register.
The Save Llanerch Field group were in the public area with representatives of Carmarthenshire Unified Sports Committee. It led town Mayor Bill Thomas to start the meeting by saying that he had never seen it so full.
Following a brief discussion regarding the position of asset transfer policy, the clerk, Mel Edwards, told councillors: “My understanding is that if there isn’t an expression of interest for a particular asset, there will be a wider consultation than with us, but that is for the assets where there is not a declaration of interest.”
Councillor Burns said: “Going back to the beginning of this process in 2015, it is clear that this asset transfer programme is essentially a programme to transfer costs. It is my opinion that the costs of providing all the services in the parks and recreation areas should not fall on a Town or a Community Council.”
NO DISCUSSION ON SCHOOL SITE
The first question read out asked: “Through the Town Council’s correspondence with the County Council, what discussions have there been on the rebuild of Ysgol Dewi Sant and the nine considered sites?”
The clerk replied: “The quick answer is none. There has been no discussion between this council and the County Council. In April this year, this council made a proposal after a series of discussions with County Council officers where we offered to pay a substantial contribution towards the costs of parks and pitches in Llanelli. When we made that proposal, Llanerch, Penygaer was on the list. This council was under the understanding it was making an offer to contribute towards the costs on facilities including Llanerch. We received a response to that proposal that was made in April in August. That response was politely saying, ‘no thank you, we are sticking to asset transfer’.
“That response was reported to the September meeting of this council. This council, in addition to the motion which has been discussed already, agreed that we should continue to meet with the county to see how we could help. At that meeting, we were told that Llanerch was off the asset transfer register and that it was earmarked for a school.”
TOWN COUNCIL SUPPORTS CAMPAIGN
The final question from the campaigners to be read out was: “Where does this council stand in relation supporting the campaign for maintaining the playing field on Llanerch?”
Council Leader Carl Lucas responded and said that the Town Council have always been looking at how the council could support the retention of the playing fields and surfaces in the town.
He said: “We have consistently said that these sites need to be maintained for recreational use. It shouldn’t be at the expense of us taking on their assets, which is why we have opposed direct asset transfer. I will be asking the council to support the campaign to keep Llanerch as a playing field area.”
Councillor Winston Lemon said that the first he had heard about anything that was going to happen at Llanerch as a County Councillor was when it was flagged up by Heather Peters. He said he was totally against any school on Llanerch and that the field should be kept in recreational use.
Councillor Jeff Edmunds said: “I agree with what everybody is saying in protecting our open play areas.”
MARCHING FORWARDS TOGETHER
Jan Williams said: “People walk their dogs and they enjoy it. We played on it as children and we thought that it was there forever. People who play football there regard it as their premier playing field. We need those open spaces so people can relax and enjoy themselves. It is nice to know that we are all marching forwards together.”
Councillor Jeff Owen said that he played on the field 20 years ago and that asset transfer was a decision made two years ago. He said: “I can’t see how that is going to change because Plaid has taken over. What I am more worried about as a Town Councillor is what our role is going to be if that falls through.”
The clerk confirmed that the motion was that the Town Council supported the campaign to keep Llanerch playing field for the community and that the council asks for information from the County Council regarding what the other sites were.
The vote was proposed and carried unanimously.
Conservatives in disarray over alleged Christmas party lockdown breach
THE CONSERVATIVE Party is investigating the attendance of senior Senedd members and staff at a Christmas party held during December’s lockdown.
Lockdown restrictions prohibit mixing with people outside your own household.
The Welsh restrictions barring such gatherings follow the basic outline of those imposed by the Conservative UK Government in December.
Those attending the drinks party included Paul Smith, the Conservative Chief of Staff at the Senedd, Darren Millar, the Party’s Chief Whip and campaign coordinator, and Preseli Pembrokeshire MS and Conservative Senedd Group Leader Paul Davies.
The Herald understands that a Labour Senedd Member who attended the Party has been suspended by the Labour Senedd Group pending its own investigation.
The Conservatives’ embarrassment at talking the talk but not walking the walk is intensified by Darren Millar’s presence at the shindig.
In May, Mr Millar led calls for Wales’ Health Minister Vaughan Gething to be sacked for eating a bag of chips in a park with one of his own children.
If the Conservative Party follows the logic of their previously stated positions, Mr Millar’s and Mr Davies’ futures look bleak indeed.
With a Senedd election only months away, the revelations have thrown the Conservatives into disarray.
If they do nothing, the Conservatives will – at the very least – face claims they are hypocrites.
If the Conservative Party acts decisively, it faces massive internal problems.
The Conservatives responded to our request for a response to our story.
Those involved stressed they did not host a Christmas Party.
The incident happened on December 8, when the above met in the members’ tea room to discuss legislation for possible inclusion in the Welsh Conservative manifesto with a Labour backbencher.
During the evening they did drink a glass or two of wine.
They stress that at no point were there more than four people in the room at any one time and that they maintained social distancing.
A joint statement from Paul Davies, Darren Millar, and Paul Smith said: “We are profoundly sorry for our actions.
“While we did not break the rules, we recognise that what was part of a day’s work would not be seen to be following the spirit of them, especially given the tough time the country has been going through.”
Family tribute to Carole Patricia Fowler
Carole was a teacher for 30 years at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School, Llanelli. She loved children and they loved her.
As one of her past colleagues said: “I know she made such a difference to every child she taught.” She was very popular with staff and well respected and loved by parents. She was dedicated and conscientious, always 100% for the children. She led the music there and was always popular with her guitar accompaniments for services and concerts.
Likewise, she was a valued member of the choir at Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church, Gendros, Swansea, where she would often accompany hymns with her guitar and gave guitar lessons to the children in the church’s Saturday Music Club. She was also a keen member of Côr Persain, Ammanford.
She was talented, loved and in demand. A convicted and devout Catholic all her life, through good and bad.
Carole was an avid and very gifted crocheter and was always crocheting or knitting something for someone. She had been spending her time recently, during the Covid crisis, crocheting NHS teddies in scrubs and rainbows, with many given to practising nurses. Carole had recently started learning to make bobbin lace. She was also capable of some very decent sewing, too.
She was also learning Welsh, doing ‘pilates’ and was considering taking up yoga lessons as well.
She was a busy lady! As one of her work colleagues said of her: “She was wise, strong, beautiful, generous, devout and feisty. And I loved her for all those qualities.”
Above all, she was an immeasurably loved Mam, daughter, sister and a doting Mamgu and so much loved by her fiancé. Having been together for 14 years, they would have been married last July 20th had covid allowed!
Her premature passing at 61 is tragic and she is already sorely, painfully missed. She leaves behind a huge chasm in so many hearts that cannot be filled.
“Eternal rest grant unto her, o Lord, may perpetual light shine about her, may she rest in peace.”
If anyone witnessed the collision or may have been travelling on the M4 at the relevant time, please contact the Serious Collision Unit quoting police reference DPP-20210113-317
Police can be contacted either online at: bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.
Tip off leads to pensioner’s drug stash
A BRIEFCASE full of drugs has been recovered during a raid in Swansea suburb.
Police acting on information provided by a member of the public executed a warrant in Gorseinon and recovered a large quantity of cannabis.
A man was arrested on suspicion of possession of the class B drug, with intent to supply.
A South Wales Police spokesman said: “At around 5.40pm on Wednesday, January 6, following an intelligence led operation, a 68 year-old man from Gorseinon was arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply cannabis.
“He was taken to Swansea central police station for questioning. He has been released under investigation”.