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Grillo site: Developer to cut community funding

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grilloAS REPORTED in last week’s Herald, the meeting of Carmarthenshire County Council’s planning committee which had been due to consider six planning applications – for up to 230 homes at the former Grillo site, was halted after an intervention by the Welsh Government.

The Head of Planning, Eifi on Bowen, told the meeting that the day before the meeting he had received an email from the Welsh Government referring to a letter from 2010 instructing the authority not to approve the Grillo application.

The instruction was in response to a request by a third party to call in the applications. On the morning of the meeting, with the committee due to proceed to discuss the plans in spite of the previous day’s email, the Head of Planning received an email from the Welsh Government directing the local authority giving formal notice under Article 18 that it was not in a position to approve any of the six applications including the school.

Legal advice tendered to the meeting by one of the council’s own legal offi cers warned members that if they proceeded to discuss the proposals and indicate their position, they were open to challenge on the basis that they would have predetermined the application. While the planning committee has decided to write to the Welsh Government expressing concern at the short notice given before the meeting, it is not clear on what basis they could proceed and why the Council had failed to take into account a preexisting and long-standing direction from the Welsh Government that it could not make a decision in relation to the site.

Committee members also requested that the Executive Board member for regeneration and leisure, former Council leader Meryl Gravelle, who appears to relish slapping down the Welsh Government from her seat on the moral high ground, writes to the Minister responsible, Carl Sargeant. Hengoed Councillor Sian Caiach told The Herald: “I am the councilllor who objected to the Grillo site application in Burry Port. The objection is in the public domain and could have been read out in the planning committee 23/4/15 but Mr Bowen, head of planning, chose not to do so.”

Cllr Caiach, explained: “My objection was properly registered, together with supporting documents. My concerns are environmental: the Grillo site is that of an old chemical factory and CCC have spent a great deal of money trying to get it developed, even going to court on behalf of its owners. The site is next to the estuary and taking away or neutralising the contaminated land must be done very carefully to protect the sensitive environmental site adjacent to it.” Expressing concern over the Council’s motives in pressing ahead with the development, Sian Caiach continued: “The land was I believe originally owned by CCC and sold on as a development site.

I am not sure, but the Council may have some residual liability to the developers if planning does not go through. The neighbouring sites are all to be sold off with planning permission to raise funds for the council except for the school site, which they will presumably keep. However, all of them are likely to add to the sewage problems locally.” Cllr Caiach concluded: “Interestingly the developers will now give much less money to the community than promised originally in 2008. As I pointed out in my letter to Eifi on Bowen, the Grilllo development originally [2008] promised around £700,000 for Burry Port. In the new plans this sum is halved and the £200,000 donation promised to the town council for the upkeep of the Memorial Park has been abandoned.

“This promise has been changed to allow the developer to provide this sum in work around the site to improve the public realm, which appears to be initiating landscaping and improving play areas after the homes are built. The town councillors must be very disappointed, as must the education department who have agreed to accept only £189,000 of Section 106 monies, compared to the original £360,000 for local schools.” Councillor Caiach’s previous interventions in the troubled scheme’s complex history received a frosty response from Burry Port’s own town council. Speaking in 2014, current Mayor Andrew Phillips suggested that “Her meddling, in a ward that she does not represent, has caused a great deal of damage to the ongoing development of Burry Port.”

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Compensation offered after FSCS declares Llanelli firm in default

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CONSUMERS could get back money they have lost as a result of their dealings with a failed regulated firm in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire. The firm is Hayden Williams Independent Financial Services Limited formerly Assura Protect, Room 1, 7 Meadows Bridge, Parc Menter, Cross Hands, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, Wales SA14 6RA.

The firm was declared in default in June 2019 by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

FSCS is the UK’s statutory compensation scheme that protects customers of authorised financial services firms that carry out certain regulated activities. A declaration of default means FSCS is satisfied a firm is unable to pay claims for compensation made against it. This paves the way for customers of that firm to make a claim for compensation with FSCS.

Alex Kuczynski, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at FSCS, said: “FSCS steps in to protect consumers around the UK when authorised financial services firms go bust. This vital service, which is free to consumers, protects deposits, insurance, investments, home finance and debt management. We want anyone who believes they may be owed money as a result of their dealings with this firm to get in touch, as we may be able to help you.”

Since it began in 2001, FSCS has helped more than 4.5m people, paying out more than £26bn in compensation.

If you wish to make a claim with FSCS against Hayden Williams Independent Financial Services Limited, you may be able to do so using FSCS’s online claims service at https://claims.fscs.org.uk Or you can contact its Customer Services Team on 0800 678 1100 or 020 7741 4100

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Disabled people hit hardest by changes to benefits

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CHANGES to the welfare system over the past ten years have left disabled adults four times worse off financially than non-disabled adults, according to new research commissioned by the Disability Benefit Consortium, a coalition of over 80 UK disability organisations.

While many people who receive welfare support have experienced cuts of an average of £300 as a result of changes to the welfare system, disabled people have typically lost around £1,200 per year.

. The research, funded by the Three Guineas Trust, is the first comprehensive study looking specifically at the cumulative impact of welfare changes on disabled people, and conducted by the University of East Anglia, the University of Glasgow and Landman Economics.
The research also found:

. The more disabilities you have the more you lose out, for example someone who has six or more    disabilities loses over £2,100 each year on average, whereas someone with one disability loses around £700 each year.

Households with one disabled adult and one disabled child lose out the most, with average losses of over £4,300 per year.

Today’s report by the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), ‘Has welfare become unfair – the impact of changes on disabled people’, which is based on this research, looks at the financial impact and lived experiences of welfare reform on disabled people over the past ten years.

As part of the research, 50 people living with a variety of conditions and disabilities were interviewed about their experiences. People said that they found the application and assessment processes highly stressful, and that they did not feel trusted, and constantly challenged.

The DBC also state that the current system has become so complex and dysfunctional, that many disabled people have found it has had a devastating impact on their wider health and wellbeing.

Pam McGee, 48, from Kent, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1994, which severely impacts her mobility. After a PIP assessment in 2017 she lost the higher rates for both the mobility and daily living components, which means her support was cut by £290 a month and she no longer qualifies for a Motability car. She’s now appealing the decision and says the stress caused by this process has impacted her health. She said: “If I lost my car, I don’t know how I’d carry on. I’m terrified I’ll be out of a job because without the car I won’t be able to get anywhere. If I can’t work at the age of 48, I would lose all of my pride. People always ask ‘What’s your name and what do you do?’ My job is what defines me.

“In the last 10 weeks I’ve had a massive relapse. I went dizzy and lost all feeling in my left leg. When I spoke to my neurologist he said the relapse was probably caused by stress. I’ve also been depressed and eating less.

“PIP has caused me and my family a lot of anxiety and stress. It’s caused my MS symptoms to worsen, which has reduced my mobility, confidence, and ability to take care of myself physically as well as mentally.”

The DBC say that the failure to include disability premiums as part of Universal Credit, and poorly designed assessment criteria are just two examples of the problems that are leaving disabled people worse off and is calling on the Government to make urgent improvements to the welfare system to ensure it works for everyone.

Michael Griffin, Research Lead for the DBC and Senior Policy Adviser at Parkinson’s UK, said: “For the first time, our research has shown just how much disabled people are bearing the brunt of the disastrous changes to welfare.

“Many disabled people have not yet even experienced the full extent of the cuts because they are still waiting to be moved over to Universal Credit. However, when this happens there will be a surge in poverty among those who are already at a crisis point.

“This is simply disgraceful and cannot be allowed to continue. The Government must make urgent improvements to the application processes and assessment criteria, and resolve the flaws in Universal Credit before more people are denied the support they desperately need to live independently.”

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Ysgol Pontyberem officially opens its doors

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PUPILS, staff, governors and invited guests have come together to celebrate the official opening of Ysgol Pontyberem.

A total of £4 million has been invested into refurbishing and re-modelling the school, along with a new roof, floors and walls.

The full refurbishment was funded equally between Carmarthenshire County Council and Welsh Government through the 21st Century Schools initiative.

A special ceremony was held in the school hall, where invited guests and dignitaries were entertained by pupils and the school choir.

Headteacher, Mr Gareth Owen, said: “Two years of building work has passed in order to achieve the goal, but the journey has been worthwhile. I would like to thank the councillors and officers at Carmarthenshire County Council for investing in our school. The cooperation between us has been vital in order to achieve all of our aspirations. A firm foundation has been set for the future of our pupils.”

During the ceremony, Chair of Governors, Mrs Deris Williams, said as part of the celebrations a new school motto ‘Creu’r Wên, Caru’r Iaith’ has been created by parent of the school and Chaired Bard, Aneirin Karadog.

Ysgol Pontyberem is the latest school to be delivered through Carmarthenshire County Council’s Modernising Education Programme (MEP) which aims to give every child in the county access to first class accommodation and facilities.

To date, around £280 million has been invested in Carmarthenshire schools, including 10 new primary schools, two new secondary schools, 41 major refurbishments and extensions and work in 12 other schools.

Executive board member responsible for education, Cllr Glynog Davies said: “It’s great to see the children and staff at Ysgol Pontyberem have settled in to this totally refurbished school. There’s now plenty of room inside the school with great facilities and a spacious play area outside. It’s a school fitting for the 21st century. We have given a promise that we will do our best for education in Carmarthenshire and that is what we are doing under the Modernising Education programme.”

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