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Is the tide turning at County Hall?

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Stinking: Raw sewage is released into the environment as system can’t cope

Stinking: Raw sewage is released into the environment as system can’t cope

CARMARTHEN COUNTY COUNCIL’S planning committee made a visit to the Grillo site in Burry Port on Tuesday (June 2). Members of the committee, including local councillors Patricia Jones and John James, were present during discussions, which took place on the harbour side and in a car park some distance from the site.

We asked Councillors Jones and James if they would answer some of our questions and they said that they would following the site visit. Neither Cllr. Jones, nor Cllr. James stayed to answer our questions.

This newspaper telephoned the leader Cllr. Emlyn Dole to ask why the councillors had left without answering our questions. He said: “They would have had to avoid you because of protocol. You should put those questions to the chair of planning.”

The Herald interviewed Cllr. Lenny by telephone. He told The Herald “I have just started as chair of planning and it is my intention to try and make the planning process and decisions as clear and transparent as possible. I would like to be more proactive in that I’d like to publish press releases on a more regular basis.”

The Herald asked Cllr. Lenny if he had read the environmental report by Waterman Quadrant.

“Yes”, he said, “That was included in the essential reading along with the host of comments from the various consultants like the NRW. I appreciate that this is a contentious site and not without challenges. As a post industrial site there is contamination in the land. The numerous conditions attached to the planning recommendation including the contamination will have to be complied with. In my view this is the primary consideration. Now according to the amended maps flooding should no longer be n issue on this site. In general I’d say that the LDP will take up a lot of agricultural land for house building and they don’t make any more of it. There is a genuine fear that food production might be affected by the disappearance of agricultural land. This is a brown field site and is the type of land Welsh Government would favour for development. Brown field land is not without its issues. The contamination aspect will have to be dealt with.”

The Herald asked Cllr. Lenny, ‘What legal advice has the council received from Welsh Water on the ongoing proceedings before the European Court and what measures will you put in place to deal with the already over capacity sewage system in the Bury Port area?

Cllr. Lenny replied, “I asked that question at yesterday’s meeting. We mustn’t forget that the committee is minded to approve. If a request to call in is received it is taken out of our hands. We are in a fairly ambiguous position at the moment. Yesterday’s decision wasn’t a decision as such. It was an agreement in principle if you like. The E.U. press release in March mentions places in England and it mentions Llanelli and Gowerton. Obviously we are well aware of the situation there. It is not a new one. Welsh water is playing catch up on this however they are implementing innovative and environmentally positive resolutions.”

We pushed Cllr. Lenny on the question, ‘Are you confident you will hold out to put measures in place to deal with the over capacity of the sewage system in the Llanelli area?

He told our reporter, “This is a large site and has to be seen in the context of the Llanelli and Burry Inlet area. The committee felt and were unanimously minded to approve all six applications. They supported the application should I say. This site cannot be left as it is. Pembrey and Burry Port town council were very much behind the development. There are challenging factors and these will have to be addressed. There will also have to be safety measures put in place for the railway.”

Cllr. Lenny was asked about comments made by local councillor Patricia Jones, which seemed to predetermine the outcome of the planning application. Cllr. Lenny said, “We have free predisposition as a condition under the Localism Act. What we have to how is that we have an open mind. If I may say so, one of the local members speaking to the evening post said ‘this must go ahead’. This is plainly predetermination but she is on the sub-committee. We also consult with our solicitor.”

When asked in what circumstances the council would take legal action to push through the development Cllr. Lenny replied, “At the moment the ball is very much in the Welsh Governments court. You will be aware that the Welsh Government is a partner on the site. This is a key site. The school is a key part of the site. I can’t pre-empt what the Welsh Governments decision would be nor the council’s decision would be regarding legal action. Given that all members were unanimous in minding to support the development the council would take all reasonable steps to try and implement the development.”

Cllr. Lenny was asked why the amount of money promised under a Section 106 agreement had been reduced and whether the council could renegotiate. He told the Herald: “It is a source of concern for me as a member of the planning committee. Before coming to the chair I would always challenge any reduction in Section 106 contributions and indeed any reduction in percentage to affordable housing. One part of the development has 20% and just 10% in the other one. I asked this question and the answer was that clearing the site of contamination is a prime factor in the cost hence the 10%. I was always challenge and question in affordable housing. As the county council is a partner in the housing venture I hope that the county council’s involvement in this development will make that 20% more watertight.”

Cllr. Lenny wanted to reiterate that the development had a positive side and said, “The Welsh government challenged the application previously on the flooding issue. I don’t know if there were lesser issues involved at that time. It hasn’t been called in they have put an Article 18 stop on it. This is a key site within the county due to it being a brown field site being vacant for many years. It has potential not only for housing development but also for employment and a much-needed Welsh medium school. This is a brown field site, which would take pressure off building on green field land. Despite the many problems on the site, it is a challenging site and they will have to be addressed, hopefully it will be a key site, which will give employment education and homes to people in this part of Carmarthenshire. Obviously the retail application is outline. Tesco asked for permission but as you are aware Tesco have their own issues at the moment and are closing smaller supermarkets at the moment. I am not sure where they stand in the context of this development.”

Our reporter asked Cllr. Lenny what kind of reassurances would local businesses get.

He said, “Lessons can be learned from what has happened in Llanelli. The Trostre development has damaged the town centre. In Carmarthen the development has been close to the centre and Carmarthen has become the fourth most successful commercial centre in Wales. Any large retail developer has to be close to the smaller shops so that they benefit from the extra footfall.”

Finally the Herald asked about the contentious issue of parking. Cllr. Lenny said, “We are looking a while down the road but there is enough elbowroom on the brown field site for parking and I would like to see any parking sites to be equidistant from any development and the small businesses.”

Carmarthenshire County Council issued a press release at 4:30 pm on (June 3). It reads,

REDEVELOPMENT OF BURRY PORT

Ambitious plans to redevelop Burry Port have moved a step closer today as the Welsh Government has lifted a stopper notice preventing approval of a major element of the proposals. Yesterday’s meeting of the county council’s planning committee unanimously voted that it was minded to approve six planning applications – for up to 230 homes at the former Grillo site, for infrastructure for that site, for a 134 unit housing development alongside the former Grillo site, for construction of a 330-place Welsh Medium Primary School off Burrows Terrace, for a commercial leisure development at Burry Port Harbour East, for employment space alongside Silver Terrace.

The council could not make a decision to actually grant permission following a Welsh Government intervention before the previous planning committee giving formal notice under Article 18 that it was not in a position to approve any of the six applications including the school. But today the Welsh Government removed the notice covering the plans for 230 homes on the Grillo site after deciding not to ‘call in’ the application for the Minister to decide, as the issues raised are of no more than local importance. A decision on the notices covering the other five applications will follow soon.

A decision approving the 230- home application can be released once the Section 106 legal agreement on community benefits is agreed. Planning committee members had visited the sites in Burry Port before yesterday’s meeting. There has been a long history to the issue with Welsh Government maps showing the area, at one time, liable to flooding. The County Council challenged this but the maps could not be changed in time for the area to be included in the Local Development Plan.

The Welsh Government has delayed allowing the council to make a decision so that the Minister can give careful consideration to the issues that prompted the stopper notice. Flooding is one of the concerns. The council’s executive board member for regeneration and leisure Cllr Meryl Gravell said, “Yesterday the planning committee decided that the local authority is minded to approve these developments and today the Welsh Government has lifted the notice preventing us making a decision on a significant part of the plans. It is brilliant news. We are supporting these schemes in order to deliver a longstanding economic strategy of providing jobs and enhancing the environment in Burry Port. We are hoping to see the notices lifted soon on the other applications and to seeing speedy progress made on the plans to take Burry Port forward.”

Council Leader Cllr Emlyn Dole said, “This is excellent news. I’m pleased to see that the Welsh Government has moved quickly on this application and look forward to a quick lifting of the notices on the other five. Then we can move forward with the whole scheme. “I said at the beginning of my leadership that regeneration is at the heart of my vision for the county. Jobs, houses, and leisure are central to that.”

 

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Cllr Kevin Madge elected as new county council Chairman

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THE new chair of Carmarthenshire County Council said he will work tirelessly during his term of office.

Cllr Kevin Madge, member for Garnant, takes the chain of office whilst celebrating 40 years as a councillor.

Taking the chair, Cllr Madge paid tribute to outgoing chairman Cllr Mansel Charles, member for Llanegwad, saying he had fulfilled his duties with passion.

Cllr Madge will chair the council for the next 12 months, with Cllr Ieuan Davies, member for Llanybydder, as his vice chair, and his wife Catrin as his consort.

“I’m very much looking forward to the year ahead, I will do my best for everyone. I will work tirelessly,” he said.

Cllr Madge has chosen the Trussell Trust, which supports a nationwide network of food banks and emergency food provision for people in crisis, as his Chairman’s Charity of the Year.

The Chair is the first citizen of Carmarthenshire County Council, and is elected at the Annual General Meeting.

Duties include chairing full meetings of the council, representing the council at formal and ceremonial occasions, welcoming visitors to the county, and attending and supporting events organised by local people and organisations.

Cllr Madge has been a county councillor since 1996, and a member of Cwmaman Town Council since 1979.

He also serves as chairman of the Royal British Legion Garnant branch, Garnant Family Centre and Cwmaman Meals on Wheels, and is a member of Amman Valley League of Friends.

He represents the county council on the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, and the Mynydd y Betws Wind Farm Community Fund, and is on the governing body of Ysgol Y Bedol.

A former pupil of Amman Valley School, Cllr Madge has worked in the Amman Valley throughout his life, most recently as agent and researcher to Dr Alan Williams MP until 2001.

A keen football supporter, he has served as chair and president of Cwmaman Football Club and spent 25 years as a Welsh League and Neath and District football referee.

He is married with two children and three grandchildren.

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‘UK Government should work with the Welsh Labour Government on Tata’

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LOCAL Assembly Member Lee Waters and Nia Griffith MP have called on the UK Government to work with the Welsh Labour Government to come up with a deal to protect steel making at Trostre, and across Wales and the UK.

Lee Waters AM met with representatives from Tata Steel on Wednesday to discuss the future for steel making at the plant following the reported collapse of the proposed joint venture with Thyssenkrupp.

During the meeting he stressed the need to protect the entire steel supply chain in Wales, including the high quality jobs at Trostre, and those that depend on its presence in Llanelli.

Lee Waters AM said “It’s clear that the support Welsh Government provided during the crisis of 2016 has been critical in getting extra investment into Port Talbot which will secure the works for years to come. However, Tata is a company run from India, and we simply don’t know what the board will decide about its future strategy. They may well be looking for a new joint venture partner, so we’ll have to vigilant about the implications for our local plants.”

“Tata has said it intends to continue with its existing business plan, and honor commitments made to the Trade Unions, so Nia and I will be keeping a close eye to make sure that happens.”

Welsh Government has been in active discussions with Tata steel following the collapse of the merger with Thyssenkrupp. In a written statement and during questions on Wednesday, the Welsh Government committed to invest in Welsh steel to protect its future and is looking at a range of measures to assist on energy costs, business rates and procurement of steel for public sector contracts.

Lee Waters AM said “The Welsh Government have given significant support to the steel industry here but it can’t do everything, and we now need the UK Government to work with them to ensure a future for skilled work in the steel industry in Llanelli and elsewhere in Wales.”

Nia Griffith AM said ““This latest news from Tata means yet more uncertainty for steelworkers. Their announcement about keeping Port Talbot is a start, but now we need real commitment from Tata on Trostre.

“We also need close cooperation from the company with the Trade Unions. Lee Waters AM and I will be urging the UK Government to follow Welsh Government in doing everything possible to secure the future of our steel industry.”

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MP and AM call for Trostre certainty after merger fails

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LOCAL ASSEMBLY MEMBER Lee Waters and Nia Griffith MP have called on the UK Government to work with the Welsh Labour Government to come up with a deal to protect steel making at Trostre, and across Wales and the UK.

Lee Waters AM met with representatives from Tata Steel on Wednesday to discuss the future for steel making at the plant following the reported collapse of the proposed joint venture with Thyssenkrupp.

During the meeting he stressed the need to protect the entire steel supply chain in Wales, including the high quality jobs at Trostre, and those that depend on its presence in Llanelli.

Lee Waters AM said “It’s clear that the support Welsh Government provided during the crisis of 2016 has been critical in getting extra investment into Port Talbot which will secure the works for years to come. However, Tata is a company run from India, and we simply don’t know what the board will decide about its future strategy. They may well be looking for a new joint venture partner, so we’ll have to vigilant about the implications for our local plants.”

“Tata has said it intends to continue with its existing business plan, and honor commitments made to the Trade Unions, so Nia and I will be keeping a close eye to make sure that happens.”

Welsh Government has been in active discussions with Tata steel following the collapse of the merger with Thyssenkrupp. In a written statement and during questions on Wednesday, the Welsh Government committed to invest in Welsh steel to protect its future and is looking at a range of measures to assist on energy costs, business rates and procurement of steel for public sector contracts.

Lee Waters AM said “The Welsh Government have given significant support to the steel industry here but it can’t do everything, and we now need the UK Government to work with them to ensure a future for skilled work in the steel industry in Llanelli and elsewhere in Wales.”

Nia Griffith AM said “This latest news from Tata means yet more uncertainty for steelworkers. Their announcement about keeping Port Talbot is a start, but now we need real commitment from Tata on Trostre.

“We also need close cooperation from the company with the Trade Unions. Lee Waters AM and I will be urging the UK Government to follow Welsh Government in doing everything possible to secure the future of our steel industry.”

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