THE HERALD has uncovered the web of companies and directors behind proposals to take control of Parc Howard.
Having seen internal Council documents and emails, this newspaper is able to expose that discussions have been taking place between representatives of the County Council and Loca Ventures Ltd for some months.
Those discussions have resulted in very detailed proposals being made to the local authority in respect of the scheme to take Parc Howard into private hands. It is evident from the restricted circle of officers and Executive Board members who have been briefed about the scheme that local Town Council and local county councillors have been deliberately kept in the dark about the stage negotiations between the parties have reached.
The County Council is looking to offload the operation of some parks and play areas to community and town councils in Carmarthenshire as a means of saving money.
Over the past three years, Carmarthenshire Council has saved £44 million by slashing non-statutory services, including parks and play areas.
In a bizarre meeting with Llanelli Town Council earlier this year, then Executive Board member for Technical Services Colin Evans told stunned councillors that he would give no information about which parks the Council wished to offload as it was not obliged to do so.
Part of the proposals include a transfer of employees from the Council to the development company and the Council continuing to contribute to the maintenance of the grounds for three years after any transfer of lease. In the case of the latter, the Council would be bankrolling the grounds maintenance while forgoing control over the nature and quality of the works carried out.
While the information document sent to Llanelli Town Council details ambitious plans for expenditure in the first year, no indication is given as to how a small company with a negative net book value would be able to access funding for such schemes without further dipping into the public purse for grant support.
Perhaps part of the answer to that question lies in the web of directorships, links to so-called ‘wealth management’ companies, and offshore corporations that seem to lie at Loca Ventures’ heart.
The activities of Loca’s ‘introducer’, Tony Rees, which included a display of finger-pointing anger at a meeting of the Park Howard Association held recently which was attended by some local councillors and Llanelli MP Nia Griffith, combined with the cloak and dagger way negotiations have proceeded, have caused widespread disquiet.
Hengoed councillor Sian Caiach told us: “I’m shocked that our head of corporate property, Jonathan Fearn, and other officers are negotiating a deal to sell off this park and stately home without even informing Llanelli Councillors like myself and certainly not informing the public!”
The Chair of the Parc Howard Association is UKIP election candidate Ken Rees. However, a release from UKIP states appears to distance itself from its would-be MP.
“UKIP Llanelli would like to confirm that it was not previously aware of any meetings that have taken place between Ken Rees, the Chairman of the Parc Howard Association and the private company Loca Ventures regarding the future of Parc Howard. Any meetings that Ken Rees has taken part in regarding Parc Howard will have been done in his own capacity as Chairman of the Parc Howard Association and not as a representative from UKIP. Carmarthenshire Country Council has also reportedly met with this private company Loca Ventures to discuss the future of the Parc but have released no details.
“UKIP is fully committed to the future of Parc Howard, we also believe that it should remain in the public’s hands and run for the benefit of the people of Llanelli and for future generations to enjoy. UKIP believes that on all important local issues such as this the public should be kept fully informed, it should be up to the people of Llanelli who decide what the future of Parc Howard is.
“UKIP would therefore hold a local referendum if there was any proposal regarding a change of ownership of Parc Howard: let’s let the people of Llanelli decide, not the politicians.”
We spoke to Labour’s Calum Higgins, who told us: “We want Parc Howard kept in public hands and transferring ownership is something we would totally oppose. It’s not been done in a transparent way, and we are finding we are unable to get information from the council about the transaction.”
Cllr Higgins continued: “We will be leading the campaign to get the answers the public want and will be asking tough questions of the Council to make sure that information is out in the open.”
The Herald understands that the County Council is targeting seven parks in Llanelli, including Parc Howard and People’s Park.
The mansion house and grounds were gifted to the community of Llanelli in 1912 by Sir Stafford and Lady Howard who acquired the former Buckley Estate and gifted a 999-year lease to the then Llanelli Urban Council on terms that included
The estate to be laid out by a competent gardener as a people’s park
The house to be converted into a local museum or otherwise used for the benefit or enjoyment of the public
The whole to be kept in order in order for the purpose to which it is devoted
No intoxicating liquor to be sold on any part of the house or councils grounds
The rent to be £5 per annum and the work to be completed (so) that the park can be opened to the public on 21st September, 1912
In its edition dated January 4 1912, The Llanelly Mercury said: “We hope that these conditions will be sufficiently safeguarded in the deed of transfer, so as not to allow any quibbling over matters in the future.”
The current lease is held by Carmarthenshire County Council.
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Herald publisher ceases operations
HERALD NEWS UK LTD, the company which prints The Pembrokeshire Herald, The Carmarthenshire Herald and The Llanelli Herald has ceased operations.
Editor of Pembrokeshire Herald, Thomas Sinclair said: “After finalising today’s paper to go to print yesterday, a meeting was held last night. It was confirmed that the expected further investor funding would not be made available for the company.
“This meant that operations need be halted as the businesses was not able to pay its ongoing costs.
“At 10am today the 24 members of staff working at the newspaper have today been given notice of redundancy.
“We are absolutely devastated that after nearly 7 years and hundreds of editions of the paper we can no longer continued.”
“I would like to think that over those years, some of the stories we have written have made a difference to Pembrokeshire and beyond.”
Director of Herald News UK Limited, John Hammond said: “The company accountant could be appointing administrators as soon as next week.”
“The Owners of The Pembrokeshire Herald came to the conclusion last night during a finance meeting that the venture is no longer financially viable.
“Whilst every conceivable effort has been made to improve the financial situation of the business, we have to face the fact that there is no way that we can now continue in a solvent position.
“Whilst there has been a slow decline in readership of local newspapers, our costs for wages, printing and transport have substantially increased.”
“We would like to thank all of our loyal readers and staff.”
Council announces overnight roadworks
MOTORISTS face further inconvenience owing to a series of planned night-time closures in Llanelli whilst essential road improvement works are carried out later this month.
Hard-pressed motorists, including Llanelli’s AM Lee Waters (see his column in this newspaper), already experience long delays using routes into and out of the town.
To reduce the level of inconvenience, Carmarthenshire County Council has programmed road surfacing works to take place during the night over the next month at Parc Trostre, Sandy Road, Pembrey Road and Queen Victoria Road, Llanelli, to avoid the busiest periods. Diversions will be in place.
A section of B4304 Parc Trostre Roundabout near ATS will be closed from Wednesday, October 30 between 7 pm and 6 am for up to four nights.
A section of Sandy Road, between its junction with Denham Avenue to the entrance to Coleg Sir Gâr, will be closed between 7 pm and 6 am on November 11-22 for up to nine nights.
A section of Pembrey Road, from its junction of Chapman Street to New Road, will be closed between 7 pm and 6 am on November 3 and 12 for up to nine nights.
Part of Queen Victoria Road and the Murray St crossroads will also be subject to night-time closure between 7 pm and 6 am on November 10 and 15 for up to five nights.
Since April the council has resurfaced 22 sections of road as part of a £2.5million investment in Carmarthenshire roads.
The sections of road being resurfaced have been identified as a priority based on road condition, usage and strategic importance.
Comprehensive traffic management will be in place whilst the works are being carried out and all schemes will be published in advance with full details available on roadworks.org.
The council said the works are unavoidable and have thanked members of the public in advance for their cooperation.
The council’s executive board member for transport, Cllr Hazel Evans said: “This is a significant amount of money that we have secured to improve our roads in the county. All roadworks will be publicised in advance so motorists can plan journeys to avoid the area and take an alternative route. We will minimise as far as possible the impact on road users by careful planning, however, some disruption cannot be avoided, so please bear with us. We thank everyone in advance for their cooperation and patience.”
These dates may vary due to unforeseen conditions or adverse weather. People are being advised to check https://one.network for further updates.
UK’s top skaters and riders drop in on Llanelli youngsters to celebrate a special birthday
THE WORLD’S and the UK’s finest skateboarders, BMX and Wheelchair Motocross stars will drop in on young people at a Carmarthenshire Ramps skatepark on Saturday 19 October 2019 from 11 am till 2 pm.
The event was arranged to celebrate the £3 billion National Lottery players have raised for projects which have specifically helped children and young people develop and thrive in the UK over the last 25 years.
£2 million of National Lottery funding has specifically been awarded to support and develop over 47 BMX projects in local communities for young people in Wales to enjoy.
Wales and Pembrokeshire’s own wheelchair sports superstar, Lily Rice; the Olympic BMX freestyler from Swansea, James Jones; Britain’s leading street skateboarder and 2020 Olympic hopeful, Alex Decunha; and YouTube influencer, Jake O’Neill (aka Jake100), visite hundreds of youngsters at Ramps indoor and outdoor skatepark in Llanelli as part of the National Lottery’s celebrations.
More than £340,000 was awarded by the National Lottery in 2013 to develop and build Ramps Skatepark which now provides activities for over 15,000 young people a year.
At 15 years old, Lily Rice from Manorbier, Pembrokeshire, is a World Champion wheelchair motocross (WCMX) star. She was propelled to fame two years ago when she became the first female in Europe to achieve a wheelchair backflip, and only the second girl in the world to pull off the stunt. Since then, Lily has emerged as one of the global leaders of WCMX – wheelchair motocross.
She says: “By contributing towards building amazing facilities such as this indoor and outdoor skate park, National Lottery funding is helping thousands of young people of all abilities to reach their goals and discover new opportunities.
I have trained and practised at numerous National Lottery funded skate parks and there is no doubt that the funding has helped wheeled sports, enthusiasts, to become healthier and more active.”
The National Lottery has inspired millions of people to get active in their local community, as well as supporting individuals and teams from grassroots to elite.
James Jones is a 25-year-old professional BMX rider from Swansea. James, who also celebrated his 25th Birthday this year, is one of six world-class athletes who make up the Freestyle BMX Team GB for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. James honed his skills and practised his tricks at the Ramps skate park in Llanelli when he was growing up and highlights the importance of young people having access to facilities like this on their doorstep.
James Jones said: “I practised a lot here growing up and this facility has played a big part in my development as a professional rider and a person. I probably wouldn’t be where I am now without the support I got here. It’s not just about learning to ride or skate, there’s a real family vibe here, a great social aspect and it’s well supported by the community.
The National Lottery must fund parks such as this one so that young people can have a safe space to pursue their hobbies and meet friends.”
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