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Council rejected ‘honest solution’

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‘Nothing to do with us’: Claims Council

‘Nothing to do with us’: Claims Council

A LLANELLI man has been fighting for answers from Carmarthenshire County Council regarding building work which took place on a neighbour’s property leaving his own home in what has been stated by numerous experts as in a ‘dangerous state’. Clive Edwards of Felinfoel Road has been struggling to get answers to questions regarding a number of issues. For 27 years Mr Edwards has sought answers and has been given the run around by council officers. Now, The Herald can expose that a report which recommended that the council hold its hands up and admit its error in a building dispute was concealed from Mr Edwards and the owner of the neighbouring property for 18 years.

Setting out the options to resolve the situation, the report’s author, G.A. Stephens, discounts options likely to be unacceptable to the owners of the neighbouring properties and recommends: ‘The Council admits to the fact that the wall should not have been approved in that condition and offers a contribution towards the cost of demolishing and rebuilding…’ Mr Stephens goes on to observe: ‘This is in my opinion the honest solution it may however make the Council liable in allowing the matter to drag on for 8 years and compensation claims could be made against the Council’. Instead of acting upon its recommendations, however, the council buried it and subsequently changed its position in 2002, claiming that counsel’s advice, in relation to which it claims legal privilege, suggests that the dispute is nothing to do with the council at all.

After burying the report, the council proceeded to fob off the parties. In 2002, when 12 years had elapsed since the defective works had been signed off, the matter reached the Executive Board. The Board was presented with legal advice from an external barrister. That advice ignored Mr Stephens’ ‘honest’ solution and any suggestion that the council make good on the grossly deficient approval given by a building inspector. It is apparent from the content of a letter from council employee Mark James to Nia Griffith MP dated July 10, 2007 that the council now claimed that regardless of the failings of the building inspector, it rejected civil liability for their incompetence. That letter also reveals that a police investigation was STILL ongoing into the works, the payment of grant money relating to them to a building company, and the circumstances which led to them being signed off as satisfactory.

It is not clear whether the Executive Board which approved the new line in 2002 was ever made aware of the report prepared by Mr Stephens some six years before. Even if they had been made aware of it – and if they were, the good faith of those members aware of its existence at that time, if any, is open to reasonable doubt – by 2002 the costs of compensating the property owners would have risen far above whatever they were in 1996. While it appears bizarre, however, that the council was prepared to change its position so dramatically, the owners of 41 and 43 Felinfoel Road were deliberately kept in the dark. The 1996 report’s existence only emerged after a Freedom of Information Act request made in 2014.

Until then, the council had not informed the parties of the proposal it contained to settle the matter 18 YEARS before the Freedom of Information Act request was made. Mr Edwards maintains that the 1996 report, had it been supplied to all concerned, would have enabled the proper course of action to take place. Instead, he says that the council undertook huge expenditure in defending a position the 1996 report conceded. If that was not bad enough, regardless of the content of the 1996 report, in 1991 the council had acknowledged its error in signing off the works by issuing an enforcement notice against the developer. The enforcement notice failed because the council had failed to issue it within the time limits set by statute. Cllr William Thomas who represents Mr Edwards as a County Councillor told the Herald: “I inherited this case in 1995 from the MP Denzil Davies. The case was at the time 7 years old.

The reports generated by both public and private experts on planning and building regulations that I read at that time clearly identified serious breaches of planning and building regulations under the 1989 Planning Act and 1984 Building Act.” Cllr Thomas continued: “The police recommended prosecution. I have written to two Welsh Assembly Ministers, the Planning Minister and Local Government Minister. The Ministers recommended speaking to the Ombudsman who is involved, however it is an option to request the Llanelli MP to refer this case to the Attorney General.” Cllr Thomas’ involvement in the case has resulted in a furious email from Mark James dated June 15, 2015.

In that email, Mr James berates Cllr Thomas for his involvement in the case and – in the spirit of the protocol governing officer members relations – goes on to call Cllr Thomas ‘misguided’, claims he has slandered officers, and suggests that he has ‘a file of documents’ to support proceedings in the High Court against Cllr Thomas. The email containing those comments, which are themselves capable of being construed as a barely veiled threat of legal action, accuses Cllr Thomas of trying to bully officers. In 2014, the Wales Audit Office determined that the council’s practice of issuing officers with indemnities for libel claims was unlawful. Most strikingly, however, it appears as though Mr James is himself completely oblivious to the content of the 1996 report, as he goes on to claim that the dispute is one into which the council should never have been ‘dragged in’. Mr Edwards, who is terminally ill, told us: “All I want from anyone is for this mess to be sorted out once and for all so I can rest in peace and know that my family will not suffer anymore.”

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Llanelli becomes a Covid-19 ‘health protection zone’

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RESIDENTS in a large part of Llanelli are being put under new local restrictions in a ‘health protection zone’ following a rapid increase in Covid-19 cases in the area.

The town is seeing a concentrated spread of cases compared with other parts of Carmarthenshire – in the last seven days, 85 positive cases have been identified in Llanelli (151.6 per 100,000 of the population) compared to 24 cases in the rest of Carmarthenshire (18.1 per 100,000 of the population).*

Public Health Wales officials are expecting numbers to continue rising over the coming week.

Carmarthenshire County Council and Hywel Dda University Health Board have worked with the Welsh Government and Public Health Wales to agree the temporary restrictions at sub-county level to try and halt the spread of the virus.

As of 6pm on Saturday September 26, 2020, residents living in defined parts of Llanelli will not be able to visit anyone else’s home, or accept visitors into their home, unless they have a ‘reasonable excuse’ such as providing care for a vulnerable person.

They should not arrange to meet indoors with anyone who they don’t live with, and travel in and out of the ‘health protection zone’ will also be limited – people should not leave the area or travel into the area unless it is essential. Travelling in and out of the zone for a holiday is not considered a reasonable excuse.

People are being asked to wear face coverings anywhere where they cannot maintain a two-metre distance from other people, including collecting children from school, in addition to the rules which already require them to wear a face covering in indoor spaces like shops and on public transport.

All indoor and outdoor visits to residential care homes have also been suspended.

Students may still travel into and out of the ‘health protection zone’ to go to school or college.

People living in the defined area of Llanelli must work from home, and employers must take all reasonable steps to support staff to do so.

Indoor public spaces such as leisure centres should only be used by people living in the defined area.

Shops will remain open, but people living outside the defined area of Llanelli should avoid travelling to visit them and shop in their own locality wherever possible.

The specific wards covered in the defined area of Llanelli are:

  • Bigyn
  • Bynea
  • Dafen
  • Elli
  • Felinfoel
  • Glanymor
  • Hendy
  • Hengoed
  • Llangennech
  • Lliedi
  • Llwynhendy
  • Tyisha
  • Swiss Valley

Although the pattern of increased positive cases is overwhelmingly concentrated in the Llanelli area where the restrictions have been strengthened, the whole of Carmarthenshire has now been put on alert, with a warning that the tighter restrictions may be extended if cases continue to spread.

Everyone – including those in the defined areas of Llanelli – is being urged to follow the national guidance around social distancing, good hygiene, self-isolation, testing and face coverings.

Leader of Carmarthenshire County Council, Cllr Emlyn Dole, said: “It is worrying to see how sharply the number of positive cases has risen in the Llanelli area, and action has had to be taken to help stop the spread and break the chain of infections concentrated in this area to prevent a whole county lockdown.

“We must all do the right thing, follow the advice and protect each other. In parts of Llanelli, we’re asking people and businesses to make even greater sacrifices – we fully appreciate the impact this will have, but there is no other way. We must stop the spread.”

A mobile testing unit has been set up in Llanelli to manage the increased demand by local residents who have any of the Covid-19 symptoms – either a high temperature, a change or loss to taste or smell or a new continuous cough.

Reporting of positive cases in the town is fully expected to rise during the next two weeks with the increase in more targeted testing. But this is a positive indicator that cases are being identified and control measures put in place.

Chair of Hywel Dda University Health Board Maria Battle said: “Our local community has given us such tremendous support during the past few months. To protect the health of our people, including the most vulnerable, and to ensure our NHS resources are available to provide people with the care they need; we need the help of our Llanelli population and wider community now more than ever before. Whilst hospital admissions have not yet increased again for COVID cases, we have seen a sharp rise in positive cases in the community, and in time this is likely to have an impact on hospital admissions. The very best way we can support each other and those we love, is to follow local restrictions, minimise our contacts, practice good hygiene and self-isolate and book a test if we have any COVID-19 symptoms.”

Increased testing capacity for residents in Llanelli is available by appointment at the following locations:

  • Parc y Scarlets Car Park B, accessed via Trostre Retail Park, in Llanelli
  • The Ty’r Nant site (next to KFC), Trostre, Llanelli
  • The Carmarthen showground (signposted in both directions off the A40)

There should be no reason for Llanelli residents to travel excessive distances for a test, as there will be tests available in Llanelli and Carmarthen. Tests should be booked via the UK Portal. Any Llanelli residents experiencing difficulty booking a test locally via the UK portal can instead email covidenquiries.hdd@wales.nhs.uk or by calling 0300 333 2222.

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Tir Coed build outdoor classroom for Cross Hands Primary

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The local charity Tir Coed teamed up with Cross Hands Primary School to design and install a locally grown woodland shelter to enable primary school pupils to benefit from outdoor lessons-even when
the rain pours!

Last year Cross Hands Primary School received funding from Carmarthenshire is Kind for their intergenerational project. The project brought the schoolchildren together with older people in the community. Through intergenerational activities, everyone involved increases social connectedness, reduces social isolation, learns from one another and has a great time!

Before the lockdown, Tir Coed was contracted to lead a group mainly made up of parents from the school on a shelter-building course. The attendees would gain knowledge and skills and the children and the older people would be able to use the shelter, a third generation now included in this
fantastic project. The plans, however, had to change due to restrictions and in an effort to have it ready for the children when they returned to school, three intrepid Activity Leaders braved the wet August weather to build the beautiful shelter .

Studies have shown that being in the outdoors significantly reduces the risk of spreading the Corona Virus. With this addition to their already impressive outdoor area, it is hoped that more learning can
take place outside the classroom. Deputy Head, Emma Walters said, “It looks amazing! I am very impressed with the shelter and I cannot thank Tir Coed enough for organising this. Additional covered space in the outdoors will mean that we can take more learning into our lovely nature
area.”

If you would like to find out more about the work of Tir Coed or have a project you would like our help with you can contact Nancy, the Carmarthenshire Coordinator: carms@tircoed.org.uk

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Local sailor taking on virtual London marathon

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A local sailor based in the Falkland Islands will be taking on the Virtual London Marathon this October to raise money for SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity.

Curtis Bowen, 24, from Llanelli, South Wales, was due to take on the London Marathon for SSAFA this April, but following the Covid-19 outbreak and lockdown, the race was cancelled. 

Fortunately, the London Marathon team created the Virtual London Marathon in its place, allowing runners to take on the challenge virtually alongside thousands of other runners on the 4th October.

Curtis said: “It was a shame that the London Marathon couldn’t go ahead as planned in April, but I think it is amazing that I am still able to partake whilst being in the Falkland Islands. I’m the first person to ever run the London Marathon in the Falkland Islands.”  

Curtis is currently serving in the Royal Navy, as a Leading Supply Chain Logistician, and has served for four years. His Father also served in the Royal Navy for twenty-three years.

The live virtual event on Sunday 4th October will invite runners to run the London Marathon in their own way, joining up to 45,000 runners up and down the country – and across the world – in the virtual 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon, The 40th Race.

Curtis decided to raise money for SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity after being an avid supporter of the charity and being inspired by his Father, Andrew, who raised over £6,000 for SSAFA. 

I chose to run the London Marathon for SSAFA to challenge myself and raise awareness for a great cause. My younger brother sadly took his own life a couple of years ago and I know that SSAFA are there to support those struggling with their Mental Health. I want to raise as much money as I can to support those struggling within the Armed Forces community.”

“My Father was also supposed to be running the London Marathon this year, but will now be completing the challenge virtually, alongside my brother, Luke, 12,000km away in South Wales.”

If you would like to support Curtis, please visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Andrew-Bowen-London-marathon2020

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