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Parc Howard: Call for chair to resign

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Controversial: Ken Rees

Controversial: Meeting chair Ken Rees

AT A MEETING of the Parc Howard Association on Tuesday (Jul 14), Ken Rees survived a vote of no confidence in his leadership on the casting vote of the Association’s vice chair. Mr Rees was allowed to vote for himself in the ballot, which showed the depth of divisions in the Association’s committee.

After the meeting, Parc Howard Association member Catriona Waldron, who backed the calls for the one time UKIP candidate to step down, contacted the Herald.

Ms Waldron detailed the process of voting on the night and told the Herald: “I didn’t expect to win and I didn’t. The vote was close, 5 for and 5 against. Margaret Gimblett, the vice-chairman (who was in the chair) used her casting vote for Ken Rees. Ken was allowed to vote for himself. It was all extraordinarily unpleasant.”

Ms Waldron explained: “Ken was entirely unrepentant; he said he had been acting in the best interests of the park and the people of Llanelli and he was supported without reservation in this by the Association’s ‘old guard. Eldon Phillips, our press secretary (where has he been for the last two months?) left the meeting, declining to participate in such controversial proceedings on the grounds that he is a clergyman. Another committee member lost his temper and shouted at me ‘none of this matters anyway.”

The fact that Ken Rees remains chairman appears to leave the way open for him to continue negotiations with a company, which, as The Herald exposed has no track record of heritage development, despite the many claims it has made to the contrary to the County Council.

It appears that there has been some reigning in of Mr Rees by the association. Phil Lawler, the Association’s secretary, has written to Ken Rees and told him that if he ever attends meetings with Loca Ventures Ltd that he should not present himself as representing the Parc Howard Association.

Loca Ventures Ltd were the company purportedly offering to take over Parc Howard and turn it into a wedding venue.

The Herald exposed a number of issues surrounding this company including their rocky financial background, their offer of remuneration for individuals on the Parc Howard Association and their apparent links with a Sharia Law centre in Nuneaton. Central to the deal appears to be Nick Spysznyk who the Herald exposed (June 19) as the main person in negotiations with council officials regarding the future of Parc Howard and subsequent proposals for the development of Ffoslas and the Pembrey Country Park.

Mr Spysznyk appears to have been in negotiations with Carmarthenshire County Council officers Wendy Walters and Jonathan Fearn as far back as May this year while local elected council members were kept in the dark.

During the public meeting at Parc Howard (June 6) people attempted to ask Ken Rees questions over his involvement in clandestine meetings with Loca Ventures Ltd as well as his attempts to influence a public meeting where an ‘introducer’ for Loca Ventures Ltd, Tony Rees, was in the audience.

At that meeting Ms Waldron was constantly interrupted by the chair when she attempted to expose the chair’s involvement with Loca Venture. Mr Rees banged his gavel on the table constantly and at one point Ms Waldron was only allowed to speak following the insistence of Councillor Jan Williams that her questions must be heard.

In a telephone call to the Herald Ms Waldron said that the committee meeting (July 14) was farcical and resembled a soap opera. Asked why she was calling for the resignation of Mr. Rees she said: “This was something I felt I had to do, having said publicly in the meeting in the mansion house that I would call for his resignation. A lot of people have watched your (Herald) video online and asked me when I was going to do it.”

Mr Waldron explained she was not alone in her incredulity about the actions of the Association chairman and his close associates on its Committee.

Ms Waldron told the Herald: “I will resign now and sadly the new people that I had persuaded to join the committee – Phillip Lawler, who is a professor of Economics, David Phillips, a lawyer and judge and Hugh Davie, a Museums Officer in Swansea – people who I thought would bring some expertise and campaigning zeal to the committee have said that they will not stand again at the AGM in September. They have had enough. Most of the committee’s activity consists in correcting minutes and we have been made to feel that we are outsiders. We in fact join a long list of people who have joined the committee over the last few years and left, marginalised by the Officers (as they always call themselves) and despairing of achieving anything. The PHA committee is really a self-serving and self-perpetuating clique and I no longer think that it is capable of acting as a vehicle to campaign for the park.”

Ms Waldron told us she had asked for documents relating to a company known as ‘KMS’, a company associated with Loca Ventures Ltd, as did Cllr Bill Thomas. Their requests were refused.

Ms Waldron summed up her feelings on events surrounding the less than transparent approach of the Parc Howard Association and her future aspirations for the park. Ms Waldron said: “I actually feel liberated to campaign for the park. There is a group of volunteers meeting on Saturdays to clear the rose garden and I shall be helping out with Nia’s (Griffith) petition and ‘Support the Park’ day on July 25th when I intend to have a dog petition – they use the park, so they can bark for the park. We will be photographing paw prints and raising a contribution to the fighting fund.”

Ms Waldron closed by complimenting The Herald for its coverage of events at Parc Howard.

She concluded: “I’m getting on the train to London to visit my son in half an hour. I have to take the Llanelli Herald with me these days – he is very impressed. When I showed him the edition with the revelations about the sheikh, he couldn’t believe it. Gavin is an economist at the House of Commons. “Mum, he said, “It’s far more exciting than Westminster!”

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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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