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The land and people the council forgot

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Open to the elements: a property left to rot by the Council. Enforcement action would be taken against a private property owner for allowing this - by the Council

Open to the elements: a property left to rot by the Council. Enforcement action would be taken against a
private property owner for allowing this – by the Council

A RUN down council estate in Furnace is to be offered up for sale lock stock and barrel to a commercial developer with a promise of 14 ‘affordable homes’ replacing the 46 which once occupied the site.

However, the council has been accused of abandoning the Brynmefys estate to disrepair and dereliction, affecting the lives of the small number of families who still live there. Council officers have turned a blind eye to illegal tipping on the site for years, while colonies of bats inhabit deserted homes. There is a problem with vermin and the overgrown and crumbling relics of the post war social housing boom are rotting away as the remaining residents watch.

Penyfai Lane is one of the most desirable roads to live on in Llanelli with its outstanding views of the Gower peninsula. A building plot there would set you back a small fortune.

A stone’s throw away from Penyfai Lane is a most desirable plot of land, which happens to be owned – at the moment – by Carmarthenshire County Council.

On a bright July morning I visited Brynmefys with Herald TV’s video crew.

It really looked and felt like the land and people that time and the council had forgot.

If it were not for one of the helpful residents who saw us wandering around the estate who informed us that we were actually on the Brynmefys estate we would have been lost, as no signage indicates the estate’s existence.

We would have asked the council for directions, but there was no telephone box on the estate

Brynmefys has been left to fall into rack and ruin to the point where it is now so overgrown that the remaining resident’s properties have to have a cordon sanitaire cut through weeds and trees which threaten to reach the crest of the chimney pots. Loose tiles threaten to fall onto any children unfortunate enough to be playing in the immaculately kept gardens of the remaining residents homes.

They don’t complain much. They have been living with this neglect for two decades or more. They have become used to clearing their own path up to a point where they literally hit a wall of weeds, which have had absolutely no attention from any of the county council’s departments.

They don’t complain about their requests to the county council to clear up the illegal tip on their estate, which go ignored.

They don’t complain about the way the county council ignores their requests to fix the roof of the local hall, which has now begun to resemble the abandoned homes.

They don’t complain about the huge expense the Council have gone to build a bat house on the estate to try and persuade the bats out of the abandoned homes so that they can get the go ahead to knock them down.

In fact, the residents have become somewhat expert at identifying the different species of bats in the homes.

One resident told me that there are around five colonies of bats and that the homes contain at least one of the rarest bats in the UK. So rare is the Greater Horseshoe bat, in fact, that the species has special protection under UK and EU law.

Many opportunities to maintain and upgrade the estate appear to have gonebegging. Documentationrelating to the estate indicates that grant funding was available to the residents of Brynmefys during the 1980’s when the estate was fully occupied.

Llanelli Borough Council should have offered owners of the homes on the Brynmefys estate 90% grants for three months from April 1984. The former authority did not. Instead, more limited grant support was only made available during the 1990’s.

These Council Tax-paying residents of Carmarthenshire are proud owners of their homes and freeholds.

They have raised their families there and continue to tend their homes and gardens like any homeowner would except that their neighbours are those we would frequently be told on some TV channel are neighbours from hell.

Unlike bats, the residents are not afforded the same protection under local authority powers to do something about homes, which fall into disrepair or are considered a danger or are abandoned.

The irony is that it is the enforcers themselves who are the culprits, the owners of these properties, which are in such an abominable state. Some have suggested that a major developer is interested in taking over the estate and ready to build affordable homes.

There is, however, an elephant in the room every time the developers meet with the landowners.

What to do about the remaining residents.

Looking through the online documents of the County Council it is evident that much time and effort has gone into finding a solution on how to, well to put it politely, ‘get rid of’ the remaining residents.

A modest plot in the Penyfai Lane area might cost you a small fortune but the residents of Brynmefys told The Herald that they have never been offered any more than a paltry amount for their homes from the Council and potential developers.

A report in the local press from 2007 – as usual – swallowed what the council had claimed hook, line, and sinker. At that time, then Head of Housing and Public Protection, Robin Staines, said: “We are fully committed to providing a solution to the Brynmefys estate that will try to help the residents still living there. We also want to ensure that we maximise the receipt from the sale as that this will make a significant contribution to additional affordable housing in the area.”

While the County Council seeks to profit, when residents seek compensation it is another story.

Residents are being penalised for happening to have bought their home on an estate owned by the council, which has systematically run it down to the point where everybody else left.

A vacant site, with infrastructure and services makes for an immensely desirable piece of development land for any property developers lucky enough to be chosen as the preferred contractors by Carmarthenshire County Council.

In the rush for easy cash, Brynmefys’ residents have been forgotten about, neglected and left to rot as much as the abandoned homes the Council own on the estate. They wonder what happened to the council’s duty of care towards them and their families.

In July 2015 Carmarthenshire County Council issued this press release: “A range of affordable homes will be built in Llanelli as part of a development opportunity at the former Brynmefys housing estate in Furnace.

“Carmarthenshire County Council is selling the land on the open market, creating a prime investment opportunity for a housing developer, with good transport links, sea views and a semi-rural location.”

Carmarthenshire County Council’s track record on delivering ‘affordable homes’ is questionable, at best. Large developments’ builders have managed to wriggle out of Section 106 agreements relating to so-called ‘affordable homes’, while very small developments have been held to them.

Developers at Brynmefys can choose from one of three options – to build 14 affordable homes on the site for low cost home ownership as part of their overall scheme; build 14 affordable homes on other Council-owned land elsewhere in Llanelli; or, provide the Council with the equivalent value of 14 affordable homes as an additional receipt, allowing the Council to build its own elsewhere.

The recognition that the Council has abandoned the idea of providing affordable homes of any description at Brynmefys and has tuned in to the potential for flogging a desirable site to a private developer is highlighted by a CHS business plan dating from December 2013.

In July, Cllr Linda Evans, Executive Board Member for Housing, said of the plans to pass the buck for Brynmefys: “This is a significant development opportunity which will provide a mix of new homes in Llanelli, MANY of which will be affordable homes. I have considered these proposals in fine detail, and have decided to offer potential developers three different options – all of which will have a positive outcome for local families taking their first step on the property ladder.”

The Herald has unearthed plans dating back to 2001 for what is described as ‘Improved development of newly built houses at Brynmefys providing better mix of house type… We are looking to partner with a housing developer to provide houses for sale on the land freed up by the development. This should reduce the authorities’ scheme costs by providing an element of cross-subsidy for the land released to the developer’.

Moving forward to 2005, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Empty Homes Policy attempted to tackle the problem: ‘Redevelopment of the Brynmefys estate, Llanelli by working with a developer to provide at least 80 affordable homes with different types of tenancy.’ This work was due to be completed by April 2007.

A planning application by Gwalia CYF to build 103 affordable dwellings on the site was withdrawn in 2010.

The plan has evaporated, together with the promise of EIGHTY affordable homes.

Whether 14 affordable homes dotted around the Llanelli locality will ever see the light of day, and even whether 14 qualifies as ‘many’ compared to the promise in 2007 to provide 80, are both open questions.

The same press release claims: ‘The council has, for some time, been working with a small number of homeowners who own properties on the site.

‘Some have taken up the Council’s offer of alternative accommodation, but those remaining will be contacted by the chosen developer who will work with them before the scheme progresses’.

Home owners on the estate have been offered £30,000 to move by the council or 70% mortgages to relocate elsewhere. Quite why the council thinks those options are attractive to retired couples who successfully paid off their mortgages years ago is unclear.

The council’s Head of Housing and Public Protection, Robin Staines, said: “We are fully committed to providing a solution at Brynmefys that will try to help the residents still living there.”

Of course, the alternative is to continue to run down the estate and try and force the remaining residents out. In fact, it appears as though the solution the council proposes is one to a problem it has created itself.

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Councillors campaign to ditch single-use plastics

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TWO Llanelli councillors have put aside party politics to press the Town Council to ditch single-use plastics, which includes products like plastic bottles, coffee cups and lids, plastic cutlery, straws and plastic stirrers.

Cllr Siôn Davies, a Conservative, and Cllr Sara Griffiths, an Independent, have submitted a joint motion to Llanelli Town Council to do away with single-use plastic products, encourage plastic free initiatives and ensure recycling routes are available to capture plastic waste.

Cllr Sara Griffiths, who represents the Lliedi ward, said:

“Single-use plastics are only used once before they’re thrown away.

“They’re not biodegradable and if they end up in a landfill, they can release toxic chemicals which can make their way into our food and water supply.

“It’s obvious we need to use less plastic and move towards more sustainable alternatives.

“It would be fantastic if Llanelli Town Council could lead the way and remove single-use plastics from our premises and encourage plastic free initiatives.”

The motion, which has been put forward to the July meeting of Llanelli Town Council, will need to be passed by a majority of the council’s 22 members.

If passed, Llanelli Town Council will also boycott plastic ‘food-on-the-go’ packaging, plastic bags, plastic drinking cups and condiment sachets.

Cllr Siôn Davies, who represents the Elli ward, said:

“Llanelli Town Council has a golden opportunity to lead by example.

“We have the chance to inspire others – local businesses and community organisations – to take similar action.

“Cutting out single-use plastics could go a long way to encourage local groups and organisations to ditch single-use plastics themselves.

“What we want, and what I think most of the general public want, is for us to work together cross-party to take action and solve the problems facing Llanelli.”

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Logic festival is back with a bigger and better line up

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FANS of dance music in South Wales are in for a real treat this year as Logic Festival is returnins to Swansea on Saturday September 7.

The festival is now in its fourth year, and this time its bigger and better with bigger name DJs, more arenas and three licenced bars to keep you refreshed and ready to party. New for 2019 there are also six arenas of which one is a chill out area and the bigger name DJ’s make this the best event that Wales has to offer, without a doubt.

For those of you that know the Logic Festival history it will come as no surprise that the owners have gone all out for 2019 to bring a diverse line up of world class DJs playing alongside the best that Wales has to offer in DJ talent, with some returning names that had such a great time in 2018 that they just had to come again and witness the legendary Logic Festival atmosphere for themselves, first hand.

Returning this year are headliners in the both the Trance and Hard Dance arena’s, Judge Jules and Darren Styles. Making first appearances in the Trance Arena are Dance Anthems legend Dave Pearce, German superstar Scot Project and all the way from Israel is BLiSS the DJ/ guitarist who jams along to his own tracks! Not to be outdone the Hard Dance arena features sets from UK hard dance legend Andy Whitby and flying in from Germany is the infamous Uberdruck. He will be playing alongside two Italian Hardstyle titans Technoboy and Francesco Zeta who again have flown in specially for Logic Festival 4.

And completely new for 2019 is the Clubland Classix arena where revellers can hear some of the biggest and best dance anthems ever made being played by the likes of: Ian Van Dahl who will be performing a live PA, and DJ sets from N – Trance, 4 Strings, Flip and Fill, Breeze and Scott Brown. This is a welsh festival exclusive so don’t miss out on the only chance you will get in 2019 to see so many heroes of Clubland all under one roof.

With a bigger line up, comes a higher capacity and more amenities for the public like two extra bars that have been custom built to stop the bottleneck effect that the extra numbers will bring with the event, more toilets on site so that queuing can be avoided and for the first time ever, a proper chill out arena has been added playing laid back vibes all day which has been inspired by the Balearic sound of ibiza, the party capital of Europe.

When asked to comment on all of the new improvements, the festival organiser and Logic brand owner Jason Pufal said: “No expense has been spared this year to make Logic Festival 4 the best event it could possibly be, as a thank you to all of the loyal customers who come every year and make the event so special.”

“In preparation for the bigger crowd that we are expecting this year, due to the fact that we have in effect supersized Logic Festival 4, everything about the event will be improved for 2019 and we are greatly looking forward to opening the gates for 12 hours of solid dance music based entertainment.”

So if you want to witness the best in dance music in six fully covered arenas in 2019, there is only one destination to head for and that is: Logic Festival 4, Ynysforgan Farm, Morriston, Swansea on Saturday September 7th, with the gates opening at 11am. We hope to see you there amongst a crowd of thousands!

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Innovative Llanelli school’s quality recognised by major award

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CLOSE to a year after its official opening, a state-of-the-art Llanelli school has been recognised for excellence.

Ysgol Pen Rhos, a £10.2 million primary school in the Seaside area of the town, was highly commended in the school project of the year category at the prestigious Education Buildings Wales Awards.

Officially opened in June 2018, the school features facilities including a flying start nursery, solar panels and classroom terraces for outdoor lessons.

A 3G pitch has also been made available for school and community use, as well as hard and soft landscaping areas. Features including brickwork and pitched roofs have been incorporated to reflect the industrial heritage of a neighbouring terrace of houses, alongside the use of more contemporary features like metal and wooden cladding. The project also delivered community benefits including training and local employment.

Ysgol Pen Rhos was funded by Carmarthenshire County Council’s Modernising Education Programme and the Welsh Government’s 21st Century Schools initiative.

The school was initially developed and then delivered and project managed by Carmarthenshire County Council’s in-house Property Design Team, working with HLM Architects. Ysggol Pen Rhos was constructed by T Richard Jones (Betws) Ltd.

Created from the merger of the former Copperworks Infant Nursery School and Lakefield Primary School, Ysgol Pen Rhos caters for 420 pupils and 60 nursery children.

Cllr David Jenkins, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Executive Board Member for Resources, said: “Receiving an award for the quality of the school’s design and build is worthy recognition for an outstanding team effort that involved the council and its partners, as well as staff and pupils.

“The inclusion of environmentally friendly features also means the school will be sustainable for many years to come, with the availability of outdoor learning and landscaped areas sure to inspire pupils now and in future.

“This work has led to a facility that provides a world class learning environment, while celebrating Llanelli’s rich industrial heritage.

“Ysgol Pen Rhos is among many completed or planned projects in Carmarthenshire that show how seriously we take our commitment to providing the county’s children and communities with top quality facilities that meet the needs of the 21st century.”

Joe Cudd, Head Teacher of Ysgol Pen Rhos, said: “This award recognises the hard work of an exceptional team of people. Ysgol Pen Rhos is a wonderful place to learn.

“Our school is at the heart of the Seaside community and a place where we can realise our children’s dreams. We hold 480 futures at Ysgol Pen Rhos in a building that inspires, nurtures and is filled with the voices of the future.”

Ysgol Pen Rhos is located on the regenerated site of the former Copperworks Sport & Social Club and the Draka wire factory.

Other schools in the Llanelli area which are expected to be on the move in future include Ysgol Heol Goffa, which is relocating to a new facility at an adjoining site to Ysgol Pen Rhos.

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