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‘It is great to see Carmarthen thriving’

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The candidate, Carwyn, and the correspondent: A t the Ivy Bush, Carmarthen

FIRST MINISTER Carwyn Jones was in Carmarthen on Thursday (Oct 15) to officially open the town’s new Welsh language learning centre, Yr Atom, which is based on on King Street in Carmarthen.

The c entre’s main aim is to develop Carmarthen as a truly bilingual town, ensuring that the Welsh language is seen and heard more often. Yr Atom, in partnership with Carmarthenshire County Council (CCC) and Menter Gorllewin Sir Gâr, is working closely with the local business community, local groups and organisations to provide a programme of Welsh language courses as well as a large number of leisure activities.

Before opening the centre , the First Minister took a walk around the town with Carmarthenshire West and Pembrokeshire South Labour AM candidate Marc Tierney. They headed for Carmarthen market where the First Minister bought a cup of tea and some ham sandwiches. As he sat in the sun at a cafe table just outside the market people began to stop and chat with him. One lady stopped to tell him that her grandchild was receiving excellent care at Glangwili Hospital. Another lady stopped and asked if he was ‘off the TV’. The First Minister then walked through the town meeting and greeting a number of people before making his way to the Ivy Bush where we caught up with him.

The First Minister said : “Carmarthen is somewhere I come frequently. I am here to support our candidate Marc Tierney and it is great to be back here.”

Speaking of his previous career as a barrister, Carwyn Jones told us: “It is great to go around the town again. Carmarthen Crown Court was the last court I went to conduct a trial when I was a barrister. I went to the market too and that was wonderful. It is great to see Carmarthen thriving as a town again.”

We asked if the First Minister was sad to see the court closing. He said : “SCANDALOUS! That court has been there for a long time. It is quite unique inside. it has just been refurbished as well and the Magistrates downstairs. To think that a town like Carmarthen will lose its court flabbergasts me. It shows that somebody in London has taken a decision, not thought about Wales . Our vie w is that we should be running the courts ourselves. This is an example why this should be the case.”

There is mounting pressure for the UK Government to scrap the Criminal Court Charges so we asked the First Minister if he would be adding his voice to that call. He said : “It’s a racket. That is what I will call them publicly. It puts pressure on people to plead guilty to offences they haven’t committed quite often. It is completely wrong and completely against the principle of justice. People are fined just for turning up for court. Where are we heading as a society? We will have no courts. Where we do have courts people will be fined as they arrive. What’s next? Trial by combat. I say that half in jest. What I do see is the Welsh justice system being decimated by Whitehall.”

Carmarthenshire farmers face losing their livelihoods as a milk collection company and processor stated last week that they would no longer be collecting milk from Carmarthenshire farms from next year.

We asked the First Minister what could be done to help the milk producers. He said : “It is very tough because we know the Russian sanctions have affected the price of milk. We know that milk is quite difficult to brand and sell. We can do it in Wales, Welsh milk tends to attract a better customer base than milk from elsewhere. Ultimately what we want to see is more processing taking place in Wales. This is the opposite of what we would want to see. I have said to farmers before. Why be at the whim of others, come together. Work together. Why not think about a business plan to set up your own creamery. It has happened in the past in Wales. South Caernarvon was an example of that in the 1930’s. There is no reason why that can’t happen here.

“I know there is little tradition of people working together as producers in farming in Wales but that has got to happen because that is the way the world has gone. What I’d say to farmers is come together think about how you would like to do this yourselves. Make sure that people feel that this is a venture people can buy into and then you are not at the whim of others. I think there was chaos after the MMB went. What we saw then was farmers being offered a few pence here and there and chasing the money.

“You can’t blame people for that people have to make a living at the end of the day. We know that that chaos continued. It still hasn’t settled properly. We have seen farmers’ cooperatives in the dairy industry being set up but we have not really had a big one in the South of Wales. It would be useful to see developments like that in Wales.”

A recent Cardiff University report suggested that newspapers in Wales were on the decline. We asked the First Minister for his thoughts on the importance of local newspapers like The Herald. He said : “It is very worrying. At the moment we know that local papers do a sterling job in informing people of what is going on locally. We don’t have a vigorous and extensive national press in Wales. We have the Western Mail, we have the Daily Post and then of course we have the dailies in different parts of Wales.

“The Western Mail is the only one that can reach across Wales. Look at Northern Ireland where my wife is from in Belfast they have three daily papers in Belfast alone. Then of course there are Irish and Northern Irish editions of the Fleet Street papers. Fleet Street papers don’t bother producing Welsh editions that is the problem. I am worried that we might end up in a situation where we don’t have a newspaper that covers the whole of Wales. What happens if local papers are not around anymore? Who holds councils to account? Who tells people what councils are doing? We can’t all do it on Twitter, we can’t all do it on Facebook. I am concerned about the pressures that print media face at the moment.”

With the focus on the planning department of Carmarthenshire County Council and the apparent inconsistency of decision making we asked the First Minister if Wales needed an independent panel devoid of conflicts of interest and removed from councils to scrutinise questionable planning applications and breaches of planning.

He said: “What we need are local authorities with up to date Local Development Plans. If you don’t have an up to date Local Development Plan there is a free for all. You get applications that get approved that annoy people. Developers don’t know where they stand that is absolutely crucial. That process is important because local people are able to have their say. They can say where they think development should go.

“Quite often what people worry about is that they see a planning application approved near them. It might well be that that development has been allocate in the development plan in the years previously. It is important that people engage in that process. 90% of planning applications are uncontroversial so we don’t need a planning panel to look at them.

“With the new planning bill that is going through the Assembly where there are what we call developments of national significance they will be taken out of the hands of local authorities. They will be determined by Welsh ministers. Where the local authority turns you down it goes to appeal. The appeal legally is to Welsh ministers but in reality it goes to a planning inspector. The Welsh Government has the power to take planning out of the hands of local authorities now in certain circumstances. The system works but there is a need for greater consistency. We have 25 planning authorities. Not all of them work in the way we want.”

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Police appeal for witnesses after 20-year-old pedestrian tragically killed on A40

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE is appealing for witnesses to a fatal road traffic collision on the A40 west of Carmarthen on Saturday (Sept 26) in which a 20-year-old man, a pedestrian, lost his life.

The police have asked The Pembrokeshire Herald to publicise this appeal.

A spokesman for the police told this newspaper: “At around 9.40pm, a white VW Transporter was in collision with a pedestrian on the A40 westbound, near the junction of Llangynog, Carmarthen.

“The pedestrian, a 20-year-old male, died as a result of his injuries.

“It appears the pedestrian had left his vehicle, a black Seat, following a single-vehicle collision further along the westbound carriageway shortly before.

The police have asked that if anyone has any information on either or both collisions, or may have been travelling along the A40 at the relevant time, please contact the serious collision investigation unit, quoting reference DPP-20200926-339.

This can be done by email: contactcentre@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, by phone on 101 or by text: If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

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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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