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Tributes pour in for Jeff Connell

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jeffconnellFRIENDS, colleagues and local politicians have been united in their praise for photographer Jeff Connell and sorrow at his sudden passing on Thursday (Dec 10). Jeff worked as photographer for the Llanelli Star and was well known around Carmarthenshire as the friendly face of photography. His work spanned many years in local newspapers where he covered just about any event, which had been taking place in his home community of Llanelli as well as covering news stories, which had national significance. Jeff went to work for Carmarthenshire County Coun c il’s press team late in his career where he was reunited with many of his former colleagues.In a very personal tribute to Jeff his colleagues at the press office said, “Jeff Connell was a legend.

It feels wrong to use the past tense, it’s unbelievable he isn’t with us any more. He will be remembered for being one of the best, if not the best, photographer in South Wales. But to us as friends and colleagues he was so much more. He was known and loved by so many people, everyone liked him, he was full of fun, had a wicked sense of humour and a huge heart. “His loss will be felt by so many, most of all his wife Desna whom he absolutely adored and of course his family. Our hearts go out to them and we pray they find the strength to cope with their tragic loss. “Jeff was artistic, enthusiastic, kind, generous, loyal, hardworking, committed, unique. But these are just words and there are no words adequate to describe the legend that was Jeff Connell or the massive gap he leaves in all our lives.”

Shadow Secretary of State for Wales Nia Griffith MP was equally generous in her assessment of how much Jeff meant to the community of Llanelli. She said of Jeff : “Everyone warmed immediately to Jeff and he will be very sorely missed. Jeff had the most charming way of persuading even the most reluctant of subjects to have their photo taken, and he did an amazing job of getting great pictures in all sorts of challenging circumstances. We tend to associate him with journalistic style photos, but his range was much greater. On one occasion, I was very privileged to watch him deliver his adjudication of a competition celebrating Carmarthenshire in memory of the late Ifor Russell to the Llanelli Photographic Society: he had clearly put an enormous amount of work into judging the competition.

He did not just tell us about the winners, but he gave really helpful, constructive and good-humored feedback to every one of the entrants, explaining how they could have improved their portrayal of Carmarthenshire…. It was a pleasure to listen to, and we all learned a lot. We will all miss him, and I would like to express my deepest sympathy to his family.” Friend and fellow photographer Graham Harries of GPhotography said : “Jeff would always make time to say hello no matter how busy he was. He’d remember everyones name & trust me when you meet so many people on a daily basis that’s something special. Always the professional he’d get the job done with no fussing, always make those in front of his camera feel at ease & always considerate to those other photographers on the same shoot.”

Plaid Cymru’s Helen Mary Jones paid tribute to the much loved photographer saying : “I was very sad indeed to hear of Jeff’s passing. I had spoken to him just a few weeks ago when out canvassing with the Plaid Llanelli team. On that occasion he was, as always, full of warmth and humour, reminding me of some of the funnier photo’s he’s taken of me during my time as Llanelli’s AM, including making me pose on one leg and lean at a very odd angle when cutting a ribbon to open a new shop for Tenvous the cancer charity. “At the time I though he was crazy, but as always with Jeff, the photo came out very well. He really was a consummate professional, but more than that. He had a great knack for setting his subjects at ease, helping them relax, and getting the best out of them. Particularity with people who were a bit shy, or reluctant to be photographed – I’m thinking for example of a group of young people with learning disabilities in a community group I was visiting – Jeff was always very patient and kind, and the result was always a great picture that told a strong story. He taught me one important lesson for a person in public life – never argue with the photographer – they know what they are doing!

“He loved his community and cared a lot about Llanelli. He was a real character and will be much missed. My thoughts are with his family and friends.” Jeff’s friend and former editor of the Llanelli Star Robert Lloyd said he could not believe that he had gone. Robert said : “Jeff was one of those characters who was larger than life. He was a joy to work with and he was a consummate professional. His work was a strong feature of the newspaper and he could always be relied on to deliver that photo with impact. He always made people feel at ease and never failed to get a smile out of people. My thoughts are with his wife and family at this time.” Paying tribute to Jeff Connell, Keith Davies AM, said: “Jeff was a very wellknown man who I met on many occasions. He will be remembered for his excellent work and good sense of humour. “His sudden death is a loss not only to his family and colleagues but also to the wider Carmarthenshire community who will have met Jeff at the many events he photographed and supported.”

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£121k watersports funding announced for Llanelli beauty spot

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• Welsh Water, Natural Resources Wales, Llanelli Rural Council & Canoe Wales has secured ‘Access to Water’ funding.

• Visitors will be able to enjoy paddlesports (canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding), windsurfing and angling.

• Site expected to attract 90k+ visitors a year.

The recent announcement of the development of the Swiss Valley reservoirs in Carmarthenshire has been given a boost with the confirmation of an ‘Access to Water’ grant from Welsh Government, worth £121k, that will enable visitor access to the Lower Lleidi reservoir for paddle sports and angling.

The funding will realise plans to bring back a range of paddlesports to the reservoir, including stand-up paddle boarding, canoeing and kayaking.  It will also enable bank angling through the creation of recreational zones.  A range of improvements to the surrounding infrastructure are also planned to include a boat wash for biosecurity and the creation of paths and a pontoon that allows easy access to water for people of all abilities, and the refurbishment of toilet facilities.

Developing the Swiss Valley Reservoirs is expected to attract 90k+ visitors a year to the site, in line with Covid19 regulations. The ‘Access to Water’ funding is an important milestone in achieving shared ambitions for the site, and to support the funding application, a survey of local canoe clubs, outdoor activity providers and anglers was conducted which found a strong demand for access to the water for their activities. The feedback was that this is likely to generate a huge amount of interest from clubs and providers given it’s ideal geographical location. The community adoption scheme means that local people are offering to invest their own time to help look after this jewel of a community asset, and care for it into the future.

The project is well placed to support the delivery of The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act (Wales) 2015, which requires public bodies in Wales to think about the long-term impact of their decisions, to work better with people, communities and each other, and to prevent persistent problems such as poverty, health inequalities and climate change. Whilst Welsh Water is not a public body, it is committed to working in partnership with Llanelli Rural Council, Natural Resources Wales and Canoe Wales in the spirit of the legislation.

Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, said: “This is an excellent example of a scheme which increases opportunities for outdoor recreation and provides safe access to water for people of all abilities.  The development of these reservoirs will enable local people and visitors to gain more enjoyment from this beauty spot in line with covid19 guidelines and help to support a green recovery in Wales.  I hope the success of this project will encourage development of many more similar opportunities over the coming years.”

Welsh Water Chief Executive Peter Perry said, “Access to blue space is proven to be positively associated with health and wellbeing. Swiss Valley is an important asset for the local community and visitors alike. This funding is a major milestone in our efforts to bring this cherished community asset back to its former glory and make it more accessible, for the health and wellbeing of everyone.”

Jen Browning, Chief Executive of Canoe Wales, the national governing body for paddlesport in Wales, added, “Over the past eight months, we have seen an unprecedented amount of demand for canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, but the limited number of venues in Wales suitable for new paddlers has always been a major obstacle. This funding will ensure that Swiss Valley can play an enormously important role in making it possible for people of all abilities to enjoy the water, and for many to discover a passion for paddlesport and develop a deep connection with the outdoors.”

Dave MacCallum, Specialist Advisor for Water Access & Recreation at Natural Resources Wales and Chairman of NAFW Access to Water Sub-Group said: “We are delighted to have been a part of this important collaboration which will open up these new waters for responsible, inclusive recreation in South West Wales. NRW is committed to doing all we can to enable more people to enjoy Wales’ countryside more easily and responsibly – to take advantage of the many health and wellbeing benefits that getting outside can bring. Benefitting from bespoke disabled paddle-sport access facilities and a Biosecurity station promoting and enabling the Check Clean Dry initiative, the Swiss Valley reservoir project paves the way for future access to Welsh still waters so that current and future generations can continue to enjoy their visits to some of Wales’ most spectacular landscapes”

Llanelli Rural Council Leader, Cllr Tegwen Devichand said “the funding is marvellous news for the community and will enable the council to develop its plans for the reservoir in earnest. Much of the preliminary work associated with the first phase of infrastructure improvements can now get underway, in fact some work has commenced already. The physical adaptations to refurbish the toilet block, visitor car park and access to the water to facilitate paddle sports and the angling fraternity is scheduled to be completed by March 2021, but work won’t stop there. Moreover, the community response to our plans for the reservoir has been overwhelming; the council has received a great deal of local and regional support and a number of interest groups and individuals have come forward to help us deliver our plans as well as to offer their services. This is greatly appreciated and bodes well for the future.”

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Llanelli Yodel colleague celebrates 30-year anniversary

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Beverley Smith, a valued member of the Llanelli depot’s team, is celebrating her 30-year anniversary with UK independent parcel carrier, Yodel.

Beverley joined Yodel in 1990, when it was originally known as Home Shopping Network, as an Inbound Sorter and then moved onto a Customer Service Support role over 28 years ago. Beverly supports the Llanelli Management Team, provides customer service to clients and customers alike and is always on hand to answer any driver queries.

To celebrate her anniversary, Kay Dodd, Service Centre Manager, presented Beverley with £750 of Very vouchers and ordered in a cooked breakfast to celebrate.

Customer Service Support Advisor, Beverley Smith commented: “My time with Yodel has been very fulfilling – constantly challenging – keeping me on my toes. I’ve been with the company so long that I remember having to write with a pen and paper and have to fax documents to the head office daily – I can’t say I miss those days!

“I have made many close friends during the 30 years at the business and I truly have enjoyed the hard working and happy atmosphere at Llanelli every day.”

Kay Dodd, Depot Manager, added: “Bev is a valued member of my team here at Llanelli, she provides excellent customer service to customers, clients and colleagues. She has a courteous and caring attitude and goes beyond her duties to ensure everyone has a positive experience at Yodel Llanelli. Thank you for everything Bev!”

To join Beverley and the team at Yodel’s Llanelli depot, or to find out more about working for Yodel, and the roles and training available, visit www.yodelopportunities.co.uk or text ‘Deliver’ to 84433. 

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Preparatory works to start at key Stepney Street Building

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Preparatory works are due to start on a key building in Llanelli Town Centre ahead of formal planning approval.

Number 49 Stepney Street is being redeveloped as part of a significant investment in the town centre to transform, regenerate and connect its key retails and leisure areas.

Carmarthenshire County Council has submitted plans which could see the former YMCA building retain much of its character whilst providing high quality living space and commercial units

The works would include the restoration of the front façade of the building, along with the retention of the perimeter wall, main internal structural walls and bringing back many original features such as the ornate staircase.

Subject to planning approval the rest of the building would be redeveloped to include two floors of commercial space on the ground and first floors, with eight two-bedroomed living spaces on the upper floors.

There will also be residents parking spaces on the ground floor.

The works currently underway will prepare the building for redevelopment and include stripping and clearance of old materials.

Carmarthenshire County Council leader Cllr Emlyn Dole said: “Many generations of people from Llanelli will have special memories of using this fantastic building over the years and it is such a shame to see it lay empty and falling into disrepair – we’re proud to be leading on this scheme to breathe new life into it once again.”

The council has already spent £4.5million buying empty shop units from private ownership, renovating and bringing them back in to use at affordable rental levels – all of them currently occupied by independent businesses

A Local Development Order has been put in place to simplify the planning process for property owners and potential investors

This project is being procured via the South West Wales Regional Contractors Framework. Carmarthenshire County Council has appointed a regional contractor who will develop the project alongside local supply chains.

For further information on this framework, email TSSWWRCF@carmarthenshire.gov.uk

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