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2600 empty homes in Carmarthenshire

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COUNCILS across Wales are under pressure to return empty housing stock to use.

Ad Hoc Property Management reports that there are currently 43,028 homes lying empty in Wales, 18,000 of which have been empty for more than six months. Rhondda Cynon Taff is the worst area with 4,195 while Swansea, Cardiff and Conwy don’t fall far behind.

There are 2,667 empty homes in Carmarthenshire.

The company says that, with there being approximately 60,500 households on waiting lists for affordable housing in Wales, these empty homes are simply a wasted resource in the wake of a national housing shortage.

Ad Hoc claims that opportunities exist to regenerate empty properties to provide affordable homes, with the benefit for property owners being that tenanted properties are unlikely to suffer from the consequences of anti-social behaviour such as squatting and vandalism.

A spokesperson told us: ‘The Welsh government is committed to building 20,000 new affordable homes by 2021, and while that will be beneficial, something still needs to be done about all the empty homes. If more property owners were aware of the benefits of utilising their empty spaces as temporary affordable housing, then they would not only save themselves the headache of petty criminals and the cost of damage repairs, but they would also be helping to alleviate some of the strain put on Wales by the housing shortage’.

Under the Housing Act 2004, councils have the power to use Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs) as a last resort to bring unoccupied properties back into use.

Long-term empty properties pose a problem in two ways; they tend to decrease the quality of life in their area, by becoming magnets for vandalism and other antisocial behaviours, and they indirectly contribute to the problem of homelessness by limiting the pool of available housing.

Carmarthenshire’s County Council is taking proactive steps to bring vacant properties back into use.

As long ago as the Budget of 2014, then Council Leader Kevin Madge reported on the Council’s intention to secure vacant residential properties and bring them back into use for the private rented sector.

Four years on and the Executive Board under current leader Emlyn Dole established an arm’s length housing corporation to acquire properties and land for redevelopment and new development.

The authority adopted its first empty property strategy in light of the Housing Act from 2005-2009 and has followed that up with a succession of further plans, including a review of the process in 2015.

The number of empty properties brought back into use has steadily increased year on year.

Carmarthenshire’s target for returning empty properties during 2016/2017 was 160 properties and 174 properties were returned to use.

With a dedicated Empty Property Officer post, coordinating the Local Authority approach to empty properties, the Council is making active use of enforcement actions under different elements of its statutory powers, including the active use of Enforced Sales and the offer of financial assistance to owners of long-term vacant properties where they can be traced. The council also offers financial incentives through property management and leasing products, whilst offering affordable housing through an in-house Social Lettings Agency, Gosod Siml.

The waste of empty homes where a need exists has been described by Jonathan Edwards MP as ‘obscene’.

“There are a number of approaches which can and should be explored. In the case of Carmarthenshire, I know the Council takes a proactive approach with a dedicated team of staff who assist people in bringing their properties back into use,” the MP said.

Conservative government welfare cuts continue to fuel the rise in homelessness as figures show a staggering 10,884 Welsh households were assessed as homeless in the year 2016-2017.

A report by researchers from Sheffield Hallam University into the Welsh Government’s Houses into Homes scheme reported positive feedback from both property owners and local authorities regarding its operation. However, that report also revealed that the majority of owners who responded to a questionnaire about bringing a property back into use with the help of a Houses into Homes loan had acquired the property as an investment.

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Health board provides assurance to local residents following Llanelli lockdown restrictions

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Following the introduction of temporary lockdown measures in the Llanelli area the health board is moving to reassure local communities that they can still access hospital and community healthcare services, including urgent care.

The health board is continuing to focus on providing these essential services and patients should access Prince Philip Hospital if they have an urgent care need or a scheduled clinic appointment.

Planned operations continue to be prioritised based on clinical urgency (including patients with cancer and other urgent care needs) and people should attend these if they have a confirmed admission date.

These measures apply to people with appointments at Prince Philip Hospital (regardless of where you live), and for people living in the Llanelli restricted zone. Arrangements are also continuing with access to primary care services – please phone your doctor’s surgery, dentist or optometrist to find out more and follow instructions at your community pharmacist.

All GP practices and a number of community pharmacies are continuing to offer the flu jab by appointment – again please check arrangements with these providers locally and make sure you keep your appointment if you’ve been offered one.  If you do not have an appointment arranged and you are in one of the “at risk” categories, please contact your GP Practice to check on the arrangements for this year.

Visiting continues to be restricted at all Hywel Dda University Health Board hospitals and these must be pre-planned and agreed with the sister/charge nurse. 

The exceptions to this arrangement are:
One parent/guardian at a time to visit their child
For birthing mothers – only one birthing partner
Patients considered to be at the end of life or receiving palliative care. 

We have also introduced local exemptions to this where you can visit if you are supporting someone with a mental health issue such as dementia, a learning disability or autism, where not being present would cause the patient to become distressed. 

In all cases we are urging patients to continue to follow infection prevention and control guidance, as well as use of face coverings and maintaining social distance.  Further information and updates about local lockdowns can be found on the Welsh Government’s website here.

Mandy Rayani, Director of Nursing, Quality and Patient Experience at Hywel Dda, said: “It’s really important that people living in areas affected by the new lockdowns know that they can still access services in the same way as they have been able to for the last few months.

“At the same time, it’s also important that people choose the right healthcare service for their need so that our hospitals can manage the extra demand that we always face at this time of the year.

“We will continue to prioritise urgent and emergency care, including planned operations based on clinical urgency, and I’d also like to remind people that arrangements are in place at a local level for community services such as GPs, pharmacies, optometrists and dentists.

“If you do need to attend a healthcare setting please remember to follow guidance on hand hygiene, face coverings and social distancing and please contact the senior sister or charge nurse if you want to find out about visiting relatives in hospital.

“Remember, COVID-19 is a serious disease which is sadly having real and tragic consequences for many people and families. We will endeavour to do all that we can to keep our communities safe and we’d like to thank the public for their patience and understanding as we continue to work through these new arrangements.”

Remember – if you or any member of your household develop symptoms of COVID-19 it is important that you self-isolate and do NOT attend any appointments or visit our sites.

If you have symptoms (raised temperature, new persistent cough OR loss or change of smell or taste) please book a test as soon as possible. You can do this via the UK Portal here

Any Llanelli residents having problems booking a test can contact us on 0300 333 2222 or via covidenquiries.hdd@wales.nhs.uk
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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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