MEMBERS of Carmarthenshire County Council’s Planning Committee unanimously approved a plan to improve access to the St Elli Church in Llanelli’s Town Centre.
The Church already had listed building consent for the provision of a ramped access to the Church via the Tower through the ecclesiastical process. Therefore, the matter came to the Planning Committee to decide the substantive planning issues.
The Committee heard that objections had been received referring to the potential loss of access to a small parking area adjacent to the landmark Church and one objection suggesting that the proposed access was too narrow.
A lively discussion of the application’s merits followed, in which members expressed varying degrees of disbelief that objections had been registered to the scheme.
Concerns regarding possible alternative access points were quickly dispensed with by way of a thorough officer’s report which walked members through the alternative access points and the reasons they were unsuitable.
The Planning Officer presenting the application told members that it was inappropriate that less mobile members of the community should access the Church other than through one of its principal access points. Alternative principal access points, members heard, would be unsuitable. Redesign of the main door would require significant extended works of a more visually obtrusive nature and the relocation of grave markers in the churchyard.
The Officer confirmed that the parking access was extremely restricted and the Church would most likely do away with it.
Cllr Kevin Madge spoke for many Committee members when he observed that Church congregations were ageing and that it was essential access was provided for the less mobile. He wholeheartedly supported the application, proposed for approval by Cllr Dorian Phillips.
The proposed entrance was the least intrusive option and Cllr Madge said he was reassured that all options had been examined.
Noting the Church’s lengthy history, Committee Chair Alun Lenny said that buildings such as churches have to adapt to survive.
Cllr Jeanette Gilasbey fully supported the application as meeting the needs for all people of all ages, residents and visitors alike. Speaking from own point of view, she appreciated the new access would address mobility issues.
Echoing Cllr Gilasbey’s words, Cllr Jean Lewis went one step further and wondered whether the objectors were churchgoers or building users. Cllr Lewis said that Churches were used for a number of purposes, including community-based activities and it was essential that all members of the community could access them.
The Committee unanimously approved the application.
Arrest as up to 80 suspected stolen dogs are found by police
POLICE have recovered a large number of dogs suspected to have been stolen in recent months at two locations over the weekend.
Dyfed-Powys Police and South Wales Police attended two areas where dogs and puppies believed to be worth tens of thousands of pounds were found.
South Wales Police observed several dogs being released onto common land from a nearby location in Briton Ferry and recovered six dogs on Saturday, January 23. The owners of these stolen dogs have been identified and they have been returned home. A further criminal investigation is ongoing.
Superintendent Cath Larkman, of South Wales Police, said: “It needs to be borne in mind that these dogs are not merely items of financial value, these are living creatures who feel pain and suffering and loss at being stolen and they are much loved family members in many instances.
“One of the stolen dogs that was recovered at Briton Ferry fell into the water in panic at being released and had to be rescued by a police officer to prevent it drowning.
“We are pleased these dogs are back with their owners. As a police service, we take this criminality very seriously and our investigations are ongoing. We are grateful for the assistance of the public for their support with this investigation.”
On Sunday (January 24), Dyfed-Powys Police attended an address in Carmarthenshire, where officers found a large number of dogs and puppies in outbuildings.
Detective Inspector Barry Kelly, of Dyfed-Powys Police, said: “We had been alerted to this property by a dog owner who reported the theft of five bitches and 17 puppies on Friday, January 22.
“On attendance, officers found a number of dogs, some of which have been identified through microchips.
“We estimate there to have been 70 to 80 dogs at the property, with the total value reaching tens of thousands of pounds.”
Officers remain at the location today (Monday, January 25) where work is being undertaken to scan all the animals for microchips and identify their legal owners.
“We have animal welfare officers, local authority staff and South Wales Police officers at the property today, who are making their way through the whole site scanning the dogs,” DI Kelly said.
“The problem we have is that the puppies won’t have been chipped, so unless they are feeding from the mother dog while we are there, it will be very difficult to trace their owners.
One person has been arrested on suspicion of handling stolen goods following the warrant at the Carmarthenshire property, and is currently in police custody. Enquiries are ongoing as officers search the site and look into recently reported dog thefts.
DI Kelly said: “We have had seven crimes reported to us in respect of dog thefts in the past six months. The officers in case will review these investigations and re-engage with the victims. As and when we find any link with dogs recovered from the two sites, we will be in contact with the potential owners.
“Although we have made an arrest, our enquiries are still at an early stage, and we would like to hear from anyone with information that might assist us.
“We also urge dog owners – and particularly breeders – to be vigilant and take all possible steps to ensure their animals are secure. A number of dogs stolen in just one incident reported to us were estimated to be worth around £40,000, which goes to show these are incredibly high value thefts.”
Anyone with information that could assist enquiries is asked to contact Dyfed-Powys Police in one of the following ways:
Paul Davies MS quits as Leader of the Conservatives in the Senedd
PAUL DAIVES MS quit as Leader of the Conservatives in the Senedd this morning.
The Conservatives’ Chief Whip also quit his frontbench role.
The dramatic move comes only 24 hours after Mr Davies got the Conservative Senedd Group’s unanimous backing.
However, later yesterday (Friday, Jan 21) – as criticism poured in – the Welsh Conservatives’ Executive met. In that meeting, Constituency Chairs reported widespread disbelief and anger among the Party’s members. Conservative Party Chair, Lord Davies of Gower, received particular criticism for a lack of leadership. Simon Hart, Secretary of State for Wales, also attended the meeting and was left in no doubt of the strength of feeling within the Party.
In a statement issued via the Conservative Senedd media office, Mr Davies said: “I am truly sorry for my actions on the 8th and 9th December. They have damaged the trust and respect that I have built up over 14 years in the Welsh Parliament with my colleagues and the wider Conservative Party but more importantly with the people of Wales.
“Whilst using the Senedd facilities at all times my colleagues and I maintained social distancing. There was no drunk or disorderly behaviour. We did not have to be escorted out of the building as some reports have suggested. What we did was to have some alcohol with a meal we heated up in a microwave, which was a couple of glasses of wine on Tuesday and a beer on Wednesday.
I broke no actual Covid-19 regulations.
“For the last 10 months of the pandemic, I have followed the Covid-19 regulations to the letter. As with everyone across Wales, I have not seen family members or friends, I’ve not eaten at my favourite restaurants and, like you, we enjoyed a subdued Christmas compared to other years. I will continue to follow the Welsh Government’s Covid-19 Regulations and I would urge everyone to play their part in defeating this virus so that we can all return to normality.
“My priority as Leader of the Welsh Conservative Group in the Welsh Parliament has always been to bring the Conservatives into government in Wales. Our main focus as the Welsh Conservatives must always be on challenging and removing a failing Labour government.
“I am grateful for the support of colleagues in the Welsh Conservative Party for their support in this difficult time, and especially to my wife Julie and my Senedd colleagues who have offered empathy, trust and advice. They have treated me with the same courtesy and decency I hope I have always extended to others.
“Over the last couple of days, I have been speaking with colleagues in the Senedd and the wider Conservative Party. Whilst they have confirmed they do not wish to see me step down, I believe that my actions are becoming a distraction from holding this failing Welsh Labour-led Government to account, not just on their rollout of the Covid-19 vaccines but from more than 20 years of their dither, delay and failure. Yesterday I indicated to the Conservative group in the Welsh Parliament that I wished to resign, but they urged me to reflect further, and we agreed to meet again on Monday. However, for the sake of my party, my health and my own conscience, I simply cannot continue in post.
“Therefore, I am stepping down as Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Welsh Parliament with immediate effect.”
“It is for the group to decide how best to choose a new leader, but I hope that process will be seamless and speedy, and I pledge my support to whoever becomes leader.”
Darren Millar blamed ‘wildly inaccurate and unfair reports’ and said:
“There was a member of catering staff present in the tea room for a short time after my arrival on the 8th December but she did not serve me a drink, nor did I request one. In fact, I encouraged the member of staff to go home and close up the counter as it had been a long day for her. No members of catering staff were present on the 9th December and the counter was closed for the whole evening.
“While I am advised that I did not breach coronavirus regulations I am very sorry for my actions, especially given the impact of the tough restrictions that people and businesses are enduring.
“For this reason, and given that Paul Davies has resigned as Welsh Conservative Group Leader in the Senedd, I have decided to step down from my front bench role in the Welsh Parliament.
“I am cooperating fully with ongoing investigations and will continue to do so.”
Whoever replaces Paul Davies, the role is likely to an interim appointment ahead of a vote of the Party membership after the Senedd election.
Conservatives in disarray over alleged Christmas party lockdown breach
THE CONSERVATIVE Party is investigating the attendance of senior Senedd members and staff at a Christmas party held during December’s lockdown.
Lockdown restrictions prohibit mixing with people outside your own household.
The Welsh restrictions barring such gatherings follow the basic outline of those imposed by the Conservative UK Government in December.
Those attending the drinks party included Paul Smith, the Conservative Chief of Staff at the Senedd, Darren Millar, the Party’s Chief Whip and campaign coordinator, and Preseli Pembrokeshire MS and Conservative Senedd Group Leader Paul Davies.
The Herald understands that a Labour Senedd Member who attended the Party has been suspended by the Labour Senedd Group pending its own investigation.
The Conservatives’ embarrassment at talking the talk but not walking the walk is intensified by Darren Millar’s presence at the shindig.
In May, Mr Millar led calls for Wales’ Health Minister Vaughan Gething to be sacked for eating a bag of chips in a park with one of his own children.
If the Conservative Party follows the logic of their previously stated positions, Mr Millar’s and Mr Davies’ futures look bleak indeed.
With a Senedd election only months away, the revelations have thrown the Conservatives into disarray.
If they do nothing, the Conservatives will – at the very least – face claims they are hypocrites.
If the Conservative Party acts decisively, it faces massive internal problems.
The Conservatives responded to our request for a response to our story.
Those involved stressed they did not host a Christmas Party.
The incident happened on December 8, when the above met in the members’ tea room to discuss legislation for possible inclusion in the Welsh Conservative manifesto with a Labour backbencher.
During the evening they did drink a glass or two of wine.
They stress that at no point were there more than four people in the room at any one time and that they maintained social distancing.
A joint statement from Paul Davies, Darren Millar, and Paul Smith said: “We are profoundly sorry for our actions.
“While we did not break the rules, we recognise that what was part of a day’s work would not be seen to be following the spirit of them, especially given the tough time the country has been going through.”