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Veterans home scrapped due to ‘negativity’

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Lon Hir: Plans scrapped.

Lon Hir: Plans scrapped.

PLANS for a group home in Lon Hir, designed to offer homeless veterans a new start in life, will not now be acted upon, despite a successful appeal to the Welsh Planning Inspectorate. The original bid, by Christian charity Alabare, was to change a house in the cul-de-sac from a residential dwelling into a multiple-occupancy, catering for service veterans. Alabare run a number of homes across the country, and estimate that they have helped over 300 veterans in the past six years. However, despite the plans being recommended for approval by Carmarthenshire Council’s head of planning, they were rejected at a planning committee meeting on September 23 last year, citing ‘highway safety and the detrimental effect on the local community’ as reasons for refusal. Among the objections raised by residents were ‘potential noise nuisance and anti-social behaviour; loss of privacy and the proposal would dramatically affect local residents’ enjoyment of the peace and tranquillity they currently experience; totally wrong location for such a use; the road outside the property is unadopted and there is no lighting,’ and ‘there are two busy footpaths joining onto Lon Hir, which are designated safe routes to school’.

The comment regarding the school was described as ‘disgraceful’ by a council member in an interview conducted at the time. At the meeting a representative for Alabare pointed out that no formal complaints had been raised over the six years that they had been running homes across the country. Alabare then appealed the decision, and the Welsh Planning Inspectorate approved the plans. However, Alabare announced that they had decided not to press ahead with their plans for Lon Hir. In a statement, the charity’s Chief Executive Andrew Lord explained their reasons for this: “In all our homes our key priority has always been the welfare and care of homeless and vulnerable Veterans. Part of the support we provide is to help them to live in a community, integrating and positively contributing to life in their neighbourhood. We have spent a lot of time talking to people living in Lon Hir and have met people with strong feelings both for and against opening a Home for Veterans in their road. The positive opportunities offered by this house and location led us to pursue our planning application.

Despite our reassurances and 6 year track record of successfully supporting Veterans in communities across the South West, we have been unable to win around those immediate neighbours who have continually felt extremely negative towards our proposal and who have made it very clear that they would not welcome our staff or residents, nor would they wish to join us in any Community Forum. We are very sad that we have been unable to convince these neighbours of the merits of our proposal and benefi ts that it could bring to everyone in this community. It is therefore with a sense of sorrow that our Board of Trustees has today taken the decision not to proceed with the purchase of this property. Given the exceptional and continuing negativity of a small number of immediate neighbours, we no longer believe it will be in the best interests of our staff or potential residents to live at this address.

Our Trustees stand by the decision to take this planning application through to a successful appeal, as they do not wish the circumstances of this change in our plans to have a negative impact on the future development of Supported Housing for vulnerable adults in Wales. Ultimately we believe that Veterans should be afforded the same opportunities to live successful and fulfi lling lives as anybody else. Due to the length of time it has taken to complete this planning process, and in recognition of the needs of homeless Veterans in Carmarthen, six months ago we rented a number of Wales Homes for Veterans in the town. We are delighted that this has enabled us to help those who are vulnerable and in need of a home and our support.

We will continue to support Veterans in these homes, and will be looking to open Homes for Veterans in other areas in the near future.” Carmarthen veteran Lt Col John Skipper expressed his disappointment at Alabare’s decision, but added that he could understand their reasons. In a statement made to the press, he explained why projects like the proposed Lon Hir development are an essential part of provision for veterans of the armed forces: “This type of housing is of critical importance to Armed Forces veterans across the UK, assisting their transition back into civilian life. This transition can be made all the more diffi cult due to Service-related mental and physical health issues. It is a fundamental element in bringing the provisions of the Armed Forces Covenant alive. It also resonates with the recent 70th anniversary of VE day – we must look after those who have put their lives on the line, then and now. I know of many veterans in Wales who are struggling to make ends meet – servicemen to whom we owe an enormous debt for the freedoms we so often take for granted. It is important that a line is now drawn under this unfortunate issue: recrimination and attribution of blame serves no one.” Lt Col Skipper also refl ected on some of the issues raised by objectors: “This very unsavoury argument depicts the veteran as someone who can never be rehabilitated, which is rubbish. My biggest fear is that this will drive away people who would benefi t from this service.”

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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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Local sailor taking on virtual London marathon

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A local sailor based in the Falkland Islands will be taking on the Virtual London Marathon this October to raise money for SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity.

Curtis Bowen, 24, from Llanelli, South Wales, was due to take on the London Marathon for SSAFA this April, but following the Covid-19 outbreak and lockdown, the race was cancelled. 

Fortunately, the London Marathon team created the Virtual London Marathon in its place, allowing runners to take on the challenge virtually alongside thousands of other runners on the 4th October.

Curtis said: “It was a shame that the London Marathon couldn’t go ahead as planned in April, but I think it is amazing that I am still able to partake whilst being in the Falkland Islands. I’m the first person to ever run the London Marathon in the Falkland Islands.”  

Curtis is currently serving in the Royal Navy, as a Leading Supply Chain Logistician, and has served for four years. His Father also served in the Royal Navy for twenty-three years.

The live virtual event on Sunday 4th October will invite runners to run the London Marathon in their own way, joining up to 45,000 runners up and down the country – and across the world – in the virtual 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon, The 40th Race.

Curtis decided to raise money for SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity after being an avid supporter of the charity and being inspired by his Father, Andrew, who raised over £6,000 for SSAFA. 

I chose to run the London Marathon for SSAFA to challenge myself and raise awareness for a great cause. My younger brother sadly took his own life a couple of years ago and I know that SSAFA are there to support those struggling with their Mental Health. I want to raise as much money as I can to support those struggling within the Armed Forces community.”

“My Father was also supposed to be running the London Marathon this year, but will now be completing the challenge virtually, alongside my brother, Luke, 12,000km away in South Wales.”

If you would like to support Curtis, please visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Andrew-Bowen-London-marathon2020

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