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Is the tide turning at County Hall?

Thomas Sinclair

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Stinking: Raw sewage is released into the environment as system can’t cope

Stinking: Raw sewage is released into the environment as system can’t cope

CARMARTHEN COUNTY COUNCIL’S planning committee made a visit to the Grillo site in Burry Port on Tuesday (June 2). Members of the committee, including local councillors Patricia Jones and John James, were present during discussions, which took place on the harbour side and in a car park some distance from the site.

We asked Councillors Jones and James if they would answer some of our questions and they said that they would following the site visit. Neither Cllr. Jones, nor Cllr. James stayed to answer our questions.

This newspaper telephoned the leader Cllr. Emlyn Dole to ask why the councillors had left without answering our questions. He said: “They would have had to avoid you because of protocol. You should put those questions to the chair of planning.”

The Herald interviewed Cllr. Lenny by telephone. He told The Herald “I have just started as chair of planning and it is my intention to try and make the planning process and decisions as clear and transparent as possible. I would like to be more proactive in that I’d like to publish press releases on a more regular basis.”

The Herald asked Cllr. Lenny if he had read the environmental report by Waterman Quadrant.

“Yes”, he said, “That was included in the essential reading along with the host of comments from the various consultants like the NRW. I appreciate that this is a contentious site and not without challenges. As a post industrial site there is contamination in the land. The numerous conditions attached to the planning recommendation including the contamination will have to be complied with. In my view this is the primary consideration. Now according to the amended maps flooding should no longer be n issue on this site. In general I’d say that the LDP will take up a lot of agricultural land for house building and they don’t make any more of it. There is a genuine fear that food production might be affected by the disappearance of agricultural land. This is a brown field site and is the type of land Welsh Government would favour for development. Brown field land is not without its issues. The contamination aspect will have to be dealt with.”

The Herald asked Cllr. Lenny, ‘What legal advice has the council received from Welsh Water on the ongoing proceedings before the European Court and what measures will you put in place to deal with the already over capacity sewage system in the Bury Port area?

Cllr. Lenny replied, “I asked that question at yesterday’s meeting. We mustn’t forget that the committee is minded to approve. If a request to call in is received it is taken out of our hands. We are in a fairly ambiguous position at the moment. Yesterday’s decision wasn’t a decision as such. It was an agreement in principle if you like. The E.U. press release in March mentions places in England and it mentions Llanelli and Gowerton. Obviously we are well aware of the situation there. It is not a new one. Welsh water is playing catch up on this however they are implementing innovative and environmentally positive resolutions.”

We pushed Cllr. Lenny on the question, ‘Are you confident you will hold out to put measures in place to deal with the over capacity of the sewage system in the Llanelli area?

He told our reporter, “This is a large site and has to be seen in the context of the Llanelli and Burry Inlet area. The committee felt and were unanimously minded to approve all six applications. They supported the application should I say. This site cannot be left as it is. Pembrey and Burry Port town council were very much behind the development. There are challenging factors and these will have to be addressed. There will also have to be safety measures put in place for the railway.”

Cllr. Lenny was asked about comments made by local councillor Patricia Jones, which seemed to predetermine the outcome of the planning application. Cllr. Lenny said, “We have free predisposition as a condition under the Localism Act. What we have to how is that we have an open mind. If I may say so, one of the local members speaking to the evening post said ‘this must go ahead’. This is plainly predetermination but she is on the sub-committee. We also consult with our solicitor.”

When asked in what circumstances the council would take legal action to push through the development Cllr. Lenny replied, “At the moment the ball is very much in the Welsh Governments court. You will be aware that the Welsh Government is a partner on the site. This is a key site. The school is a key part of the site. I can’t pre-empt what the Welsh Governments decision would be nor the council’s decision would be regarding legal action. Given that all members were unanimous in minding to support the development the council would take all reasonable steps to try and implement the development.”

Cllr. Lenny was asked why the amount of money promised under a Section 106 agreement had been reduced and whether the council could renegotiate. He told the Herald: “It is a source of concern for me as a member of the planning committee. Before coming to the chair I would always challenge any reduction in Section 106 contributions and indeed any reduction in percentage to affordable housing. One part of the development has 20% and just 10% in the other one. I asked this question and the answer was that clearing the site of contamination is a prime factor in the cost hence the 10%. I was always challenge and question in affordable housing. As the county council is a partner in the housing venture I hope that the county council’s involvement in this development will make that 20% more watertight.”

Cllr. Lenny wanted to reiterate that the development had a positive side and said, “The Welsh government challenged the application previously on the flooding issue. I don’t know if there were lesser issues involved at that time. It hasn’t been called in they have put an Article 18 stop on it. This is a key site within the county due to it being a brown field site being vacant for many years. It has potential not only for housing development but also for employment and a much-needed Welsh medium school. This is a brown field site, which would take pressure off building on green field land. Despite the many problems on the site, it is a challenging site and they will have to be addressed, hopefully it will be a key site, which will give employment education and homes to people in this part of Carmarthenshire. Obviously the retail application is outline. Tesco asked for permission but as you are aware Tesco have their own issues at the moment and are closing smaller supermarkets at the moment. I am not sure where they stand in the context of this development.”

Our reporter asked Cllr. Lenny what kind of reassurances would local businesses get.

He said, “Lessons can be learned from what has happened in Llanelli. The Trostre development has damaged the town centre. In Carmarthen the development has been close to the centre and Carmarthen has become the fourth most successful commercial centre in Wales. Any large retail developer has to be close to the smaller shops so that they benefit from the extra footfall.”

Finally the Herald asked about the contentious issue of parking. Cllr. Lenny said, “We are looking a while down the road but there is enough elbowroom on the brown field site for parking and I would like to see any parking sites to be equidistant from any development and the small businesses.”

Carmarthenshire County Council issued a press release at 4:30 pm on (June 3). It reads,

REDEVELOPMENT OF BURRY PORT

Ambitious plans to redevelop Burry Port have moved a step closer today as the Welsh Government has lifted a stopper notice preventing approval of a major element of the proposals. Yesterday’s meeting of the county council’s planning committee unanimously voted that it was minded to approve six planning applications – for up to 230 homes at the former Grillo site, for infrastructure for that site, for a 134 unit housing development alongside the former Grillo site, for construction of a 330-place Welsh Medium Primary School off Burrows Terrace, for a commercial leisure development at Burry Port Harbour East, for employment space alongside Silver Terrace.

The council could not make a decision to actually grant permission following a Welsh Government intervention before the previous planning committee giving formal notice under Article 18 that it was not in a position to approve any of the six applications including the school. But today the Welsh Government removed the notice covering the plans for 230 homes on the Grillo site after deciding not to ‘call in’ the application for the Minister to decide, as the issues raised are of no more than local importance. A decision on the notices covering the other five applications will follow soon.

A decision approving the 230- home application can be released once the Section 106 legal agreement on community benefits is agreed. Planning committee members had visited the sites in Burry Port before yesterday’s meeting. There has been a long history to the issue with Welsh Government maps showing the area, at one time, liable to flooding. The County Council challenged this but the maps could not be changed in time for the area to be included in the Local Development Plan.

The Welsh Government has delayed allowing the council to make a decision so that the Minister can give careful consideration to the issues that prompted the stopper notice. Flooding is one of the concerns. The council’s executive board member for regeneration and leisure Cllr Meryl Gravell said, “Yesterday the planning committee decided that the local authority is minded to approve these developments and today the Welsh Government has lifted the notice preventing us making a decision on a significant part of the plans. It is brilliant news. We are supporting these schemes in order to deliver a longstanding economic strategy of providing jobs and enhancing the environment in Burry Port. We are hoping to see the notices lifted soon on the other applications and to seeing speedy progress made on the plans to take Burry Port forward.”

Council Leader Cllr Emlyn Dole said, “This is excellent news. I’m pleased to see that the Welsh Government has moved quickly on this application and look forward to a quick lifting of the notices on the other five. Then we can move forward with the whole scheme. “I said at the beginning of my leadership that regeneration is at the heart of my vision for the county. Jobs, houses, and leisure are central to that.”

 

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Four charged with conspiracy to supply class A drugs

Carli Newell

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FOUR people have been arrested and charged as part of an investigation into an organised crime gang supplying class A drugs from London to Aberystwyth, Llanelli and Swansea.

Dyfed-Powys Police, with support from The Met Police, carried out warrants at four addresses on July 21, resulting in four arrests.

Mohammed Osman, aged 23, Yonis Mohammed, aged 20, Salman Mohamoud, aged 23 – all from Islington – and Amy Simmons, aged 21, from Dulwich were charged with a total of 12 offences:

  • Mohammed Osman: Two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine,
  • Yonis Mohammed: Two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine.
  • Salman Mohamoud: Conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine
  • Amy Simmons: Conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine.

All four appeared at Llanelli Magistrates’ Court on Friday, July 23, where they were remanded in custody. They are due to appear at Swansea Crown Court for their next hearing on August 20.

The investigation is being carried out by the Ceredigion Serious and Organised Crime Team, Aberystwyth CID and the Operation Orochi command of the Met Police.

Detective Sergeant Steve Jones said: “These four arrests and charges are the result of a coordinated approach to target an organised crime gang we believe is running a county lines operation into the Dyfed-Powys Police force area.

“We will continue to work diligently to disrupt gangs of this kind, to prevent the supply of illegal substances into our community.

“I would like to thank all officers involved, as well as the Met Police for their part in the operation.”

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New children’s play area in Bryn as part of new council housing development

Carli Newell

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A NEW children’s play area has opened in time for the summer holidays in Bryn, Llanelli as part of a new £5.9million council housing development.

Carmarthenshire County Council is building 32 new homes on land close to the Dylan housing estate in Bryn.

The scheme will be made up of 22 two-bedroom homes, four two-bedroom bungalows and six four-bedroom homes and is part of the council’s ongoing drive to deliver more affordable homes across the county. It has been part funded through the Welsh Government’s Affordable Housing Grant.

The development also includes a new children’s play area, funded by the council in partnership with Llanelli Rural Council, which will take over the running and maintenance of the play area on completion.

Executive Board Member for Housing Cllr Linda Evans said: “I am delighted the park has been completed in time for the summer holidays for the local children to enjoy.

“We are committed to delivering more affordable housing across Carmarthenshire and this development will benefit dozens of families in Llanelli, as well as proving much needed facilities for the local community.

“I would like to thank the rural council for collaborating with this us on this and I hope the children are thrilled with it.”

Before designing the play area, the rural council liaised with local schoolchildren to find out what play equipment they wanted at their new park.

Llanelli Rural Council Chairman Cllr Tegwen Devichand said: “The council is delighted to be working in partnership with Carmarthenshire County Council to provide this wonderful new play area for the community.

“The opening of the play area couldn’t have been better timed to coincide with the school holidays. I hope the local children will enjoy the range of challenging play equipment on offer and that they have lots of fun using it over the summer.”

The housing development is due to be completed by the beginning of 2022.

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Burry Port Harbour lighthouse overhaul tops council’s £2million investment

Carli Newell

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A £2MILLION investment in Burry Port Harbour is nearing completion, topped off with the iconic lighthouse getting a fresh lick of paint.

Carmarthenshire County Council is behind a range of improvements to maintain and restore the historic harbour which is one of the county’s most loved and well visited beauty spots.

Restoration of the Grade II listed harbour walls, undertaken under the guidance of CADW, will conclude within the next few weeks.

The council has also been working alongside The Marine Group, which operates the harbour, to improve mooring facilities. They are working closely with fishermen to bid for funding for new commercial pontoon infrastructure.

It will add to investment made over previous years which saw the council spend almost £1.5million on new pontoons, and over £300,000 in maintaining the harbour railings and bridge.

A local operator has agreed a lease for a cafe and public toilets on east side of Harbour, and the refurbishment of the old RNLI harbour office has recently started by The Marine Group (TMG) to create a harbour-side coffee house.

TMG has also invested in a state-of-the-art dredger which arrived at the harbour last autumn. Dredging is well underway and will continue until targeted depths are reached.

Boat lifting equipment and new fuelling points are also planned.

The council has introduced community safety officers to patrol the harbour assisting tourists and local people during the summer months, especially to advise around Covid regulations, as part of a tourism hotspot plan to take care of issues such as parking, litter, street cleansing, enforcement and signage.

Temporary car parking surfacing has also been laid on the east side along with new pay and display facilities ahead of a wider multi-million regeneration plan that will transform the harbour with a mix of housing, commercial and leisure space covering around 13 acres of prime development site.

Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, Executive Board Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism, said: “We are proud of our continued investment in Burry Port Harbour. We are spending millions restoring and maintaining historic features that are much-loved by local people and visitors who come from far and wide to enjoy what the harbour has to offer.

“We continue to work closely alongside The Marine Group and Pembrey and Burry Port Town Council to plan and prioritise works and ongoing maintenance. We are as keen as everyone else to ensure it is well-maintained and continues to be a place people can enjoy.

“We appreciate that there has been some upheaval during these improvement works but we ask people to understand that our investment will make Burry Port Harbour an even better place for the future.”

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