THE HERALD has uncovered the web of companies and directors behind proposals to take control of Parc Howard.
Having seen internal Council documents and emails, this newspaper is able to expose that discussions have been taking place between representatives of the County Council and Loca Ventures Ltd for some months.
Those discussions have resulted in very detailed proposals being made to the local authority in respect of the scheme to take Parc Howard into private hands. It is evident from the restricted circle of officers and Executive Board members who have been briefed about the scheme that local Town Council and local county councillors have been deliberately kept in the dark about the stage negotiations between the parties have reached.
The County Council is looking to offload the operation of some parks and play areas to community and town councils in Carmarthenshire as a means of saving money.
Over the past three years, Carmarthenshire Council has saved £44 million by slashing non-statutory services, including parks and play areas.
In a bizarre meeting with Llanelli Town Council earlier this year, then Executive Board member for Technical Services Colin Evans told stunned councillors that he would give no information about which parks the Council wished to offload as it was not obliged to do so.
Part of the proposals include a transfer of employees from the Council to the development company and the Council continuing to contribute to the maintenance of the grounds for three years after any transfer of lease. In the case of the latter, the Council would be bankrolling the grounds maintenance while forgoing control over the nature and quality of the works carried out.
While the information document sent to Llanelli Town Council details ambitious plans for expenditure in the first year, no indication is given as to how a small company with a negative net book value would be able to access funding for such schemes without further dipping into the public purse for grant support.
Perhaps part of the answer to that question lies in the web of directorships, links to so-called ‘wealth management’ companies, and offshore corporations that seem to lie at Loca Ventures’ heart.
The activities of Loca’s ‘introducer’, Tony Rees, which included a display of finger-pointing anger at a meeting of the Park Howard Association held recently which was attended by some local councillors and Llanelli MP Nia Griffith, combined with the cloak and dagger way negotiations have proceeded, have caused widespread disquiet.
Hengoed councillor Sian Caiach told us: “I’m shocked that our head of corporate property, Jonathan Fearn, and other officers are negotiating a deal to sell off this park and stately home without even informing Llanelli Councillors like myself and certainly not informing the public!”
The Chair of the Parc Howard Association is UKIP election candidate Ken Rees. However, a release from UKIP states appears to distance itself from its would-be MP.
“UKIP Llanelli would like to confirm that it was not previously aware of any meetings that have taken place between Ken Rees, the Chairman of the Parc Howard Association and the private company Loca Ventures regarding the future of Parc Howard. Any meetings that Ken Rees has taken part in regarding Parc Howard will have been done in his own capacity as Chairman of the Parc Howard Association and not as a representative from UKIP. Carmarthenshire Country Council has also reportedly met with this private company Loca Ventures to discuss the future of the Parc but have released no details.
“UKIP is fully committed to the future of Parc Howard, we also believe that it should remain in the public’s hands and run for the benefit of the people of Llanelli and for future generations to enjoy. UKIP believes that on all important local issues such as this the public should be kept fully informed, it should be up to the people of Llanelli who decide what the future of Parc Howard is.
“UKIP would therefore hold a local referendum if there was any proposal regarding a change of ownership of Parc Howard: let’s let the people of Llanelli decide, not the politicians.”
We spoke to Labour’s Calum Higgins, who told us: “We want Parc Howard kept in public hands and transferring ownership is something we would totally oppose. It’s not been done in a transparent way, and we are finding we are unable to get information from the council about the transaction.”
Cllr Higgins continued: “We will be leading the campaign to get the answers the public want and will be asking tough questions of the Council to make sure that information is out in the open.”
The Herald understands that the County Council is targeting seven parks in Llanelli, including Parc Howard and People’s Park.
The mansion house and grounds were gifted to the community of Llanelli in 1912 by Sir Stafford and Lady Howard who acquired the former Buckley Estate and gifted a 999-year lease to the then Llanelli Urban Council on terms that included
The estate to be laid out by a competent gardener as a people’s park
The house to be converted into a local museum or otherwise used for the benefit or enjoyment of the public
The whole to be kept in order in order for the purpose to which it is devoted
No intoxicating liquor to be sold on any part of the house or councils grounds
The rent to be £5 per annum and the work to be completed (so) that the park can be opened to the public on 21st September, 1912
In its edition dated January 4 1912, The Llanelly Mercury said: “We hope that these conditions will be sufficiently safeguarded in the deed of transfer, so as not to allow any quibbling over matters in the future.”
The current lease is held by Carmarthenshire County Council.
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Llanelli becomes a Covid-19 ‘health protection zone’
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:
- 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 email@example.com or by calling 0300 333 2222.
Tir Coed build outdoor classroom for Cross Hands Primary
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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Local sailor taking on virtual London marathon
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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