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Secret links behind the Parc Howard bid

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Emotionally charged meeting: Residents ask questions

Emotionally charged meeting: Residents ask questions

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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Tip off leads to pensioner’s drug stash

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A BRIEFCASE full of drugs has been recovered during a raid in Swansea suburb.
Police acting on information provided by a member of the public executed a warrant in Gorseinon and recovered a large quantity of cannabis.
A man was arrested on suspicion of possession of the class B drug, with intent to supply.
A South Wales Police spokesman said: “At around 5.40pm on Wednesday, January 6, following an intelligence led operation, a 68 year-old man from Gorseinon was arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply cannabis.
“He was taken to Swansea central police station for questioning. He has been released under investigation”.

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New Year – new start – for two seals released back into the wild

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Two grey seal pups have been returned to the wild for the New Year following months of RSPCA rehabilitation.

They were released at Port Eynon, Gower, Swansea, on 3 January as the sun rose – just days into 2021 – by  RSPCA animal rescue officer Ellie West and RSPCA inspector Keith Hogben – who caught the beautiful event on camera. One seal had been originally rescued from Abereiddy in Pembrokeshire – the other from Trevone in Cornwall. They were both found in distress, underweight and with injuries.

Ellie said: “This was such a lovely release – to see them both enter the sea happily where they belong with the sun rising in the distance was just glorious. It was a lovely way to start the new year.”

The seals had been transferred to the Welsh coast from RSPCA Mallydams Wood Wildlife Centre in Hastings the previous day and had spent the night at the RSPCA Llys Nini Branch seal unit.

“These two pups – nicknamed BB8 and Luke Skywaker – have been in the fantastic care of RSPCA Mallydams Wood Wildlife Centre who have given them the best rehabilitation over the past few months. It’s always fantastic to hear when they have put on the appropriate weight and can be released back into the wild,” added Ellie.

Ellie had been involved in the initial care of the seal rescued from Abereiddy Beach back in October.

“He was a weaned pup that had pretty much moulted out all his baby white lanugo coat, so he was fully weaned, but he was found quite underweight, lethargic and had the snotty face of a sickly pup,” she said. “He also had a lump on the top of his neck.

“He was reported to myself and Keith and we asked Welsh Marine Life Rescue (WMLR) to attend who very kindly collected him and cared for him for a few days until we were able to transfer him to the wildlife centre.

“Once again we want to thank WMLR for all their assistance, expertise and all their hard work this past season. We could not do what we do without them.”

At RSPCA Mallydams Wood Wildlife Centre the seal had the lump removed under anaesthetic by the vet team.

The second seal from Cornwall came into RSPCA care in November and weighed just 16.3kg. The seal had suffered a few small wounds and was a bit wheezy, with centre staff treating him for lungworm and administering antibiotics. When he left the centre the seal – who was named Luke Skywalker – weighed a healthy 40kg.

Before release, the seals were given identification tags in their hind flippers for ID purposes. The RSPCA often receives good feedback from sightings – and the scientific results received reveal that seals that go on from rehabilitation survive in the wild.

The RSPCA advises that if members of the public spot a seal on a beach that they think might need help, the best thing is to observe them from a distance and do not approach them.

Seals are wild animals and have a nasty bite. Never try to return a seal to water yourself, as you may put yourselves and the seal at risk by doing this. It is also advised they keep dogs away from any seal and keep them on leads on beaches that have seal colonies too.

It’s not unusual for a seal pup to be alone, as seal mums leave their pups very early on in life. So if the seal pup looks fit and healthy and shows no signs of distress, it should firstly be monitored from a safe distance for 24 hours.

If you see a pup whose mother hasn’t returned within 24 hours, is on a busy public beach, or if you think the seal may be sick or injured, please stay at a safe distance and call the RSPCA’s advice and cruelty line on 0300 1234 999. An unhealthy seal pup looks thin (but not bony) with a visible neck, like a dog.

There is more information on the RSPCA website about what to do if you see a seal or pup on the beach alone.

If you have an animal welfare concern or find an animal in distress please call 0300 1234 999.

This winter, the RSPCA expects to rescue thousands of animals from neglect, cruelty and suffering. Already this Christmas we received more than 44,000 calls to our cruelty line but the calls to our rescue line are not stopping so neither will we. To help our rescue teams continue to reach the animals who desperately need us this winter, visit www.rspca.org.uk/xmas and Join the Winter Rescue #JoinTheRescue

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Community Midwife home for Christmas after 85 day battle with COVID-19

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SHARON GEGGUS, a community midwife from Llanelli is home for the holidays after a three month battle with coronavirus.
Sharon began to feel unwell in September, experiencing shortness of breath and a high temperature.
As these symptoms persisted and her condition began to worsen, she was admitted to Prince Philip Hospital in Llanelli on 16 September, with a temperature of 41°C.During her stay, she credits the support of her family and the staff at Prince Philip Hospital for helping her get through the ordeal. Speaking of her experience in hospital, Sharon says: “I was sedated for about five weeks, but I was told that the staff were playing music for me. They had contacted my family to find out what my favourite songs were, and they would play those.
“It was really hard but the hardest times I didn’t really know about – my family were the people going through it. I can’t stress how well the staff looked after me. I used the iPads provided through the hospital to keep in contact with my family and the staff would also help me phone and communicate with my family.  
“The ITU staff and the staff on Ward 9 where I went for rehabilitation were amazing. I’m a community midwife myself and I would obviously treat someone how I wanted to be treated – but they really went above and beyond.
They would sit and chat with me when I was feeling down and they made sure I was in contact with my family all the time, even letting me hang up pictures of my family on my wall.”
Sharon was clapped out of the hospital on 10 December, 85 days after being admitted. Even though she is home, the road to recovery isn’t over.
She says: “There’s still a long way to go but I’m getting there. I can get around using a walking frame and only need oxygen when I’m really moving about. It’s so nice to be home, I think you just sort of relax a bit and move around more and just feel better for being back with your family.”
Reflecting on her experience, Sharon offered this advice to others with COVID-19: “Keep in touch with your family as much as you possibly can, it’s what got me through. I wouldn’t really know what else to say, just keep positive and keep in touch with your loved ones, that’s what really helps.”
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