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Council rejected ‘honest solution’

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‘Nothing to do with us’: Claims Council

‘Nothing to do with us’: Claims Council

A LLANELLI man has been fighting for answers from Carmarthenshire County Council regarding building work which took place on a neighbour’s property leaving his own home in what has been stated by numerous experts as in a ‘dangerous state’. Clive Edwards of Felinfoel Road has been struggling to get answers to questions regarding a number of issues. For 27 years Mr Edwards has sought answers and has been given the run around by council officers. Now, The Herald can expose that a report which recommended that the council hold its hands up and admit its error in a building dispute was concealed from Mr Edwards and the owner of the neighbouring property for 18 years.

Setting out the options to resolve the situation, the report’s author, G.A. Stephens, discounts options likely to be unacceptable to the owners of the neighbouring properties and recommends: ‘The Council admits to the fact that the wall should not have been approved in that condition and offers a contribution towards the cost of demolishing and rebuilding…’ Mr Stephens goes on to observe: ‘This is in my opinion the honest solution it may however make the Council liable in allowing the matter to drag on for 8 years and compensation claims could be made against the Council’. Instead of acting upon its recommendations, however, the council buried it and subsequently changed its position in 2002, claiming that counsel’s advice, in relation to which it claims legal privilege, suggests that the dispute is nothing to do with the council at all.

After burying the report, the council proceeded to fob off the parties. In 2002, when 12 years had elapsed since the defective works had been signed off, the matter reached the Executive Board. The Board was presented with legal advice from an external barrister. That advice ignored Mr Stephens’ ‘honest’ solution and any suggestion that the council make good on the grossly deficient approval given by a building inspector. It is apparent from the content of a letter from council employee Mark James to Nia Griffith MP dated July 10, 2007 that the council now claimed that regardless of the failings of the building inspector, it rejected civil liability for their incompetence. That letter also reveals that a police investigation was STILL ongoing into the works, the payment of grant money relating to them to a building company, and the circumstances which led to them being signed off as satisfactory.

It is not clear whether the Executive Board which approved the new line in 2002 was ever made aware of the report prepared by Mr Stephens some six years before. Even if they had been made aware of it – and if they were, the good faith of those members aware of its existence at that time, if any, is open to reasonable doubt – by 2002 the costs of compensating the property owners would have risen far above whatever they were in 1996. While it appears bizarre, however, that the council was prepared to change its position so dramatically, the owners of 41 and 43 Felinfoel Road were deliberately kept in the dark. The 1996 report’s existence only emerged after a Freedom of Information Act request made in 2014.

Until then, the council had not informed the parties of the proposal it contained to settle the matter 18 YEARS before the Freedom of Information Act request was made. Mr Edwards maintains that the 1996 report, had it been supplied to all concerned, would have enabled the proper course of action to take place. Instead, he says that the council undertook huge expenditure in defending a position the 1996 report conceded. If that was not bad enough, regardless of the content of the 1996 report, in 1991 the council had acknowledged its error in signing off the works by issuing an enforcement notice against the developer. The enforcement notice failed because the council had failed to issue it within the time limits set by statute. Cllr William Thomas who represents Mr Edwards as a County Councillor told the Herald: “I inherited this case in 1995 from the MP Denzil Davies. The case was at the time 7 years old.

The reports generated by both public and private experts on planning and building regulations that I read at that time clearly identified serious breaches of planning and building regulations under the 1989 Planning Act and 1984 Building Act.” Cllr Thomas continued: “The police recommended prosecution. I have written to two Welsh Assembly Ministers, the Planning Minister and Local Government Minister. The Ministers recommended speaking to the Ombudsman who is involved, however it is an option to request the Llanelli MP to refer this case to the Attorney General.” Cllr Thomas’ involvement in the case has resulted in a furious email from Mark James dated June 15, 2015.

In that email, Mr James berates Cllr Thomas for his involvement in the case and – in the spirit of the protocol governing officer members relations – goes on to call Cllr Thomas ‘misguided’, claims he has slandered officers, and suggests that he has ‘a file of documents’ to support proceedings in the High Court against Cllr Thomas. The email containing those comments, which are themselves capable of being construed as a barely veiled threat of legal action, accuses Cllr Thomas of trying to bully officers. In 2014, the Wales Audit Office determined that the council’s practice of issuing officers with indemnities for libel claims was unlawful. Most strikingly, however, it appears as though Mr James is himself completely oblivious to the content of the 1996 report, as he goes on to claim that the dispute is one into which the council should never have been ‘dragged in’. Mr Edwards, who is terminally ill, told us: “All I want from anyone is for this mess to be sorted out once and for all so I can rest in peace and know that my family will not suffer anymore.”

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Health

Give someone “the best gift” this Christmas by giving blood in West Wales

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A MOTHER who needed in-the-womb blood transfusions during her pregnancy and a man who depends on regular, lifesaving blood donations are encouraging communities across Wales to give “the best gift” this Christmas by donating blood.

The Welsh Blood Service is preparing to face Winter pressures on its services and is hoping their new Christmas campaign, “the best gift” will raise awareness about the importance of donating blood and the lifesaving difference it makes.

Last December over 900 donations of blood and blood products were needed across Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire to provide care to patients at Prince Philip, Withybush, Bronglais and Glangwili hospital. 

These donations play a vital role by supporting a range of treatments from helping recovering accident victims and patients with blood cancers to supporting mothers and new-born babies during childbirth.

Blood donations were needed during both pregnancies for mother of two, Shelley Parry. After her own life was saved during her first pregnancy, Shelley received several more blood transfusions directly into her womb to keep her youngest daughter alive.

Shelley explains: “Receiving blood is truly the best gift we have ever received. We’re forever indebted as a family to those who have taken the time to donate. Without the generosity of blood donors, quite simply, we wouldn’t be parents. Thanks to their selfless act, we can look forward to Christmas together as a family.

“It only takes one hour of your time to donate, if you can, please consider donating.”

Also supporting the campaign is blood recipient Giggs Kanias. Since birth, Giggs has received over 1,000 blood transfusions as part of his treatment for beta thalassaemia major, a severe blood disorder. Thanks to blood donors, Giggs is looking forward to celebrating Christmas with his family.

Giggs said: “I am so thankful to the incredible people who give blood. When I’m in hospital, I stare at the bags of blood being transfused into me and always wonder, who is the person that has helped me?

“I know the difference these people have made to my life and I’m so grateful to each and every one of them. Without their generosity, I wouldn’t be here today, I wouldn’t be a dad, or have had the opportunity to see my daughter grow up. Receiving blood is truly the best gift anyone could ever receive.”

Alan Prosser, Director of the Welsh Blood Service, said: “For patients like Giggs, receiving blood will be the best gift they receive this Christmas. It truly is the best gift you can give.

“Blood products have a short shelf life and is needed by hospitals 365 days a year, including Christmas day, to help support patients in need, which is why we can’t stop collecting.”

The Welsh Blood Service provides lifesaving blood products to 20 hospitals across Wales and four Wales Air Ambulance aircraft for use in emergencies.

Giggs and his daughter

Alan continues: “It is critical the service prepares. We need to build up blood stocks ahead of a potentially challenging winter, where seasonal illnesses and Covid-19 may exacerbate the usual winter pressures faced by the NHS.

“We are reaching out to communities across Wales to ask them to make a lifesaving blood donation and give “the best gift” this festive season.”

Do something amazing this Christmas. Give someone the best gift. Give blood. If you are aged 17 or over, book to give blood at: www.wbs.wales/Xmas21 or call 0800 252 266 today.

Appointments are available in Pembrokeshire on 7 December and January 6 and 20 in Tenby, 16 December and 27 January in Crymych, 20 December and 17 January in Haverfordwest, 10 January in Letterston Village Hall and 21 January in Milford Haven. 

Appointments are available in Carmarthenshire on 10 December in Pontyberum, 29 December and 13 January in Carmarthen, 28 January in Kidwelly Community Hall, 23 and 24 December and 4, 12 and 25 January in Parc Y Scarlets and 31 January in Llandeilo.

Appointments are available in Ceredigion on 14 December in Newcastle Emlyn, 14 January in Aberaeron and 18 January in Lampeter.

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Scrub removal at Pembrey to improve dunes for biodiversity

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If scrub growth is not controlled, it will cause species like lizards, orchids and dune pansies to suffer and disappear from our sand dunes.

SCRUB provides a splash of greenery in our sandy spaces, but too much scrub smothers the sand dunes and has a devastating effect on the specialist plants and invertebrates which live there. 

This winter Natural Resources Wales will be removing non-native, invasive plant species from areas of dune at Pembrey to help wildlife thrive.

The coast around Pembrey is home to 20% of all the plants in Wales and features a large sand dune system. Sand dunes are listed as the habitat type most at risk of biodiversity loss in Europe.

The Dynamic Dunescapes project, funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund and delivered in Wales by Natural Resources Wales (NRW), is working at Pembrey with Carmarthenshire County Council’s Outdoor Recreation Service to improve the condition of these dunes for wildlife.

Some non-native plant species, like the dense scrub plant sea buckthorn, are invasive and they are growing quickly in this dune system – spreading further across large areas of dune each year. 

Many of the dunes’ rare and specialist wildlife needs bare sand or low grassland habitat to survive and gets lost under or outcompeted by scrub. 

If scrub growth is not controlled, it will cause species like lizards, orchids and dune pansies to suffer and disappear from our sand dunes.

Scrub removal in specifically chosen locations will help to restore the habitat types that these species need, and this work will play a part in ensuring the dunes at Pembrey have a healthy, biodiverse future. 

Improving the ecological condition here will increase this coastal landscape’s resilience to other threats, such as extreme weather events and changing conditions brought on by climate change in the future.

The first phase of this work is to take place in Pembrey Country Park around Car Park 8 and the second will take place on the foredunes in front of the Welsh Government Woodland Estate which is managed by NRW. 

It is scheduled to begin in the last week of November and will last for two weeks. There will be a temporary closure of Factory Road outside the Country Park for one week – reopening on 5th December.

Ruth Harding, Senior Environment Officer at Natural Resources Wales, said:

“Sea Buckthorn control is important to improve the dune grassland habitats at Pembrey. Carmarthenshire County Council and Natural Resources Wales have carried out this type of habitat management over a number of years which has resulted in restoring the area to a dune grassland rich with different species of plants. 

You can best enjoy this during the summer months within the Pembrey Burrows and Saltings Local Nature Reserve. As part of Dynamic Dunescapes, we are now continuing this work, which will result in an overall increase in dune grassland habitat.”

Carmarthenshire County Council’s Cabinet Member responsible for leisure, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths said:

“Whilst scrub is a valuable habitat it does need management to maintain it in good condition for wildlife. Cutting back the scrub will ensure it does not spread into areas where it is not wanted and or where it can destroy other habitat.”

Dynamic Dunescapes is not the only project working to restore Pembrey’s important sand dunes. The EU LIFE-funded Sands of LIFE project, managed by (NRW), has also been undertaking sand dune management to improve conditions for wildlife in recent years. The two projects work closely to build on and support each other’s work.

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Community

Demolition of 4 Tys begins in Tyisha, Llanelli

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Four Tys

WORK to demolish the Four Tys housing blocks in Tyisha, Llanelli has started, marking the next exciting step in Carmarthenshire County Council’s plans to Transform the area. 

The demolition work is set to be completed by civil engineering contractor Walters over the next 20 weeks and will enable the build of modern, mixed-use housing which meets the needs of the community.

Improvements to existing homes and the creation of community facilities and green spaces will also form part of changes on the horizon for Tyisha. 

Cllr Linda Davies Evans, chair of the Transforming Tyisha steering group and cabinet member for housing said: “The demolition of the Four Tys marks an important step in the Transforming Tyisha project. Although this process will evoke powerful memories for many of the people who have lived and worked in Tyisha since the Four Tys were built in the 1960s, their demolition will enable us to provide the housing and facilities that the community needs.

Local residents and businesses who may be impacted by the demolition process will be contacted throughout to ensure minimum disruption.”

This forms a part of the council’s ambitious plans to regenerate the Tyisha ward and the wider Llanelli town centre area which is undergoing massive investment.

The council is also seeking a partner to develop new housing and create a vibrant community. An early market engagement exercise is currently live which gives potential partners the opportunity to express their interest in working with the council to transform the area.

Fresh and innovative ideas for this exciting project can be submitted to the council until December 7.

For more information on the early market engagement process or the council’s Transforming Tyisha regeneration project please visit www.carmarthenshire.gov.uk/tyisha

The demolition of the ‘Four Tys’ forms part of the council’s ambitious Transforming Tyisha project which looks to regenerate the area through increasing community safety, developing housing and community facilities and improving the environment.

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