19-YEAR-OLD Stefan Ryszewski was Born in Felinfoel, Llanelli and attended Ysgol Y Strade. A fluent Welsh speaker, he is studying law at Swansea university.
So far, you might think,the above is not exceptional in and of itself. However, Stefan is the Welsh Conservative party’s nominee to stand for the Llanelli seat in May 2016. We began by suggesting that the public could think Stefan very young to be an AM.
Confidently, he responded: “People trying to encourage young people to become interested in and get into politics. It is strange that when young people do become interested and do get involved, the same people seem critical or wary. “We have to encourage young people into elected positions, otherwise how are we going to encourage our youth to get involved and engaged in politics? I have always taken a keen interest in local issues in Llanelli. I am a local lad and it would only be for Llanelli that I would like to stand. I studied politics to A level in school and that galvanised my interest.”
Llanelli is a Labour stronghold and we suggested that Stefan faced a tough task. Stefan shot back: “In Westminster, maybe, but it is not so much in the Assembly. It is only a majority of about 80 that the Labour Party has over Plaid Cymru. Yes, it is going to be tough and I am going to have to face challenges, but I am a local person and I want to show them what the Conservative message is all about.”
The Welsh Conservatives have never had much luck in Llanelli and so we asked Stefan whether he would be following the message from Westminster or from Wales. He told our reporter: “We will be giving a message from the Welsh Conservatives and the manifesto that we will bring out in due course. There will be issues we won’t agree on with the Westminster Government but you will also find that within the Labour Party.”
Stefan has tweeted that he was in favour of air strikes in Syria, what had made up his mind to support the call for military action? He said: “ I saw the people that were against the air strikes offering no alternative. They sat back and said they didn’t agree with air strikes but they didn’t offer an alternative for what the government should do. I voice my opinion, but as an Assembly candidate the discussions has to be on devolved issues. I would have voted for the air strikes if I was an MP but as an AM we don’t have that power to launch air strikes.”
The Herald asked Stefan what he believed were the issues facing the people of Llanelli. He was clear and targeted the cuts to public services which have taken place over recent years: “The issue facing the people of Llanelli are the cuts in the education budget. It is £18 million over three years. Yet the Council keeps on coming out with vanity projects. The Council’s priorities are all wrong.
“With our policy as Welsh Conservatives we would directly fund schools. That would be equivalent to £214 extra per pupil per school. It would probably be more when we consider the cuts that come into place. We want to give children in Wales the best opportunity in life. I know the issues the Welsh language faces here in Llanelli and I believe in aspiring to have the means to better yourself. I don’t think we suffer from a lack of ambition, I believe it is a lack of ambition from our elected representatives. Maybe people will see aspiration in a young person like myself. It is not fair to say the people lack ambition.”
An ambitious Strategic Plan has been produced for the next fifteen years. We asked Stefan for his view: “I welcome investment into Llanelli and Carmarthenshire but we need to look at priorities. We are seeing these cuts coming into areas like health and education. The discussion needs to take place with the people of Llanelli and Carmarthenshire.
“We welcome jobs and growth but we need to give local businesses the opportunity to grow. If every business in Wales took on one extra person there would be no unemployment in Wales. “I take a keen interest in local politics and I have never seen this Strategic Plan document. I think that Plaid are hypocritical. Their campaign was based on free parking. They are now in a position to do so and we have been offered free parking between 3 and 5 o’clock. A lot of people will be picking their children up from school or just coming home from work at that time.
We need to offer people two hours free parking when they want them so they can come into the town and make their purchases. We showed Stefan some of the figures the Council is using to underpin its Strategic Development Plan and asked if he was impressed:“I would much prefer to see existing successful local business people getting first bite of any investment opportunities. We need to support local people and local businesses to grow. The figures we are seeing do not add up. I think we must welcome tourism but I am skeptical about where they obtain the figures in this document from. I will be making a request to find out more about them.”
The County Council plan to cut litter picking in Carmarthenshire but claim in the Strategic Development Plan that Llanelli will be cleaner as a result of their vision. We asked Stefan for his opinion: “We have had a lot of complaints about litter in streets. The council did respond but we shouldn’t have to complain to them. I will be doing litter picks as a candidate myself to show support for the workforce and show that we do need these people to clean our streets.”
We asked Stefan what he thinks is the key priority for Llanelli: “Not enough is being done to bring local businesses into town. I would like to see young people getting opportunities and as a Welsh Conservative Government we would abolish business rates of rateable businesses up to £12,000. We do need to give young people from whatever walk of life the means to go out and start up their own business. We need to make use of our existing empty buildings and help the town centre. We know the out of town developments have killed the town. We need to start promoting the town centre.
Stefan will be up against Lee Waters (Lab), Helen Mary Jones (Plaid) and Sian Caiach (People First). and he was diplomatic with his assessments of them: “I see them as all very strong candidates. Helen Mary has been an Assembly Member in the past with a track record. “I have my doubts over the town centre and Prince Phillip hospital. I would like to sit down with the candidates and discuss how we can work together for Llanelli. We will differ but that is all part of a good debate. I would like to discuss what our vision and share ideas. Llanelli really does need someone local and someone who is going to fight for Llanelli.
“ My Grandfather came over here after the war and my whole family live here. I am not from the landed gentry. Llanelli has never been a Conservative seat but I am here for a long time and hopefully I can change that.” Stefan was also very definite about what the County Council should be focusing their attention on. He said, “Parking is a real issue in the town and we need more free parking especially for elderly people. We need to give councils the opportunity to freeze council tax.
“It has risen here in Carmarthenshire by a substantial amount and yet services are still being cut. There are calls for savings but we need to make the council more efficient and accountable. The council tax is not there to put up just to raise money. “We need the best people we can get to run our councils. I would welcome more people from Llanelli on the executive board. I think that the council should be led by our elected councillors and represent us.
The executives have refused to cut their wages by 10% and that is a huge concern to me. They use the word ‘savings’ but they are CUTS. “They are using those cuts to fund other projects. It is all well and good making savings but we need to ring fence health education and the local economy. However the council tries to dress things up, a cut is a cut.”
£121k watersports funding announced for Llanelli beauty spot
• Welsh Water, Natural Resources Wales, Llanelli Rural Council & Canoe Wales has secured ‘Access to Water’ funding.
• Visitors will be able to enjoy paddlesports (canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding), windsurfing and angling.
• Site expected to attract 90k+ visitors a year.
The recent announcement of the development of the Swiss Valley reservoirs in Carmarthenshire has been given a boost with the confirmation of an ‘Access to Water’ grant from Welsh Government, worth £121k, that will enable visitor access to the Lower Lleidi reservoir for paddle sports and angling.
The funding will realise plans to bring back a range of paddlesports to the reservoir, including stand-up paddle boarding, canoeing and kayaking. It will also enable bank angling through the creation of recreational zones. A range of improvements to the surrounding infrastructure are also planned to include a boat wash for biosecurity and the creation of paths and a pontoon that allows easy access to water for people of all abilities, and the refurbishment of toilet facilities.
Developing the Swiss Valley Reservoirs is expected to attract 90k+ visitors a year to the site, in line with Covid19 regulations. The ‘Access to Water’ funding is an important milestone in achieving shared ambitions for the site, and to support the funding application, a survey of local canoe clubs, outdoor activity providers and anglers was conducted which found a strong demand for access to the water for their activities. The feedback was that this is likely to generate a huge amount of interest from clubs and providers given it’s ideal geographical location. The community adoption scheme means that local people are offering to invest their own time to help look after this jewel of a community asset, and care for it into the future.
The project is well placed to support the delivery of The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act (Wales) 2015, which requires public bodies in Wales to think about the long-term impact of their decisions, to work better with people, communities and each other, and to prevent persistent problems such as poverty, health inequalities and climate change. Whilst Welsh Water is not a public body, it is committed to working in partnership with Llanelli Rural Council, Natural Resources Wales and Canoe Wales in the spirit of the legislation.
Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, said: “This is an excellent example of a scheme which increases opportunities for outdoor recreation and provides safe access to water for people of all abilities. The development of these reservoirs will enable local people and visitors to gain more enjoyment from this beauty spot in line with covid19 guidelines and help to support a green recovery in Wales. I hope the success of this project will encourage development of many more similar opportunities over the coming years.”
Welsh Water Chief Executive Peter Perry said, “Access to blue space is proven to be positively associated with health and wellbeing. Swiss Valley is an important asset for the local community and visitors alike. This funding is a major milestone in our efforts to bring this cherished community asset back to its former glory and make it more accessible, for the health and wellbeing of everyone.”
Jen Browning, Chief Executive of Canoe Wales, the national governing body for paddlesport in Wales, added, “Over the past eight months, we have seen an unprecedented amount of demand for canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, but the limited number of venues in Wales suitable for new paddlers has always been a major obstacle. This funding will ensure that Swiss Valley can play an enormously important role in making it possible for people of all abilities to enjoy the water, and for many to discover a passion for paddlesport and develop a deep connection with the outdoors.”
Dave MacCallum, Specialist Advisor for Water Access & Recreation at Natural Resources Wales and Chairman of NAFW Access to Water Sub-Group said: “We are delighted to have been a part of this important collaboration which will open up these new waters for responsible, inclusive recreation in South West Wales. NRW is committed to doing all we can to enable more people to enjoy Wales’ countryside more easily and responsibly – to take advantage of the many health and wellbeing benefits that getting outside can bring. Benefitting from bespoke disabled paddle-sport access facilities and a Biosecurity station promoting and enabling the Check Clean Dry initiative, the Swiss Valley reservoir project paves the way for future access to Welsh still waters so that current and future generations can continue to enjoy their visits to some of Wales’ most spectacular landscapes”
Llanelli Rural Council Leader, Cllr Tegwen Devichand said “the funding is marvellous news for the community and will enable the council to develop its plans for the reservoir in earnest. Much of the preliminary work associated with the first phase of infrastructure improvements can now get underway, in fact some work has commenced already. The physical adaptations to refurbish the toilet block, visitor car park and access to the water to facilitate paddle sports and the angling fraternity is scheduled to be completed by March 2021, but work won’t stop there. Moreover, the community response to our plans for the reservoir has been overwhelming; the council has received a great deal of local and regional support and a number of interest groups and individuals have come forward to help us deliver our plans as well as to offer their services. This is greatly appreciated and bodes well for the future.”
Llanelli Yodel colleague celebrates 30-year anniversary
Beverley Smith, a valued member of the Llanelli depot’s team, is celebrating her 30-year anniversary with UK independent parcel carrier, Yodel.
Beverley joined Yodel in 1990, when it was originally known as Home Shopping Network, as an Inbound Sorter and then moved onto a Customer Service Support role over 28 years ago. Beverly supports the Llanelli Management Team, provides customer service to clients and customers alike and is always on hand to answer any driver queries.
To celebrate her anniversary, Kay Dodd, Service Centre Manager, presented Beverley with £750 of Very vouchers and ordered in a cooked breakfast to celebrate.
Customer Service Support Advisor, Beverley Smith commented: “My time with Yodel has been very fulfilling – constantly challenging – keeping me on my toes. I’ve been with the company so long that I remember having to write with a pen and paper and have to fax documents to the head office daily – I can’t say I miss those days!
“I have made many close friends during the 30 years at the business and I truly have enjoyed the hard working and happy atmosphere at Llanelli every day.”
Kay Dodd, Depot Manager, added: “Bev is a valued member of my team here at Llanelli, she provides excellent customer service to customers, clients and colleagues. She has a courteous and caring attitude and goes beyond her duties to ensure everyone has a positive experience at Yodel Llanelli. Thank you for everything Bev!”
To join Beverley and the team at Yodel’s Llanelli depot, or to find out more about working for Yodel, and the roles and training available, visit www.yodelopportunities.co.uk or text ‘Deliver’ to 84433.
Preparatory works to start at key Stepney Street Building
Preparatory works are due to start on a key building in Llanelli Town Centre ahead of formal planning approval.
Number 49 Stepney Street is being redeveloped as part of a significant investment in the town centre to transform, regenerate and connect its key retails and leisure areas.
Carmarthenshire County Council has submitted plans which could see the former YMCA building retain much of its character whilst providing high quality living space and commercial units
The works would include the restoration of the front façade of the building, along with the retention of the perimeter wall, main internal structural walls and bringing back many original features such as the ornate staircase.
Subject to planning approval the rest of the building would be redeveloped to include two floors of commercial space on the ground and first floors, with eight two-bedroomed living spaces on the upper floors.
There will also be residents parking spaces on the ground floor.
The works currently underway will prepare the building for redevelopment and include stripping and clearance of old materials.
Carmarthenshire County Council leader Cllr Emlyn Dole said: “Many generations of people from Llanelli will have special memories of using this fantastic building over the years and it is such a shame to see it lay empty and falling into disrepair – we’re proud to be leading on this scheme to breathe new life into it once again.”
The council has already spent £4.5million buying empty shop units from private ownership, renovating and bringing them back in to use at affordable rental levels – all of them currently occupied by independent businesses
A Local Development Order has been put in place to simplify the planning process for property owners and potential investors
This project is being procured via the South West Wales Regional Contractors Framework. Carmarthenshire County Council has appointed a regional contractor who will develop the project alongside local supply chains.
For further information on this framework, email TSSWWRCF@carmarthenshire.gov.uk
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