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Trimsaran: Asset transfers in the spotlight

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Nia Griffith MP: Assets must be brought up to scratch before transfers

SHADOW SECRETARY of State for Wales, Nia Griffith MP chaired a public meeting at Trimsaran Rugby Club on Thursday (Jan 28) to discuss the future of the Miner’s Welfare Hall and the Trimsaran RFC changing rooms.

Both are threatened with closure if the local council and the community cannot find a solution to take over the assets and potentially fund their future.

Around 30 people attended the meeting and heard from representations including Nia Griffith MP, Sian Caiach (People First), Huw Woodford-Rock and Colin Davies of Kidwelly RFC.

Kicking off the meeting, Trimsaran RFC representative Huw Woodford- Rock said he thought that part of the Miner’s Welfare Hall should be demolished but that the main building was solid and should stay.

Huw told the meeting: “Trimsaran is now a designated primary rest and care centre in the event of floods.” Talking about the damage to the rugby club’s changing rooms, he said: “The council say they can’t do the repairs until the insurance people have been in. You have seen the recent floods and the insurance people are there the next day.

If the Club was looking to take over the facilities, Huw said: “The WRU in joint venture with Natwest will supply the club with banking staff to help with a business plan.”

Nia Griffith MP said: “I am sure most people are aware that the County Council is trying to get rid of their assets.” She asked if the community wanted to take on the responsibility of the assets. She continued: “Any of you who have been involved know how much hard work is involved. They key issue is to think of the uses you want it for when you look at a feasibility study. You have to think about whether it will be leased from the County or if the community council takes over the lease. If an independent body takes over, they may just disappear. The guidelines are that it has to remain where there is a clear ownership by County or Community Council.”

The representative of Kidwelly Park Association Colin Davies said that he had to lease their asset from the County Council: “Residents formed a Parks Association and all organisations were now responsible for the park.”

He continued: “We were the first to do this. We managed up to now through the generosity of local businesses, but we are struggling. If everyone does not pull together or you are wasting your time.

“We had to do it because the Town Council didn’t want anything to do with it. We were promised grants but we have not seen a penny of it yet. The County Council have said they will be giving us money in part payments.” Colin Davies concluded: “It has been a big saving for the County. They don’t have to employ anyone now. We were not being paid and we didn’t even have any machinery. We were fortunate that a businessman put some money forward. Pontarddulais RFC have gone through an Asset Transfer. The council paid them up front. It cost us £15,000 and we did the work ourselves. We had nothing from the County or the Town Council.” One member of the rugby club committee said that the club had been in communication with the County Council since January 2015: “We went to the Welsh Rugby Union and had to see a man called Geoff Roach who was sitting on the Asset Transfer Committee of Carmarthenshire County Council. “We had to go and see him to arrange a meeting with the County Council Asset Transfer Team. We met them on April 2, 2015. Don’t think for a minute they are trying to help you. If they had got away with it you would still be using the leisure centre to get the money to maintain the changing rooms. We have been active for the last 12 months in trying to get something done.”

Sian Caiach of People First said that she had a number of projects on the asset transfer list.

Addressing the meeting, she told the audience: “The county thought it would be a good idea to get rid of these assets. They offered £10,000 per project. We had 13 and had to drop a lot of them.”

She advised that Trimsaran RFC should negotiate as hard as they could and that they needed to get Meryl Gravel on their side as she had an enormous amount of influence.

Cllr Caiach continued: “A lot of assets are being neglected. We need to make sure the assets are looked after and handed over in A1 condition. We cannot be responsible for those costs right at the start. The council still own these assets and it is their responsibility. The whole idea is to make people take over the assets we already own and have paid for from our own council tax. That money will be diverted somewhere else and called a saving. There are councils and clubs who just can’t afford to do anything.

“Nobody knew that the policy of the County Council would be to get rid of everything. The County Council have not thought this through.”

Speaking after the meeting about the future for Trimsaran RFC and the county’s assets Nia Griffith told The Herald: “Trimsaran has a fantastic reputation for sport. The changing rooms are integral in being able to offer sport to all sorts of age groups. They do have the will and enthusiasm to take over those changing rooms. They are willing to sign a lease with the council but they want the facilities handed over in A1 condition. They need to be ready to be used by next winter.

“We understand there have been problems with asset transfer but you would think by now that they would have learned and the process should become straightforward. It needs to be efficient and the facilities need to be handed over in a way where they can be used with a proper lease agreement.”

Expressing reservations about the way asset transfers are being handled, the Llanelli MP continued: “The other issue is the concern about the asset transfer programme where the county is taking money from the reserves for vanity projects, things we don’t really need yet rather than making sure the assets they do have are up to standard. We want the repairs done and either kept on by the council or handed over fairly. What we don’t want is the neglect of these assets and deliberately letting them get run down whereby nobody can afford to get them done up. We have all paid for these assets. We need them repaired and the discussions to take place between all concerned to make sure the hand over can be cost effective and sustainable. The example of Kidwelly where they have worked so hard and have not had any financial help is awful. I will be pushing for that money to be released.”

Nia Griffith concluded: “Carmarthenshire is a land rich county. It is totally inexcusable to be using the green spaces in our communities for more housing. They provide opportunity for local people of all ages to get out get some fresh air and take part in exercise and enjoy the spaces. This is not a city where where it is difficult to find a space. We are blessed with a beautiful county. It is a worry and people are concerned.”

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£121k watersports funding announced for Llanelli beauty spot

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• 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.”

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Llanelli Yodel colleague celebrates 30-year anniversary

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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. 

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Preparatory works to start at key Stepney Street Building

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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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