TWO volunteers from Burry Port who have been instrumental in taking over one of the County Council’s assets in the town say that they have been on a steep learning curve and have been left with uncertainty as to the long term future for the town’s remaining play areas.
Sharon Evans and Debbie Edwards form part of the Park’s Appeal Committee and have been working tirelessly for a number of years to ensure the town’s children have a place to play.
The Herald asked the two volunteers how they got involved with the asset transfer.
Debbie told The Herald: “We have taken over a small area of the main memorial park. It is the children’s play area and the Multi Use Games Area (MUGA).
“We signed a 21-year lease with the County Council. It was done with the view that the Town Council would take over the responsibility. It was in a terrible condition when we took it over. It was a huge task to take on. It would have been nice to have it handed over in A1 condition but we went ahead because it was the only chance we had as parents to save a play area.
We asked how the committee had raised the money to make good the play areas. Sharon answered: “We did a lot of fund raising and the children themselves told us what they wanted. There was a community consultation. We applied for a number of grants and got 4 grants. Two were from the Welsh Government, one was from the council and one was from an environmental company.”
Debbie explained the amount of paperwork and effort concerned: “Each of the grant applications I sent away filled two lever arch files; it took a long time to put them together. We had to do a lot of community consultations. We had plans that the children looked at.
“It is a massive ask to do this. We had support from the County Council in grant applications but it takes people with time and skills to do the work.”
The Herald asked the volunteers if they thought that people in other communities would follow suit and do as County Councillor Pam Palmer had asked and not take what they had for granted.
Debbie told us: “I don’t see many people coming forward to do this. It is a huge project to undertake. We did have a boundary we were working within and that was quite small. Some of the assets are much bigger.
“We normally go down and check the equipment but the children and the community of Burry Port actually look after it very well. There is wear and tear and sometimes there is rubbish and glass we have to clean up. We are working with the Town Council regarding the maintenance. People see us as being responsible for the park and the maintenance. If we had not done anything it would have all vanished.”
The Herald asked the volunteers how important the areas were in keeping communities healthy. Sharon was eager to stress the facilities’ importance to the community: “The play areas are so important and this is why we started up the group. My own children were just being pushed around from area to area by the police. There is a community link to petty crime. If the kids have nowhere to go they will get into trouble. The initial meeting we had highlighted the state of the park. Some people said it was a waste of time and that the park would be vandalised. It has been open now for three years and there has been no vandalism. When we have put on events the children have been wonderful.” The Herald asked the volunteers what lessons they had learned from taking over the asset and if they would now do things differently. With the benefit of hindsight, Debbie said: “We would have liked more insight into what we were taking on. We did not get support around the financial aspects. We had an issue in relation to VAT. We were led to believe we would not have to pay VAT and we ended up paying VAT. That was a big chunk of additional cash we had to raise. I would have liked the County Council to have worked closer with the Town Council to make sure their commitment to take it over was there.”
She continued: “It would be in the county’s interest to appoint someone to unify the county and town council and people wishing to take over the assets.
“We started off with one group of councillors who were supportive and then we had an election in between and the next group of people had different interests. We would like the council to sign up to a charter for communities where they guarantee that people are helped to take over the assets and that the work is recognised, and sustainable.”
Across Carmarthenshire, town and community councils have taken responsibility for facilities by raising their Council Tax precept, we asked whether the volunteers saw much appetite for the same thing in Burry Port.
Sharon was sceptical: “I am not sure if people in Burry Port would want to put £1 or £2 on the precept if that was put towards play areas. We are a very small handful of volunteers trying our best to keep this asset as it is. We don’t have a voice to do anything regarding the precept. The Town Council are paying the insurance and undertaking the maintenance but we do get called on and we continue to fundraise.”
She concluded: “The playing areas are central to the health and wellbeing of the children in Carmarthenshire and there should be a unified approach from the councils and organisations to ensure they remain. The youth need the spaces to be out playing in a safe environment and not on the streets.”
New ward extension opens at Werndale Hospital
WERNDALE Hospital opens its £1millon ward extension, featuring a suite of new spacious patient en-suite rooms and additional light and airy ward space for new nurses’ stations, new technology and medical equipment, in pleasant and comfortable spaces.
Werndale is part of Circle Health Group, the UK’s largest provider of private healthcare. The group is carrying out a £125 million redevelopment programme across its 50 hospitals in the UK.
Werndale has a strong history in the village of Bancyfelin, where is has been serving the local communities of Wales for over 32 years.
James Davies, Wales and Scarlets rugby player, from Bancyfelin, cut the ribbon to mark the official opening on Monday 1st August. His nickname “Cubby”, is reference to his brother’s nickname, “Fox”; this refers to the Fox & Hounds pub their parents ran in Bancyfelin, the village where they grew up. Staff and consultants were given the chance to view the new extension, with a small gathering to mark the occasion and celebrate all the hard work that has gone into this project over the last 12 months.
Jacky Jones, Executive Director of Werndale Hospital said: “The investment programme is an exciting opportunity to expand what we can offer to patients at Werndale. Our staff and consultants are delighted with this expansion which will allow us to meet the private healthcare needs of patients and families in Wales and will decrease waiting times which will positively impact the patient’s experience. Having the new patient rooms here increases our ward capacity by 20%, it is a great investment”.
Gaynor Llewellyn, Director of Clinical Services said: “At Werndale we are committed to continuous improvement of clinical facilities and services. We continually invest in the hospital so that we can offer our patients and consultants reassurance when they visit us for treatments”.
Werndale Hospital is seeing increased demand for its services across all specialities particularly orthopaedic surgery, ophthalmology, and general surgery. Nearly 4,000 patients had surgery at Werndale Hospital, Bancyfelin during 2021 and the new investment will enable ward capacity to be increased by 25 per cent.
M4 closed westbound following lorry fire near Swansea
A SECTION of the M4 near Swansea was shut on Monday (Aug 8) due to a vehicle fire.
The westbound section of the motorway, between junction 47 at Penllergaer and junction 48 at Hendy closed.
Emergency services were called to the scene, and there was queuing traffic in the area.
Traffic monitoring service Inrix reported: “M4 Westbound closed, queueing traffic due to vehicle fire between J47 A48 (Penllergaer / Swansea West Services) and J48 A4138 Pontardulais Road”
Police appeal after Llanelli assault: victim required hospital treatment
DYFED POWYS POLICE is investigating an assault which occurred on Regalia Terrace, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire at about 12.05am, Sunday 3rd July.
The victim required hospital treatment.
Officers have carried out all possible lines of enquiry, and are now appealing for help from the public.
They would like to identify the person in the CCTV image, who may have information that could help the investigation.
Anyone who knows who the person is, or if you believe you are pictured, contact Dyfed-Powys Police.
This can also be done either online at: https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or phoning 101.
If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.
Please quote reference DP-20220703-011
Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111, or visiting crimestoppers-uk.org.