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Volunteers’ struggle to maintain park

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'Children have been wonderful'

‘Children have been wonderful’

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.”

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Alcohol seized and teenager arrested as police deal with antisocial behaviour

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POLICE seized large amounts of alcohol and arrested a teenager as they continued to deal with antisocial behaviour over the weekend.

Dyfed-Powys Police had proactive plans in place to deal with ongoing issues of groups of youngsters gathering in Carmarthenshire following rising reports of alcohol-related antisocial behaviour over the past two months.

Dispersal orders were in place across Llanelli and Burry Port, giving police the powers to move anyone believed to be causing a nuisance, harassment or distress out of the area.

Officers patrolling the rail network in Carmarthenshire on Saturday noticed a large amount of young people getting off the train at Ferryside, where an additional dispersal order was put in place and alcohol was seized.

Officers were also required to deal with children trespassing on the railway tracks.

Sergeant Gemma Davies said: “We had received reports of children with alcohol running across the tracks, which posed a huge danger to themselves and others, and had to be stopped as a priority.

“One boy who was detained became abusive towards officers and could not be reasoned with. Officers had no choice but to arrest him for his own safety and to prevent further offences from being committed.

“This incident goes to show that the kind of behaviour we are dealing with goes beyond groups of young people meeting to have a good time, and is putting people in highly dangerous situations.”

A 17-year-old boy was arrested on suspicion of trespassing on the railway and using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour to cause harassment, alarm or distress.

He has been released under investigation pending further enquiries by British Transport Police.

Early intervention was taken in the Trostre area of Llanelli, where officers noticed groups of children meeting on Saturday.

Sgt Davies said: “More than 60 young people were moved on from both locations and a large amount of alcohol was seized.

“Out of these groups, four notices were issued to those causing the most trouble in the Trostre area which prevented them from returning, and each of these youngsters were taken home.

“This swift action was a deterrent to other young people who were planning on joining the groups and were still travelling to the area.”

“We will continue to put plans in place each weekend and over the summer holidays to deal with antisocial behaviour, using all powers available to us to put a stop to it.”

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Coronavirus cases in Wales still lowest in UK says Health Minister

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WALES continues to have the lowest rate of coronavirus cases in the UK, Welsh Health Minister Eluned Morgan said today. 

The minister said the number of confirmed cases in Wales is currently 9.3 per 100,000 people. 

Eluned Morgan said: “The number of people in hospital with coronavirus is at the lowest level since the start of the pandemic.  We have recently seen a period of 10 days where no new deaths from the virus were recorded – sadly Public Health Wales reported one death yesterday.

“These achievements reflect the hard work of people throughout Wales to keep themselves and their families safe.

“Over recent weeks we have however seen very troubling developments in relation to the so-called India variant of concern – or as the World Health Organisation has re-named it, the delta variant.  This is further proof that coronavirus has not gone away. 

“We have been carefully monitoring this new variant, which appears to be spreading in many parts of England.   We have identified a growing number of cases here in Wales, including a large cluster of cases in Conwy which is under close investigation.  

“This delta variant has the potential to become the next dominant strain of the virus in the UK.  We hope we can contain cases and prevent this variant spreading further but we expect the number of cases in Wales will continue to increase.

“Whilst the public health situation therefore remains good in Wales, the delta variant brings a new level of uncertainty.  It was in this context the most recent review of the coronavirus restrictions took place on 3 June. 

“Whilst Wales is moving to alert level one as previously signalled, we will now do this in a phased way.  

“Changes to the regulations from 7 June therefore focused on easing restriction on outdoor events and activities.  The risk of transmission is much lower outdoors and these changes will allow people to take advantage of the summer.”

Up to 30 people can now meet outdoors, including in private gardens, outdoor hospitality and public places.

Larger outdoor organised gatherings and events for up to 4,000 people standing and 10,000 people seated can also now take place.  This includes concerts, football matches and sporting activities, like organised running groups. All organisers must undertake a full risk assessment and put in place measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, including social distancing.

Finally, provision now allows for extended household to be made up of three households who can meet and have contact indoors.  This is an increase from two households previously. 

We will consider further changes to the regulations on indoor activity later in the month, if public health conditions allow.   In line with the coronavirus control plan, at alert level one this would mean the rule of six would apply for meeting indoors in private homes and in holiday accommodation.

We will also consider increasing numbers for indoor organised gatherings and restarting indoor events.

This phased approach will provide time for more data on the impact of the delta variant to become available.  It will also allow time for more people to be vaccinated, which remains our best route out of the pandemic.

I am extremely grateful to Health Board vaccination teams, local partners and the many volunteers across the country for the incredible progress of our vaccination programme. 

At this rate, and subject to supply, we expect to have offered all adults 18 and over their first dose by early next week and to have hit our 3rd milestone of an uptake of 75% in all of the age ranges by the end of June, a month earlier than expected.  In reality, the percentage of people who have taken up their offer of a vaccine is far higher, which was always our aim.

We are currently recognised as the world Leader amongst countries over 1 million inhabitants.  We have vaccinated more than 86.5% of the adult population with their first dose and nearly half have completed the two-dose course.

Yesterday I published an update to our COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy. 

The updated strategy looks back at what has been achieved to date and sets out preparations for what comes next, potentially including a booster for our most vulnerable citizens and a vaccine for children and young people. We are also planning to reoffer the vaccine to those who did not take up the original offer. The roll out of second doses will also continue.

To underpin this delivery, an online system will be established in the Autumn to allow people to book appointments convenient for them. This system could potentially be used for other vaccinations moving forward.

Wales’ successful Test, Trace, Protect service was established a year ago.  The Welsh Government has allocated an additional £32m to health boards and local authorities to extend contact tracing until the end of March 2022. This increases the total Welsh Government investment in contact tracing this financial year to £92m.

On 2 June we also published a refreshed Test, Trace, Protect strategy setting out how the service will adapt and respond to the pandemic in the months ahead.   This includes strengthening and enhance the tracing of variants of concern, as well as the management and quarantine of people returning to Wales from red and amber-list countries.

On 20 May I set-out plans for a £100m investment to kick-start the health and care system’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. This money will provide for new equipment, staff, technology and ways of working to help health boards increase capacity and cut waiting times. 

As we begin resuming non-emergency care following the pandemic we have an opportunity to create a health and care system fit for the future.

Following the three week review of the restrictions on international travel, we are following the same traffic-light approach to international travel as the rest of the UK.

From today Portugal has been moved from green to the amber list. This decision follows increased concern in the spread of variants, including a mutation of the Delta variant, and the risk posed of bringing these back to the UK if people are not required to quarantine. 

Seven countries have also been added to the red list, including Egypt and Sri Lanka.

I have today described some of the most recent developments in our ongoing efforts to tackle coronavirus.   It remains vital we continue to work together to keep each other safe and to keep Wales safe.

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Strength of Police evidence led prolific drug dealer to admit possession with intent to supply

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THE strength of evidence gathered by police within hours of a man being arrested on suspicion of possessing drugs with intent to supply led to an immediate guilty plea and a prison sentence.

Dyfed-Powys Police officers worked swiftly following the arrest of Sanjit Sanghera, from Llanelli, putting together a file of evidence proving the defendant had been involved in the supply of illegal substances in Carmarthenshire since 2018.

Officers trawled the 21-year-old’s phone after cannabis and cocaine with a potential street value of up to £10,000 were found during a warrant at his home in School Road, Morfa.

Detective Sergeant Andrew Clatworthy said: “Thorough digital enquiries uncovered reams of messages in which senders asked for availability and prices of specific substances.

“When printed, there were 32 pages of messages, all of which suggested the user of the phone was involved in the supply of cocaine and cannabis from September 2018 to May 2021, with messages as recent as the day before the warrant was executed.

Drugs seized by Dyfed-Powys Police

“These messages gave us clear evidence that Sanghera has been a prolific dealer in the area for a number of years. Coupled with the amount of substances seized from his house, they led to an immediate admission from the defendant.”

Officers raided Sanghera’s home on Wednesday, May 19 as part of an investigation into wider drug supply in Carmarthenshire.

Bags containing cannabis and cocaine were found in the garden shed, where it was established the defendant had been running his supply business.

Further substances were found hidden in biscuit jars in kitchen cupboards.

DS Clatworthy said: “A full search of the property resulted in over £4,000 in cash, along with more than half a kilo of cannabis and around 41g of cocaine being seized.

“This is well in excess of what we would expect to find for someone’s personal use.”

The substances were tested within hours of the warrant, and all proved positive for cannabis and cocaine.

Sanghera was charged with possessing class A drugs with intent to supply, possessing class B drugs with intent to supply, and acquiring, using or possessing criminal property – namely £4,227.

He admitted all three offences when he appeared at Llanelli Magistrates’ Court the following day, and was sentenced to 26 months in prison at Swansea Crown Court on Friday, June 5.

DS Clatworthy said: “Excellent work from a number of departments resulted in a very early guilty plea thanks to the strength of evidence obtained while Sanghera was in custody.

“I would like to thank all officers involved for their efforts, and for the part they played in disrupting an organised crime gang operating in Carmarthenshire.”

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