ON MONDAY (Mar 7) The Natural Resources Minister Carl Sargeant visited Llanelli to look at the work being carried out on a groundbreaking ‘Arbed’ fuel poverty programme. The Welsh Government-backed Arbed 2 project is run by Melin Homes.
Welsh Labour’s Warm Homes Arbed and Nest programmes have continued to provide energy improvements and advice. During 2013/14 alone improvements were made to over 9,000 homes through the Welsh Labour Government schemes, giving each household estimated savings of up to £500 a year on their energy bills.
In addition they are creating jobs, apprenticeships and partnerships across Wales, resulting in an impressive return for the Welsh economy. Despite the huge contribution home insulation makes to curbing climate change and improving people’s well-being, the Tories now spend only £3.52 per household in England compared to £31.31 per household invested by the Welsh Labour government.
We asked the Minister what the purpose of his visit to Llanelli was.
He explained: “What we are doing here is seeing great opportunities not just for local people but for the broader community and local economy. Employing local people, supply chains helping to support this initiative. I am actually speaking to residents who will benefit from this work in the long term.
We are tackling issues around climate change. It isn’t just about insulation it is about the whole green growth economy for Wales. We have to make clever investments. We have to do things differently. It isn’t just about insulating homes, this will boost the economy. Green Growth Wales is a very important opportunity.”
During his visit the minister called in on Bigyn resident Dianne Rudall to chat about what affect the work being carried out on her home was having on her life. Mrs Ruddall told the Minister that she suffered from a heart condition and always found the house to be cold and had to have the heating on for most of the time.
She said: “It helps me with my bills and it is good for the area. As soon as the chance to have the work done came available I went for it.”
Carl Sargeant told us, “Mrs Ruddall was very happy and she was telling us how the guys were operating locally on the work on the homes and she is looking to it being finished so that she can stay warm in her own home.”
We asked the Natural Resources Minister what the future of the project would be if Labour did not get into power at the elections.
His response was uncompromising: “I don’t recognise the issue should Labour not get in because we are very positive that we are out to win all the seats and we are fighting very hard with Lee Waters in this area. All schemes are at risk if Labour does not get back in because we know that the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru have different views on what we should be investing in.”
The Herald asked the Minister about the issue of importing materials into Wales to burn rather than looking at home grown alternatives. He replied: “What we are doing here is that we have a really great environmental credential. We have just introduced an environment bill and groundbreaking legislation alongside the Wellbeing and Future Generations Act for making sure we are protecting the environment.
“I was part of the COP21 discussions in Paris in December where we made our commitment in changing the way we deal with issues around the environment. It is up to everybody to make their own little piece of Wales better.”
We reminded the Minister of Plaid Cymru’s claim that the Labour Government were not doing enough to help British Steel in reducing their energy costs and asked what could be done to help.
The Minister told us: “The U.K. Government have to come to the table with answers for TATA Steel and particularly in Port Talbot. The issue there about energy pricing is something they should address. Edwina Hart, with Carwyn Jones, is taking the fight to the U.K. Government.
Asked about what Labour’s plans were for future renewable energy and whether Wales needed its own biomass plants, Mr Sargeant declined to give a direct answer. Instead he re-affirmed Labour’s commitment to ostensibly green power: “We are already pro renewable energy in Wales. Whereas the UK Government are promoting fracking. We have introduced a moratorium here in Wales.”
Mr Sargeant concluded: “We know where we want to be with our energy opportunities. There is something about micro generation and community generation as something that we should be exploring for the future.”
Significant step forward for Llanelli’s multi-million-pound Pentre Awel
LLANELLI’S ground-breaking Pentre Awel project has taken a major step forward paving the way for building work to start as early as this autumn.
Carmarthenshire County Council’s planning committee has today (Thursday, June 23) approved reserved matters for access, appearance, landscaping, layout and scale for Zone One of the landmark project.
It follows the outline planning application, which was granted back in August 2019, and means work can officially commence on-site.
Pentre Awel is the first development of its scope and size in Wales providing world-class medical research and health care delivery and supporting and encouraging people to lead active and healthy lives.
Detailed design work has been undertaken on Zone One, which will bring together education, business, research, leisure and health in a single building. These facilities will be linked together in a ‘street’ layout, connected by a central atrium comprising a reception, café and other public amenities. The street will be the community heart of the village with lots of exhibition space and breakout areas enjoying spectacular views across the lake, and to the Loughor Estuary and Carmarthen Bay.
The designs showcase the council’s ambition to create a development that is landscape-led, connected to local communities and amenities and is sustainable. The facilities will maximise the use of daylight and natural ventilation where possible, and bring the ‘outside inside’ to promote good physical and mental wellbeing.
Externally, Pentre Awel will enjoy landscaped outdoor public spaces for recreation, with walking and cycling paths and stunning coastal views, all set around the freshwater lake as a key defining feature.
Site clearance, ground investigation and ecology works have already started on site with ‘spade-in-the-ground-works’ expected to get underway this autumn and full completion estimated for summer 2024.
Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Leisure, Culture and Tourism Cllr Gareth John said: “This is yet another exciting step forward for this ambitious and truly innovative project that will benefit people locally in Llanelli, as well as across Carmarthenshire and South West Wales as a whole.
“Pentre Awel will deliver a significant programme of community benefits and economic regeneration across the county, creating major employment and training opportunities, along with world-class leisure and health facilities for our residents.
“It is important that local businesses benefit from this project, and I was delighted that more than 100 businesses recently attended a ‘Meet the Buyer’ event at Parc y Scarlets to find out more about the opportunities available. I look forward to seeing building work starting on site very soon.”
Pentre Awel is being delivered by Carmarthenshire County Council in partnership with Hywel Dda University Health Board, Universities and Colleges including Cardiff University, Coleg Sir Gȃr, the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and Swansea University. It is part-funded by the Swansea Bay City Deal (£40million).
As well as improving health and wellbeing, the project will create over 1,800 jobs and training/apprenticeship opportunities, and is expected to boost the local economy by a £467million over the next 15 years.
Bouygues UK has been awarded a two-stage design and build contract for Zone One with a key focus on social value to ensure employment and training opportunities for local people are maximised during the construction phase.
Zone One includes a new state-of-the-art leisure centre; hydrotherapy pool; education, research and business development space; a clinical research and delivery centre with community level clinical trials; and a well-being skills centre delivering health and care training.
Later phases of the scheme include a hotel, a range of social and affordable housing, assisted living accommodation and a nursing home.
The Welsh Government launches Basic Income pilot scheme
FROM 1 July 2022, more than 500 people leaving care in Wales will be offered £1600 each month (before tax) for two years to support them as they make the transition to adult life.
Launched by First Minister Mark Drakeford, it is hoped the pilot will set care leavers on a path to live healthy, happy and fulfilling lives.
The radical approach has trust, autonomy and respect at its centre. It will provide independence and security to people who have faced immense challenges during their childhood, giving them greater control and empowering them to make decisions about their future.
The £20 million pilot, which will run for three years, will be evaluated to carefully examine its effect on the lives of those involved
Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt said the scheme is a direct investment in the lives and futures of some of Wales’ most vulnerable young people.
Those taking part in the pilot will also receive individual advice and support to help them manage their finances and develop their financial and budgeting skills.
Local authorities will play a key role in supporting them throughout the pilot. Voices from Care Cymru will also work with the young people to give them advice on wellbeing, education, employment and help them plan their future after the pilot.
To launch the scheme, First Minister Mark Drakeford, Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt and Deputy Minister for Social Services Julie Morgan met with people taking part in the pilot, and young people who themselves have been in care, to talk about the impact this support will have on peoples’ lives.
They discussed how they hope the financial stability will give people the opportunity to make positive life choices as they leave care and provide a more solid foundation from which to build their adult lives.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “We want all our young people to have the best possible chance in life and fulfil their full potential. The state is the guardian of people leaving care and so has a real obligation to support them as they start their adult life.
“Our focus will be on opening up their world to all its possibilities and create an independence from services as their lives develop.
“Many of those involved in this pilot don’t have the support lots of people – myself included – have been lucky enough to enjoy as we started out on our path to adulthood.
“Our radical initiative will not only improve the lives of those taking part in the pilot, but will reap rewards for the rest of Welsh society. If we succeed in what we are attempting today this will be just the first step in what could be a journey that benefits generations to come.”
Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt said:
“We’re in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis like no other and we therefore need new ways of supporting people who are most in need.
“Our Basic Income pilot is an incredibly exciting project giving financial stability to a generation of young people. Too many people leaving care face huge barriers to achieving their hopes and ambitions; such as problems with getting a safe and stable home, to securing a job and building a fulfilling career. This scheme will help people live a life free of such barriers and limitations.
“We will carefully evaluate the lessons learnt from the pilot. Listening to everyone who takes part will be crucial in determining the success of this globally ambitious project. We will examine whether Basic Income is an efficient way to support society’s most vulnerable and not only benefit the individual, but wider society too.”
Tiff Evans of Voices from Care Cymru, speaking on behalf of young people who have experienced care, said: “This is a brilliant opportunity for care leavers in Wales. It is good to see that care leavers in Wales are being thought of and Welsh Government are providing this opportunity for them as young people to become responsible, control some parts of their lives and have a chance to thrive and be financially independent.
“We thank Welsh Government for investing in them and their future and we look forward to other changes and developments for care experienced young people in Wales in order for them to reach life aspirations.”
Community checks out new Carmarthenshire Policing Hub and Custody Suite
POLICE and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn today (24.06.22) hosted an open doors event for local stakeholders at Dyfed-Powys’ new Custody Suite and Policing Hub, that is currently under construction at Dafen, Llanelli Carmarthenshire.
Planning permission was granted to the Office of Police and Crime Commissioner by Carmarthenshire County Council back in April 2021 for the proposed development, which is to be an ambitious sustainable construction, with a BREEAM excellence rating.
Wilmott Dixon, who are the Construction Contractor have been on site since autumn preparing for the first construction phases, with specific progress now beginning made on the development, that aims to be completed by May 2023.
PCC Dafydd Llywelyn said; “This is a major investment for us which will see an ambitious, modern, sustainable fit for purpose policing hub and custody suite that will meet the needs and expectations of modern policing.
“During the planning application process between 2020 and 2021, we engaged widely with the local community, and It was a pleasure to open the door, and welcome local community representatives to the construction site today, to show the progress that has been made to date.
“I’ve worked extremely hard with partners over recent years to ensure that we get to this position and I now look forward to seeing the construction work continue to develop at pace over the year”.
In being a BREEAM related development, the new build will offer a more sustainable environment, that aims to enhance the well-being of the people who work within it, and help protect natural resources.
Amongst some of the sustainable credentials of the new build will be a photovoltaic solar power installation to minimise the carbon footprint of the building; a rainwater harvesting facility for toilets and non-potable water, and electric car charging facilities.
Chief Inspector Richard Hopkin, Dyfed-Powys Police’s operational lead on the new build, said: “We feel very fortunate to be having a new build custody suite and hub coming to Llanelli.
“Our current Llanelli estate is old, so to see a new build that is being designed with such consideration for the environment and the wellbeing of our staff and the community within which it sits is really positive.
“The development will provide a fit for purpose, future proof solution which will complement the town centre Neighbourhood Police Team base.”
Ian Jones, Director at Willmott Dixon commented, “This is the first project that we have worked on with Dyfed Powys Police, and as part of what has being a collaborative partnership, we are delighted to have the opportunity to deliver this development.
“This is a purpose‐built, new custody suite to replace and supplement provision of custody within Carmarthenshire which will provide excellent facilities to meet the needs of modern law enforcement and detainee wellbeing for Dyfed Powys Police.
“We were delighted to have the opportunity to welcome guests to the site to show them first-hand how construction is progressing.”
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