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Minister drops in on Bigyn resident

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DSC05897ON 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.”

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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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