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Parc Howard: Funding ‘failure’ queried

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Parc Howard: Future looking promising?

Parc Howard: Future looking promising?

THE EXECUTIVE BOARD MEMBER FOR REGENERATION was questioned by councillors over statements she is said to have made concerning the failure to gain Heritage Lottery funding for Parc Howard in a council meeting on Wednesday (May 11).

Llanelli Labour councillors Bill Thomas and Jan Williams both questioned Cllr Meryl Gravell on the matter.

As The Herald has previously reported, questions were raised over the accuracy of a statement concerning a Heritage Lottery fund application in an Executive Board meeting on January 4.

In that meeting, Cllr Gravell said, regarding the application, which could have brought in £5m of grant funding: “Unfortunately the local people went behind our backs to the lottery to say they didn’t want this to go ahead, and they’ve always been against having a car park there, which in itself would bring in a lot of money in order to help support and keep the park open.”

This was queried by Cllrs Thomas and Williams at a subsequent council meeting, when Cllr Gravell responded by saying that ‘was the information I was given at the time.’

First up was Cllr Thomas. His question was as follows:

“During the past 18 months the Cabinet Members have made a number of statements on the failure of this bid for grant aid to the Heritage Lottery Commission.

The main thrust of these statements reported in the press during interviews and press releases are as follows:

  1. Local Members had attended meetings with the Lottery Commission causing the bid to fail.
  2. Local Residents had meetings with the Lottery Commission causing the bid to fail.
  3. Local People in Llanelli had objected to the Lottery Commission causing the bid to fail.
  4. Llanelli people & the local MP had consultation meetings causing the bid to fail.

In the press the words attributed to the situation were that in general Llanelli people had ‘scuppered’ the bid and it was their own entire fault.

In the last two Council meetings the Cabinet Member replied to these questions and I quote, ‘That is what I was told and I stand by it’

Will the member now inform the County Council who told her this, when she was informed, and if there was any documented evidence provided to her to prove that position statement?”

Cllr Gravell responded by saying that as Cllr Thomas was now Mayor of Llanelli Town, perhaps he would now take over Parc Howard.

She claimed that she was ‘delighted’ these questions had been asked, because it gave her an opportunity to answer, which she did, in some depth.

In relation to the first point made, she asked whether there was any record of her saying this, claiming she had not. She also denied ever saying that the local MP had in any way been involved in ‘scuppering’ the bid. In both these cases she asked Cllr Thomas what his evidence was for these claims.

However, regarding the claims that local residents and members had objected to, and met with, the Heritage Lottery Commission, causing the bid to fail, Cllr Gravell said that ‘local members are also the local residents.’

“And yes, I have said on a number of occasions that a few people did meet with the Heritage Lottery. During all this time both local members were kept fully briefed at all times,” she added.

She reiterated her claim that she had attempted to get the registrar moved to Parc Howard to make the place into a wedding venue, but claimed that opposition to putting a car park on site made this unfeasible.

She added that she had managed to find ‘a pot of money’ via the Chief Executive to spend applying for the HLF funding, but ‘despite hopeful signs from the HLF officers, the bid failed.’

Cllr Gravell also appeared to accuse Cllr Thomas of questioning the integrity of council staff: “It is sad to see the opposition once again questioning the integrity of the staff. I don’t mind them questioning my integrity, but it does hurt when they question that of the staff,” she added.

Cllr Gravell then said she would provide the proof that was asked for, reading from correspondence with the HLF which said:

“With regards to the application in general, HLF continues to receive queries and complaints in connection to the car parking proposal. We have provided clear advice that car parking facilities and ground size are not a pre-requisite requirement for making a Parks for People submission, and that any new facility being proposed must be based on clear evidence of need.

“I am sure you will agree that this is not a helpful start to the project, and we would strongly advise you to seriously consider postponing any application submissions until you are satisfied that all stakeholders are on board with the proposals.”

Cllr Gravell rather pointedly remarked that HLF officers at the moment ‘are very very helpful with us for applications for funding for the museum at Abergwili.’

“It is all about taking the opportunity when it rises,” she added.

However, Cllr Thomas remarked that the question had not been answered, and pointed out that they had the letters from the HLF which said that the bid failed because it failed to meet the criteria.

“Either I’m getting the wrong information, or the Executive Board Member is having the wrong information,” he added. “They [the HLF] gave us two dates to go back and apply.”

Cllr Thomas also asked Cllr Gravell to clarify that Parc Howard was still in the ownership of CCC, and that they were responsible for its future.

Cllr Gravell said that she had not implied otherwise, although the council had written to Llanelli town Council asking if it would behappy to take over the running of the park.

“On January 21 the Heritage Lottery Commission confirmed that there had been an opportunity to resubmit the bid for Park Howard with support from The Wales Development Team. The dates for resubmission were February 28 2014 & August 31 2014. As a result of this failure the Leader of the Council has had to find £250K for essential maintenance at Park Howard this money could have been used to further enhance the bid as potentially a match funding application.

“Can the executive Board member explain why this was not taken up including an explanation from the Executive Board member for the failure to take up the opportunity offered for a second submission of this wonderful project?”

Cllr Gravell said that she had answered the question about why the bid had not been resubmitted, and added that the maintenance funding had not been included in the original bid, because it was ‘not deemed eligible’.

She stated that the £250,000 spend was ‘not related and was always planned’.

Cllr Williams then asked why despite ‘clear criteria which informed applicants not to request costs for their own officials, and to place importance on heritage maintenance issues, the bid entered by Carmarthenshire breached both of these rules.’

She asked whether the application would be resubmitted or altered. “Things have moved on with Parc Howard, we now have a new committee and that committee are much more receptive to what is going on. “We meet regularly with Cllr Emlyn Dole,” she added.

“Parc Howard is the jewel in the crown in Llanelli, and people want to know as much as possible is being done.”

Cllr Gravell said that she thought the park was important for the people of Llanelli and Carmarthenshire, which was why she had tried to get more revenue in.

“I don’t know if we have lost out now, because the HLF has turned course towards Carmarthen,” she added.

However, she added that ‘I am sure together we will do whatever we can.’

Chairman Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths agreed that there is currently ‘cooperation and a great deal of work going on involving the Leader and the Executive Board with regard to Parc Howard.

“I recently attended an event organised by the local committees, and it looked very promising for the future, so I would kindly ask members to forget the past, because things are certainly moving forward,” he added.

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Llanelli bus depot to close after 100 years

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THE LLANELLI HERALD understands that the Llanelli Bus Depot at Inkermans Street will be closing its gates for good. 

The Bus Depot has served the local community for approximately 100 years, Drivers will now be sent to work from depots in Carmarthen, Swansea and Tycroes. 

All services will remain in the the town, this newspaper can confirm, and our reporter was told that there will not be any redundancies. 

One bus driver told us that he and he co-workers were “not completely happy”, but the unnamed source added “At least we still have jobs to go to.” 

Further updates are expected on this developing story.

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Two week national ‘Firebreak Lockdown’ announced for Wales from 6pm on Friday

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MARK DRAKEFORD, The First Minister of Wales has announced a two week ‘fire break’ lockdown from Friday October 23 at 18:00 HRS, to last until Monday November 9 at 00:01 HRS

Mr Drakeford said: “This firebreak is the shortest we can make it. It must be sharp and deep in order to have the impact we need it to have on the virus.”

All non essential businesses, including tourism businesses will be told to close.

Businesses have been told that they will be given £1000 each automatically to help with the economic impact of the shutdown.

Mr Drakeford added that children will be the priority and that childcare facilities will open as normal. Primary schools will open after half term.

Secondary schools will be closed for a week after half term to help control the virus.

Universities will offer a mixture of face-to-face learning and learning via video link. Students must stay at their university accommodation during the lockdown.

Responding to the Welsh Government’s announcement of a Wales-wide lockdown, Paul Davies MS, the Leader of the Opposition in the Welsh Parliament, has called the lockdown “not-proportionate” and is calling on the Welsh Government to be “open and transparent” on the evidence to support a lockdown and if the First Minister is committing Wales to rolling Wales-wide lockdowns every month.

Paul Davies MS said: “Sadly, the First Minster has failed to get public support for this second Wales-wide lockdown, failing to be open and transparent about the evidence to justify this lockdown and what his actions will entail for the future.

“The Welsh Government also has to be honest that this road they are taking us down is committing Wales to rolling Wales-wide lockdowns. This is not a two-week break to solve the pandemic, it is likely that we will see regular lockdowns across the rest of the year. The Welsh Government must be clear what actions they are taking during the lockdown to prevent further Wales-wide lockdowns which will have a significant impact on people’s lives and livelihoods.

“However, the main concern is that this national lockdown is not proportionate. The impact on businesses in areas such as Powys, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion, who have the lowest rate of Covid-19 cases in Wales, will be severe at a time when they are desperately struggling to recover from the pandemic so far this year.

“The First Minister needs to urgently come to the Welsh Parliament and answer these questions, to face effective scrutiny by elected representatives and not run his government by media.”

Preseli Pembrokeshire MP, Stephen Crabb told The Herald: “The evidence to support an all-Wales lockdown is weak and I am sceptical that this so-called ‘fire-break’ will tackle the situation in those parts of Wales where infection rates have been out of control. The key issue for Welsh Government to address is what will be done differently after the firebreak ends in those parts of Wales where infection rates have spiralled out of control. Otherwise the whole of Wales risks being dragged back into a series of rolling lockdowns.

“As we saw earlier in the year, lockdowns come with huge costs in terms of harm to the economy and to people’s emotional and mental wellbeing. With the Welsh Government asking UK Government to fund this lockdown, I hope that as many businesses as possible get support they need quickly. Pembrokeshire’s hospitality businesses will be hit particularly hard by these latest restrictions and I will be fighting hard again to see that they are protected as the lockdown kicks in.”

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Drakeford to make decision on ‘fire-break’ lockdown in Wales by Monday

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WALES is facing a national lockdown lasting at least two weeks in plans described as a “fire-break” by the first minister.

He said a decision was likely to be made on Monday, while talks continue with health officials, scientific advisors and councils over the weekend.
“Doing nothing is not an option,” he said.

Responding to the speculation First Minister, Mark Drakeford, is set to announce a ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown in Wales, Welsh Conservative health spokesperson, Andrew RT Davies MS said: “I implore the First Minister to think again before heading down this path.

“The decision to lockdown Wales once again will have devastating consequences – from an economic and public health perspective – and should be the last resort.

“Only yesterday, the former director of communicable diseases at Public Health Wales, Dr Roland Salmon, said a circuit-breaker is likely to fail and the Welsh Labour Government should listen carefully to his warning.

“Earlier this week, Welsh Conservatives called for the urgent resumption of shielding in Wales with a substantial package of support to ensure the financial, physical and mental well-being of those most at risk is protected.

“This should be the immediate action taken by ministers along with prioritising PPE and testing in the problem areas in Wales such as hospitals, care home, universities and meat factories.

“It’s not too late for the Labour Government to reconsider and choose a different approach in Wales.”

Mr Drakeford warned that 2,500 people were now being infected with coronavirus every day in Wales, with critical care units in hospitals full.

“A successful fire-break would re-set the virus at a lower level,” he added.

Together with a new national set of rules for the whole of Wales after the fire-break period we would have slowed the virus down enough to get us through to Christmas.”
Plaid Cymru has been calling on Mr Drakeford to introduce the circuit-breaker without delay, while Labour at Westminster says a similar approach should be adopted in England.

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