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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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The Burry Port Harbour Improvement wins top civil engineering award

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THE BURRY Port Harbour Improvement has been announced as the winner of the Bill Ward Sustainability Award at the recent ICE Wales Cymru Project Awards held on Friday (30 September) at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff.

The Bill Ward Award is presented to the project best demonstrating the principles of sustainability, i.e. social, economic and environmental benefits during delivery and on completion. The Judges were impressed with the way two major companies, Alun Griffiths and Atkins, worked hand in hand on the project with their client, Carmarthenshire County Council, to deliver the scheme to a fixed budget, within programme and to the complete satisfaction of historic port custodians Cadw.

Burry Port Harbour is made up of three historic (tidal) basins contained by vertical masonry walls and earth embankments. The 3 harbours comprise 1500m of masonry vertical walls and revetments, which had fallen into disrepair and collapse since its heyday transporting coal in the 1800’s. 

The project is an ongoing, phased renovation with attention being given first to areas of instability. Displaced masonry has been recovered from the floor of the harbour and re-used. New materials have been chosen with care to ensure they are appropriate and will fit into the historic marine.

The work has safeguarded the historic masonry fabric for future generations, provided a safe harbour for the marina vessels and provided the waterside frontage for the Council’s vision to transform the harbour into a dynamic living, leisure and work hub for future generations.

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Wales stands firm in support for Ukraine

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IN THE latest update on the Ukraine crisis, Wales’s Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt thanked all those households across Wales who have come forward to offer their homes to Ukrainians fleeing the War and encouraged more households to provide this vital support.

APPEAL FOR MORE HOST FAMILIES

The Minister for Social Justice said: “I’m delighted to say that over 5,650 people from Ukraine, sponsored by the Welsh Government and Welsh households, have already arrived in the UK.
“More than 8,200 visas have now been issued to people from Ukraine who have sponsors in Wales, so we expect the number of arrivals to continue to grow in the coming weeks.
“Thousands of Welsh households sponsored Ukrainians to arrive in Wales and committed to hosting them for at least six months.
“As we move into the autumn, we approach the end of that initial period.
“We hope hosts and Ukrainians will agree to extend many of those placements, but we need additional hosts to support those who cannot continue living where they are.
“To ensure a warm welcome to Wales, I’m inviting households across Wales to come forward and open their homes to welcome those seeking sanctuary.
“We’re immensely thankful to all those across Wales acting as hosts to Ukrainians, but more households must come forward.
“I completely understand that there are those who want to help but may not have the resources to do so, given the circumstances we’re all facing with the cost-of-living crisis.”

WALES WILL STEP UP TO THE PLATE

Jane Hutt continued: “What we all know, and has been proven countless times, is that the people of Wales are one of the most generous across the globe, and I’m sure we will step up to the plate once again.
“The idea of hosting can be daunting. That’s why we have funded Housing Justice Cymru to provide a Host Support service which includes expert and reliable information, training, advice, and guidance for people hosting, or those considering hosting, Ukrainians in Wales.
“More information on sessions and training can be found on the Housing Justice Cymru website. We also publish regularly updated guidance for hosts and sponsors at gov. wales/ukraine.
“We still need many more households to consider whether they could provide a home for those in need. This would normally be a commitment to hosting for 6 to 12 months.
“If anyone is considering this, we encourage them to register their interest at gov.wales/offerhome, and to attend one of the ‘Introduction to Hosting’ sessions, facilitated by Housing Justice Cymru. You won’t need to continue the process if you decide it is not for you.
“We have also partnered with Airbnb.org to ensure very short-term emergency placements can be provided to prevent homelessness.
“If you cannot host for more than 6 months but you could offer your property for up to 30 days at a time, you may also be able to contribute. Visit gov.wales/offerhome and follow the link to the Airbnb.org platform.”
Finally, the Minister stated: “We will continue to communicate with those who host Ukrainians, with updated guidance and information to support the valuable role you are undertaking.
“To all those that are already hosting and to those that are considering hosting, thank you, we owe you all a huge debt of gratitude.”

WESTMINSTER MUST BACK HOSTS
DURING COST-OF-LIVING CRISIS

Conservative MS Mark Isherwood raised how the cost-of-living crisis affects Ukrainian refugees.
Where families had taken in those fleeing Russian aggression, he noted a risk of sponsorships not continuing beyond six months because the hosts cannot afford the rise in fuel costs.
He asked the Minister what discussions she’d had with the UK Government about increasing the £350 contribution to households who’d taken in Ukrainian refugees.
The Minister agreed with Mark Isherwood that ending a specific ministerial post dealing with refugees was regrettable.
She noted a lack of information from the UK Government over the summer months and since Liz Truss replaced Boris Johnson as head of the Conservative Government.
Ms Hutt said: “We asked for an increase at least to £500, or up again, doubling to £700 per month. An urgent decision is needed regarding this as they reach the end of their six-month period.
“That period is underway, so we’re writing to all hosts to see if they will continue.”

UK GOVERNMENT URGED
TO PICK UP THE PHONE

The Minister thanked Mark Isherwood for introducing her to a charity offering support in North Wales, Link, and hoped that he and his colleagues would bring pressure to bear on their Westminster colleagues to ensure those in need from Ukraine and those in Wales helping them received support.
She added: “I look forward perhaps that we might have some telephone calls from the Prime Minister and other Ministers to us in Government. We must engage with them and follow this through.
“There is a huge job of work to be done here. We’re taking responsibility in the way I’ve outlined, funding our welcome centres and paying thank-you payments to hosts if they support a family who initially arrived in Wales under the Ukraine family scheme.
“That’s not happening in England. The commitment that we’re making is considerable.
“I hope everyone will join us today, saying that we need to press for those answers in terms of financial support.”

THE THREAT OF HOMELESSNESS

Sioned Williams of Plaid Cymru raised the spectre of Ukrainian refugees becoming homeless in Wales due to a lack of financial support and the end of existing hosting and housing placements.
The Minister praised the work of local authorities across Wales supporting refugees.
She said: “There are very imaginative programmes. That includes a whole range of issues like repurposing empty buildings.
“Local authorities are really coming up with a whole range of ways in which we can support people, perhaps, from a welcome centre, or a host family, into that intermediate accommodation, and then on to other longer-term accommodation.”
Pembrokeshire currently houses around 200 Ukrainian refugees, with the demand for assistance outstripping the availability of suitable accommodation.

NOT ONE PENNY FROM WESTMINSTER
TO SUPPORT FAMILIES FLEEING WAR

Responding to a question from Mabon ap Gwynfor about problems housing family groups, Jane Hutt hit out at the lack of support from the UK Government and how it’s u-turned on a commitment to help families.
“The UK Government has never given a penny towards the family scheme.
“The former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, in one of his last PMQs, actually said that he thought the Ukraine family scheme should get the same funding and support as the Homes for Ukraine scheme. It’s never happened.
“We have provided thank-you payments to people who are hosting Ukrainian families. It’s all Welsh Government money; it’s not UK Government, because they don’t provide a penny. And also, the British Red Cross—£246,000—who are actually supporting Ukrainian families who are hosting family members under the Ukrainian family scheme.”
On Wednesday, September 28, Eluned Morgan, Wales’s Health Minister, announced the continuation of free healthcare in Wales to Ukrainian residents displaced by the ongoing conflict.
The exemption will continue to apply unless there’s a significant change in circumstances in Ukraine.

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Retired teacher, 75, dies following Saturday night incident in Burry Port

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RETIRED teacher Peter Ormerod, aged 75, who suffered serious injuries in an incident in Burry Port on Saturday night (24 September) has sadly passed away earlier today.

His family have paid tribute to him, saying: “Peter was a well-respected teacher and member of the community.

“A very loved and loving father, grandfather, brother and friend.”

The family requests privacy at this difficult time.

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