West Wales News Review — analysis with a sustainability slant

Llandeilo Provisions Market: Renovation Dream, Parking Nightmare

Where are Llandeilo’s 349 daytime and 508 evening car park spaces? We don’t know.

Carmarthenshire County Council has used these figures to justify planning approval for a major commercial redevelopment of the listed Provisions Market building at the top of Carmarthen Street at the junction with New Road. See also the Carmarthenshire Herald, October 21.

Only 36 spaces would be provided on site, but the apparent availability of hundreds of spaces elsewhere in the town led the planning committee to decide last week (October 13) that the shortage of spaces at the historic building would not be a problem – even though the 16 or so existing informal parking spaces on the New Road and Carmarthen Street sides of the county-council owned building would disappear to allow for tables and chairs.


PM, Provisions Market; R, residents’ parking; 1, Carmarthen Road car park; 2, Crescent Road car park, the main one in Llandeilo; 3, Llandeilo Station car park. The thee car parks have 205 spaces between them

Llandeilo town has three public car parks. Crescent Road, by far the largest, has 165 spaces. There are 25 at Llandeilo Station and 15 in the Carmarthen Road car park next to the Fire Station, according to figures obtained by Llandeilo’s hard-working county councillor Edward Thomas. That’s a total of 205, or 144 less than the daytime figure given to the planning committee.  And scarcely anyone would walk from the station to the Provisions Market, a distance of nearly half a mile via steps and Alan Road. A less steep route via Station Road is three-quarters of a mile.

Cllr Thomas is “very concerned” about the loss of unofficial parking spaces outside the Provisions Market. “I am actively campaigning for more parking spaces in Llandeilo, because there is definitely a need for it,” he said. Flat land suitable for parking is at a premium, though, and so it may become necessary to find land outside the town and run a shuttle bus service.

Residents only parking

Daytime on-street parking in Llandeilo is residents only in New Road, as well as in Crescent Road, Church Street, Abbey Terrace, Bank Terrace and Quay Street. Between 6pm and 8am these residents’ spaces are, in theory, available to anyone including, of course, the residents. In addition, at designated spaces at the top of New Road and opposite the civic offices in Crescent Road, drivers can park for up to two hours if a residents’ bay is vacant. Within a couple of hundred metres of the Provisions Market, there are 23 one-hour parking bays in King Street and five 30-minute bays in George Street, but these are intended for quick shopping stops.

Carmarthen Street is narrow and displays double yellow lines on both sides. Rhosmaen Street, part of the A483 Swansea to Manchester trunk road, is definitely No Parking.

Plans for the Provisions Market include two of the 36 parking spaces to be reserved for the disabled. The parking area would absorb the Carmarthen Street recycling site, which would be moved elsewhere. At present there are about 12 spaces behind the building in addition to the 16 at the front and side, and they are normally full – so the new plan adds only eight spaces.

Additional 175 spaces required

If guidelines for new commercial development were followed, there would be 175 spaces at the refurbished Provisions Market, including 12 for the disabled. Most disabled drivers need to be close to their destination – but within 50 yards or so of the Provisions Market the options, if the two reserved spaces were occupied, would be the 10 spaces outside Pili Pala Nursery opposite, or temporary use of a residents’ parking bay, in both cases limited to two hours.

The council’s highways and transport department appears to have had a change of heart since 2012, when lack of parking was a reason for the Head of Transport’s recommendation to refuse the application, by the housing association Gwalia, to construct four houses and nine flats on the site, and to renovate the Provisions Market building as a shell for future commercial use. Gwalia had proposed 16 parking spaces for the dwellings and five for the market building (two of which have since been taken by a bus stop).

Events venue

The 2012 proposals would have resulted, at least initially, in few people on the site, probably between 20 and 25 residents, but the latest plans, by Dawnus Construction Holdings Ltd, are for an events venue with retailing, catering, and business uses which could employ 80 people full-time and 23 part-time. There would be some parking for customers if all employees walked to work, or came by bus – but that is improbable.


Renovation would mean the end of informal parking around the old Provisions Market. Public transport does not exist for many of the people who need to come into town, which is in sore need of more daytime parking spaces

There is little spare parking space in Llandeilo now in the daytime – so 103 additional employees, and an unknown number of customers, are likely to park on the streets, and the main candidate near the Provisions Market is Carmarthen Road beyond the Police Station and down to Llandeilo Rugby Club, where there are no yellow lines, plus smart residential roads off Carmarthen Road like Diana Road, Lôn Rhys and Parc Pencrug.

The Herald is awaiting replies from Carmarthenshire County Council to questions about the number of car park spaces in Llandeilo, and the source of the figures given to the planning committee.

More cars with internal combustion engines coming into Llandeilo would worsen the already severe air pollution problem. On the other hand, frequent public transport between isolated rural homes and the town centre would not be affordable. Electric cars must be part of the answer — but they still need somewhere to park (and recharge).



Public airings for Awel wind co-op venture

Wind power project owned by small investors: see the Carmarthenshire Herald, October 21

Wind energy co-op Awel has three public open evenings next week. The first is on Monday October 24 at Cwmllynfell  Millennium Hall, the second on Wednesday October 26 in Pontardawe Arts Centre, and the third on Thursday October 27 in the Aelwyd yr Urdd building, Hall Street, Brynamman. All three sessions are from 7.30pm to 9pm.

The open evenings coincide with the arrival of turbine parts from Germany, through the port of Swansea. Awel, a community benefit society, is building two 2.35MW Enercon turbines on Mynydd y Gwrhyd south of Brynamman and between the Amman and Swansea valleys. The work is on schedule and should be finished by December.

The project is funded by share subscribers, who so far have contributed £1,354,236. The aim is to raise a total of £1,965,000, and a share offer is open until November 7. “Members can subscribe from £50,” said Awel director Carl Richards, “and it is one member, one vote”.

Subscription is for 20 years, but a request for the return of an investment can be made after three years. The projected rate of return is 5% a year, which is high in today’s environment of low interest rates.

Awel has made the final of the next Cynnal Cymru Awards, representing sustainable social enterprises. The Awel team, headed by project manager Dan McCallum, is also behind the solar panel co-op Egni, which puts solar photovoltaic panels on the roofs of public and community buildings, most recently in Carmarthenshire on Trimsaran Community Centre.


Turbine tower sections on the way to Mynydd y Gwrhyd, where community benefit society Awel will shortly be producing clean energy from the wind. There are public presentations in the area next week 


Would you like to live next door to this?

Would you like to live next door to this? Inadequate, defective and missing foundations, crumbling masonry, no ring beam?

A 28-year saga of botched and hazardous construction, as reported in the Carmarthenshire Herald and the Llanelli Herald this week. Could the local authority step in? Yes. Will the local authority take decisive action? No

A two-storey extension, on the back of no.43 Felinfoel Road, Llanelli, went up in 1988. A further single-storey extension, loosely tacked on to it, followed in 1990. It has loomed over the back yard of the next-door house, no.41 Felinfoel Road, ever since.


No.43 Felinfoel Road is on the corner and no.41 is attached to it  

Clive and Pam Edwards live in no.41. They have accumulated, over 28 years, boxes of correspondence about the defective extensions. The quantity of information is so great that dissecting and analysing it is a colossal task that few people would want to undertake.

The gist, though, is relatively simple. Botched and faulty decisions in the past have blighted no.41 – and have also damaged no.43.

In June 2003 Waterman Burrow Crocker, civil and structural consulting engineers commissioned by Dyfed Powys Police, said at the end of a long list of serious defects that “We would therefore class the extension as a dangerous structure”.

Nothing was done at the time.


The rear extension to no.43 looks fine from the street

Part of the outer skin of the building was removed after a 2006 report by Wyatt and Watts, consulting civil and structural engineers, said it was dangerous.  There were no wall ties securing it to the inner skin, and in a high wind it might have collapsed – onto the home of Clive and Pamela Edwards.

But the numerous other defects and potential dangers remained.


Clive Edwards at the front door of no.41 

In September2007 Martin Watts of Wyatt & Watts wrote to Tim Rees at solicitors Douglas-Jones Mercer, acting for Carmarthenshire County Council, saying “The partial removal of the outer blockwork skin has effectively removed the original dangerous structure concerns but resulted in new stability concerns for the now exposed inner skin and flat roof construction to no.43 under high winds and storms. The removal of the outer skin has also made both properties more vulnerable to rain and damp penetration at this location”.

And that is the situation today.

Council chief executive forbids staff to inspect property

Carmarthenshire County Council, the planning authority, maintains the line that the problem is nothing to do with them, just a neighbour dispute. Chief Executive Mark James CBE has taken charge, refusing to allow officers to carry out risk assessments, and refusing to allow any staff to answer questions from Mr and Mrs Edwards’ councillor, Bill Thomas, as well as from the Edwardses themselves.


No.43’s extension from the back yard of no.41

Despite this declaration of ‘nothing to do with us’, the council is organising an inspection every two years. The most recent, on May 22 2015, found rat droppings above the ground-floor bathroom of no.41, which shares a party wall with no.43 – the wall which now lacks an outer skin. The rodents have chewed through electrical cables, said Mr Edwards.

Nevertheless, Martin Watts of Wyatt & Watts reported “no discernible change in the physical condition and stability of the visible areas of wall between the two properties since my last inspection in August 2012” although the “continued exposure of this wall to the elements has caused increased damp issues and damage to wall finishes particularly to the visible wall areas within no.43.” Yet “based on these findings I do not consider this wall is presently in a dangerous condition”. The council has used this finding to absolve it from having to organise repair.


Vegetation is growing on the crumbling outer wall of the extension, the upper portion of which was demolished in 2007 by order of Llanelli Magistrates Court, because it was bulging outwards dangerously

Not indefinitely – Mr Watts also wrote that the “present construction arrangement cannot be left in this state indefinitely”. For how much longer, he does not say. Is 28 years not long enough?

Mr Mark James’ order for officers to do nothing about 43 Felinfoel Road appears to conflict with advice on the council’s own website, in a section on ‘Dangerous Structures’, which starts: “If you are concerned that a building or structure may be dangerous you can contact us at any time. In the interest of public safety a 24 hours a day service is provided to cover Office and Non Office hours with the aid of Careline to cover out of office incidents concerning dangerous structures.

“Where necessary the danger will be removed immediately by our own specialist contractors under the close supervision of an experienced senior building control officer who will ensure that the work is carried out in the most suitable way.”


Only an inner skin is left at first-floor level

The problem with no.43 seems to be that the council does not believe the structure dangerous enough to force it to act – although 13 years ago Waterman Burrow Crocker said: “Events such as high winds or softening of the subsoil below the foundations may cause the structure to become overloaded and collapse”.

The Herald asked Carmarthenshire County Council for a statement, and this was the response:  “We believe that we have explained the position fully to Mr and Mrs Edwards in correspondence and have nothing to add.”


Gap in the extension’s foundations

Mega stress

The stress of living next to the awful extension has taken a severe toll on Clive and Pamela Edwards. They cannot solve the problem – no.43, currently unoccupied, belongs to Mr Simon Baier. Mr Baier is an engineer who lives at Woodland Manor, Llangennech Park, between Llanelli and Pontarddulais. He and Julie Baier own a small company, SGB Engineering Ltd, which changed its name from Grantrise Ltd on July 7 1997.

Mr Baier had the extensions built, and received a grant of £3,994 from Llanelli Borough Council, which approved the works as satisfactorily completed, a conclusion with which none of the structural engineers who have examined it since would agree, given the defects they all catalogued.


Section of uneven, too-thin foundation

Mr and Mrs Edwards could try to sell their home – but who would buy it, with next door’s defective extensions looming over the kitchen and back yard?  In addition, the two-story extension uses the whole of the party wall between the properties as the remaining lower portion of the outer skin, and that wall has voids in it due, said Clive Edwards, to the extension builders’ decision to remove no.41’s rear chimney breast. Mrs Edwards’ great aunt was living there at the time, and at 88 years old not fully aware of the damage being inflicted.

Neighbour also distressed

Simon Baier, owner of no.43 Felinfoel Road, says he would like nothing better than to solve his extension problem. “I have wanted to complete it for almost 30 years,” he said. “I have gone down the legal route, my solicitor and Mr Edwards’ solicitor have agreed party wall repairs in the past, and on three or four occasions builders have started work, but they need access to no.41 to do the work, and Mr Edwards has not let them continue, in fact he has asked them to leave.

“I even said to the council, go and do the repairs and send me the bill, but Mr Edwards would not let the council’s builders onto his property.

”At the moment I am trying to get an enforcement order to allow builders access to no.41. It’s cost a fortune in legal fees. I reckon over £60,000 just since 2007.

“I can’t live in no.43. Water has come in and the upstairs ceilings in the extension have fallen down, and the ceiling in the kitchen extension downstairs.

“The market value of the house would be about £130,000, but the best offer I have received so far is £58,000.”


The extension wall (left) where it meets the back wall of no.41

Mr Edwards agreed that he would not let builders on his property to do shoddy repairs, but said he was not aware of Mr Baier’s request for the council to do the rebuilding, and also said he had never knowingly asked council-contracted builders to leave. “I would be happy if the council came along to do the work,” he said. “It would have to be done in line with Building Regulations, and I am sure the council would insist on that.”

Grant gave illusion of respectability

Why has the faulty extension next door not been rebuilt?

  1. The conflict is not about doing repairs: both Mr Baier and Mr Edwards know that repairs must be done. It is about the scope and quality of repairs. “The extension must comply with the plans drawn up for the original planning application,” said Mr Edwards. In his view, that includes proper foundations and the inclusion of a ring beam –but rebuilding the whole structure would be far more expensive than tidying it up.
  2. Llanelli Borough Council – later part of Carmarthenshire County Council – approved the first, two-storey extension and gave it the grant of £3,994. Why the faulty work was passed as satisfactory, when it lacked building regulations approval, has never been explained. The grant gave the extension an illusion of respectability.
  3. Carmarthenshire council officers, including Chief Executive Mark James, appear to have been vexed by Mr Edwards’ frequent, detailed letters, to the point of opting to ignore them.
  4. Legislation for dangerous buildings should provide the means for the council to rebuild the extension and take a charge on the property to cover the cost of the work, but the word ‘dangerous’ is open to interpretation.  The latest check, in 2015, says the two-storey wall is not imminently dangerous – but that it cannot remain ‘indefinitely ‘. The check did not include the defective foundations, but did record rodent droppings – hardly beneficial to the health of Pam and Clive Edwards, in fact potentially dangerous.

Where the single-storey and two-storey extensions are supposed to join 

Councils have vast range of possible actions

The law does not require a structure to be tumbling down before a local authority can act. Samuel Townend, a barrister at Keating Chambers, wrote in ‘Dangerous/defective buildings and the role of the local authority’, published in Local Government Lawyer in May 2014, that “The range of possible actions that can be taken by a local authority when faced with a defective or dangerous building or structure within its jurisdiction are vast. With fore-thought early action, albeit involving some initial expense in preparing an application to the courts for a relevant order, avoids the local authority taking the risk of being liable to pay sometimes heavy compensation to parties affected that have not themselves caused the danger to eventuate.

“If a local authority, knowing about a defective or dangerous structure, leaves matters until emergency action is required, it has only got itself to blame if it subsequently faces claims for compensation.”

If the wall of no.43 collapses on no.41, Carmarthenshire County Council could not claim ignorance of the dangers. Waiting until the danger level reaches fifty nine minutes to midnight is not a sensible option, because action can be taken if a structure is ‘defective’ – and the extensions to 43 Felinfoel Road have been defective for 28 years.


Ragged tarpaulin flapping on no.43 does not keep out water

Section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 is one of the options proposed by Mr Townend in his article. This gives a local authority the right to serve an abatement notice on the owner of the defective premises or structure, for a nuisance caused by a structural defect.

Section 77 of the Building Act 1984 is also a possibility. The council can apply to a court for an order requiring the property owner to carry out remedial work – and if he or she refuses, the council can have it done and recharge the owner.

Clive Edwards, who is a cancer sufferer, is desperate for remedial action to be taken. “We can’t sell our house for anything like its real value,” he said. “Who would want to live here? We don’t go out into the yard now, because we can’t bear to look at the monstrosity.”

It is a monstrosity which might crush their house, and them with it, and also a monstrosity which is a nightmare for owner Simon Baier.

And it all began with incompetent, potentially dangerous work which Llanelli Borough Council should not have approved, but did – an error which, uncorrected, has led to a seemingly intractable problem 28 years later.


Rats have entered the roof space of no.41’s single-storey kitchen and bathroom extension 






















Approval for ‘detrimental’ industrial-style building in Ffairfach back garden

A planning decision last week was quite disturbing, I thought. It may well be correct, in a technical sense, but still disturbing. This was a case of the applicants’ rights trumping those of neighbours , especially the elderly lady next door. There are, we know, unscrupulous builders who target the elderly and fleece them. This is a different sort of case, in which the loss of amenity imposed on a long-standing resident was judged less important than the right of the applicants to construct a 50-square metre industrial building, 3.76 metres to the roof line, with grey steel-clad walls three metres high and nine metres long, right along the boundary with their neighbour’s garden.

Adverse impact on neighbours is a legitimate planning issue, but the weight accorded to it varies hugely. In this case, the impact on neighbours was disregarded. The planning officer argued that there were some commercial buildings nearby, that some people had double garages – but these points are irrelevant to the siting of this particular industrial-style building (which is entirely for domestic use, the planning officer stressed).

The applicants previously had permission from the local authority to put the building, far more appropriately, on the other side of their garden – but it would have been on top of a water main, a fact evidently not known to the planning department when approval was given.

The report is in the Carmarthenshire Herald, September 30, p.8

It will be big, steel-framed and steel profile-clad above concrete block walls, but it won’t be in an industrial or commercial location.

It will be in a back garden in Ffairfach, Llandeilo, to the distress of next door neighbour Mrs Annie Dorothy Jones.

Mr OEW James and Mrs HM James, of 5 Heol Myrddin, already had permission for a garage-cum-store, 9 metres long, 5.5 metres wide and 3.76 metres to the roof ridge, but on the other side of their garden, where it would still have been evident to neighbours but probably not so dominant.

Water main problem

Unfortunately the planning permission ignored the fact that the steel-roofed garage would be built over a water main, and so construction could not carry on.

Mr and Mrs James put in another application, to build the garage/store on the other side of their garden, right behind their semi-detached house and alongside the back garden of Mrs Jones next door in no.7. Even so, it still fell foul of the rule forbidding development for four metres either side of a water main.

Dŵr Cymru came to the rescue with a letter to Mr and Mrs James, which planning officer Graham Noakes reported to Carmarthenshire County Council’s planning committee on Tuesday (September 27). The letter, said Mr Noakes, agreed that the garage could go up only 3.5 metres from the water main. The cladding over the steel frame might be a trifle closer, the committee heard, but the steel columns on the nearest side would be 3.5 metres from the main.

Next-door garden overshadowed

For Mrs Jones next door, the permission means a nine-metre-long wall, three metres high to the eaves, adjoining the eastern side of her garden, shading it, overshadowing it, and not providing an aesthetically pleasing outlook. She engaged planning consultants JCR Planning of Cross Hands to present her case.

Craig Jones of JCR Planning, also representing another neighbour, had submitted a nine-page report, pointing out that the new building would be on the flood plain, and rain water would not be able to run off fast enough. The structure would be right on the boundary with Mrs’ Jones’s garden, and overbearing, wrote Mr Jones, “because the existing hedgerow/wall has already been removed”.

The building would be detrimental to the residential area, detrimental to the amenity enjoyed by neighbours, and not in accordance with the Local Development Plan, claimed Mr Jones, because it does not conform with or enhance the character and appearance of the site, does not use appropriate materials, has a big impact on neighbours, and does not provide for adequate disposal of surface water, a particular problem because of its flood-plain location.

Detrimental to neighbours

Despite this catalogue of reasoned objections, Mr Noakes recommended approval and the majority of the committee agreed. Cllr Anthony Jones (Labour, Llandybie) and Cllr Kevin Madge (Labour, Garnant) both felt sympathy for neighbours, though. “This is detrimental to the neighbours, no doubt,” said Cllr Madge. Cllr Anthony Jones was concerned at the large area of the building – almost 50 square metres – and asked why it had to be so big.

Why indeed? To store a caravan, the committee was told. No one commented that caravans are designed to cope with outdoor conditions.

Craig Jones of JCR Planning had already pointed out that the footprint of the garage/store was “bigger than the house”, and also wondered why the building’s roller shutter door would be three metres high. “The excessive height of the proposed structure suggests a storage use for ‘items’ other than domestic”, Mr Jones had written in his report.

‘Well-known failings of current enforcement procedures’

He was not happy with a proposed planning condition to limit the use of the garage/store to domestic purposes only, stating that “The Local Authority’s reliance on a condition that seeks to prevent a future use will of course be dogged by the well-known failings of current enforcement procedures. Any incremental development away from domestic use will be difficult to monitor and enforce.”

This barbed comment led planning officer Mr Noakes to reply that “The stated lack of faith in the Authority’s Planning Enforcement Section is disappointing, particularly as the objector’s agent is one of the agents who regularly corresponds with the Authority, including an interaction with the enforcement officers”.

Mr Noakes had concluded that “the proposed garage is of a scale and design that is acceptable in a residential setting and will not have a significantly detrimental effect upon the amenity of the occupiers of the neighbouring dwellings”. Natural Resources Wales were not concerned about flooding risk, he said, leading him to advise the committee to approve the plan.




New co-op seeks public support to buy organic veg business

Golden Organics, a community co-operative society, is negotiating the possible purchase of Organics to Go, Roger Hallam’s organic vegetables business at Werndolau, Golden Grove, Llandeilo — as reported in the Carmarthenshire Herald, September 23, p.17.

Mr Hallam founded Organics to Go on 10 south-facing acres of loamy soil in 1999, and says it is the only Carmarthenshire organic vegetable farm of which he is aware. The business currently supplies the Organic Fresh Food Company in Lampeter and vegetable boxes to customers locally, in London, and at Mumbles farmers’ market. Most of the vegetable are grown in six polytunnels.

Golden Organics held a public meeting in Golden Grove village hall on September 15 to start finding out how much community support there would be for investing in and buying vegetables from a co-operative society.  More than a dozen people turned up, and several wanted to learn more about the risks and opportunities before making any commitment.

The latest published accounts for the business, Organics to Go (West) Ltd, are for the year to March 31 2015 and show shareholders’ funds of £31,364 compared with £33,422 the previous year. Mr Hallam, who has stepped back from farming to study in London, is the sole shareholder.

The strategy document prepared for Golden Organics’ three directors – Anson Allen, Nick Cater and Peter Clarke – reveals that they are aiming to raise an initial £28,000 of the estimated £68,000 take-over costs for the business, which is offered on a 10-year lease with annual rent, and excludes the farmhouse. The money could come from investors including crowd funding, donations, and grants.

Vegetable production comes with no guarantees, and organic production has higher labour demand and thus wage costs than chemical-intensive production.  There was a feeling in the hall, expressed by Kelly O’Brien, one of the instigators of the ‘Incredible Edible Carmarthenshire’ project to grow food on community-owned and public land, that public benefit could be a large part of the proposed venture. Partnerships with schools, colleges, green groups and others could be cultivated. Kelly also feels that Golden Organics might fit into the Soil Association’s ‘Food for Life’ campaign for better food, including locally sourced organic produce, to be offered in schools.

Golden Organics will now be preparing a full business plan. For more information, contact Anson Allen, anson@ansonallen.co.uk.

Public meeting to discuss a co-operative take-over of Organics to Go, Golden Grove. Co-op directors Anson Allen, Peter Clarke and Nick Cater are standing left, 4th from left and 2nd from right. Roger Hallam, owner of Organics to Go, is standing 2nd from left. Community food campaigner Kelly O’Brien is sitting 2nd from right.

Public meeting to discuss a co-operative take-over of Organics to Go, Golden Grove. Co-op directors Anson Allen, Peter Clarke and Nick Cater are standing left, 4th from left and 2nd from right. Roger Hallam, owner of Organics to Go, is standing 2nd from left. Community food campaigner Kelly O’Brien is sitting 2nd from right.

Rescue plan in reserve for threatened Llangadog recycling centre

Friday September 30 is decision day for Llangadog’s Household Waste Recycling Centre. If there’s no deal, no rescue plan on the table by then, it will close. Read about it in the Carmarthenshire Herald, September 23, pages 1 and 3

Rumours of the possible end-of-September closure of Llangadog’s household waste recycling centre have alarmed residents in north Carmarthenshire, for whom the centre is an important amenity.

The recycling centre serves some 20,000 people, who would face long journeys to alternative sites. The nearest recycling site to Llangadog is more than a dozen miles to the south-west at Wernddu near Ammanford.

The Llangadog centre is operated by All Waste Services Ltd, a private company headed by Mr Hefin Roberts.

Carmarthenshire County Council has a household waste recycling agreement  with All Waste Services. Back in 2014, when the contract was up for renewal, the then Director of Technical Services, Richard Workman, said a new contract at the prevailing rate of payment would be unaffordable. This was despite the fact that Llangadog’s recycling rate of 80%-85% was way above the county average of around 55%, and significantly above the EU target of 50% by 2020, and even above Wales’s target of 70% by 2025. The recycling centre also provided about 10 local jobs.

Public pressure, and intervention from Llangadog’s county councillor Andrew James, saved the day. A new deal was agreed, albeit on tougher terms. The centre no longer accepted certain types of waste, like paint and mattresses, and cut weekend opening to three hours on Saturday and Sunday mornings. But that has not been enough to ensure the centre’s future.



Hefin Roberts (front) and Andrew James: uphill struggle

Emergency talks

Hefin Roberts spoke to The Herald yesterday (Sep 22). He said that negotiations with the county council were going well and he was hopeful an agreement could be reached. “I told the council that we had to have a new agreement in place by September 30,” he said, “or we would not be able to continue”. During the past two years, he has been personally subsidising the recycling centre, he said.

“We have to make sure it is a sustainable business,” he said. “Over the last couple of years it has been increasingly difficult to make ends meet. Back in 2013-14 our budget was cut in half. We streamlined, we had to reduce our staff. At the same time, prices for recycled commodities fell away, mainly because China stopped buying them. It now costs us to dispose of many commodities. For flat glass, for example, we have to pay a ‘gate fee’ to deliver to buyers, and if there is any contamination, we can be charged £100 a tonne on top.


Demonstration at the Llangadog recycling centre in February 2014, when Carmarthenshire County Council was discussing closure. The centre stayed open, but with only half the previous budget.

“Waste wood can cost £65 a tonne to get rid of – at the moment nobody really wants it. As for scrap metal, we used to receive £120 to £130 a tonne, but that has gone down to £5 a tonne, and we have to pay a haulage charge, which means we earn nothing.

Mr Roberts pointed out that stockpiling commodities in the hope that prices might improve was not an option because of fire risk as well as lack of space.

At Carmarthenshire County Council, spokesperson Debbie Williams said the council is aware of the fears that the recycling centre might close.

“The Authority are in discussion with All Waste Services and will provide further information in due course”, she said.


Llanwrda activist launches rescue plan

Maria Carroll, of the Old Post Office shop in Llanwrda, and the Labour candidate in yesterday’s (September 22) Cilycwm by-election, told The Herald she has brought together a team, including local business people, to look at a rescue plan “if we cannot get the council to act”.

The recycling centre “has been running without a contract since 2014, under interim arrangements that were not brought before the full council,” said Maria. Without the security of a properly negotiated contract, the family operating the centre has borne the costs of maintaining the service, she explained.

A petition to keep the centre open can be signed in local shops, including the Old Post Office shop. The petition is also online at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/en-gb/572/697/743/demand-our-community-recycling-centre-serving-is-saved/


Waste recycling industry in recession

Since the deal to keep the Llangadog centre open in 2014, the waste business has suffered a recession. As Hefin Roberts explained, this means that operators like AWS receive less income from selling the commodities they recycle, indeed often make a loss. According to the Financial Times on August 23, “the fall in prices for recycled goods has put pressure on every part of the waste management industry”. The report, by Gill Plimmer, also said that the Kier Group, a construction and environmental services company in the FTSE 250 index, had announced that it would exit recycling after announcing in July that it expected to make a £33 million loss on the business in its final year of trading.

All Waste Services does not have to publish full accounts because it is a small company, but balance sheets at Companies House show a decline in the value of the business since 2011. Shareholders’ funds were then £822,267, but they fell in every following year, and the latest balance sheet, for the year to September 30 2015, states shareholders’ funds as £590,647, a fall of 28% in four years, and indicative of tough times in the industry.


Gelli Aur signs off

Signs pointing to the closed Gelli Aur Country Park, Golden Grove, have been removed or painted over despite the award in 2015 of a grant of £989,000 from the Welsh Government, payable over three years, to improve public access.  (Carmarthenshire Herald, September 16, p.2)

The signs have been taken away or blotted out by Carmarthenshire County Council in response to complaints from members of the public who followed the signs only to find the park closed.

Cllr Hazel Evans, the county council’s executive board member for the environment, said: “The brown tourism signs for Gelli Aur have been removed as they are out of date and we have had complaints from visitors who followed the signs to a facility that was not open.”


 August 28 2016 — on the A476 between Llandeilo and Cross Hands, one of the few remaining signs to Gelli Aur Country Park

The grant from the Welsh Government was agreed in 2015, to be paid to the Golden Grove Trust over three years. A year ago, on September 28 2015, the Welsh Government said “The first phase of the work is to enable public access to the historic parkland and gardens with associated amenities such as tea rooms, play area, educational activities and trails”.

September 12th 2016 -- same spot, but the sign has been painted over

September 12 2016 — same spot, but the sign has been painted over

The Trust said that the park would be open on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays while the restoration work was in progress, but several people have complained about finding the park shut when they have tried to make weekend visits.

The country park, which was valued and used by thousands of people over the years, is being erased.


Voters in ‘forgotten Carmarthenshire’ quiz Cilycwm candidates

Hustings for a council by-election? Would people care enough to come along? In Carmarthenshire’s Cilycwm ward electors do care, and on Wednesday evening (Sep 14) more than 60 sat attentively in Llanwrda village hall to hear and question the candidates in next Thursday’s (Sep 22) election for a seat on the county council. (See the Carmarthenshire Herald, September 16, p.6)

Five of the seven candidates seeking to replace the late Tom Theophilus made it to the platform: Maria Carroll (Labour), Steven Holmes (Conservative), Catherine Nakielny (Liberal Democrat), Matthew Paul (Independent, although he stood as a Conservative in the 2015 general election and this year’s Welsh Assembly election) and Jacqui Thompson (People First). The two who did not attend were farmers Arwel Davies (Independent), due to an emergency, and Dafydd Tomos (Plaid Cymru), because of an important prior commitment. Both sent their apologies, relayed by the chairman, Rev. Roger Thomas, vicar of Llansadwrn and Llanwrda in Cilycwm ward, and of Manordeilo in an adjacent ward.

Speeding traffic, protection for the recycling centre at Llangadog, encouragement for local businesses, and settling more Syrian refugees were topics of concern for voters, alongside a widespread feeling of living in “forgotten Carmarthenshire”, as Llanwrda garage owner and railway historian Richard Rees put it. Somewhat surprisingly in an area with many Welsh speakers, the proceedings were all in English.

The candidates agreed on many topics. Cilycwm ward needs better broadband and mobile phone coverage, safer roads, and more career opportunities for young people. The Llangadog recycling centre is an important local asset. Carmarthenshire could do more for refugees. Points of disagreement were few and subtle, such as the priority to be given to cutting council tax. Given the already huge pressures on the county council’s budget, and deep cuts in education and social care, scope to reduce council tax is clearly limited. Steven Holmes would aim for a freeze. Matthew Paul, Jacqui Thompson and Catherine Nakielny would campaign against expenditure on wasteful “vanity projects” such as Parc y Scarlets in Llanelli. Maria Carroll, who pointed out that she has experience of managing large budgets in the NHS, would invest for economic growth to increase prosperity in the county.

One voter asked what the candidates would do to prevent a reduction in the number of Welsh MPs at Westminster, a question prompted by the Boundary Commission’s proposal to cut the number of Welsh constituencies from 40 to 29. Maria Carroll, who argued that the plan is based on incorrect figures of elector numbers, urged everyone to read and respond to the consultative document. For Matthew Paul, fewer MPs would not be a problem if devolution was in better health and the UK was progressing towards a federalised structure but in his view “devolution is in a mess”. Both Steven Holmes and Catherine Nakielny stressed that a county councillor’s primary task is to listen to and represent local people.

Electors have a difficult choice between the seven candidates. Every one of the five present at the hustings has particular strengths. Maria Carroll said she is local, keen to promote neighbourliness, and has managed large budgets. Catherine Nakielny, a recent past chair of the Farmers’ Union of Wales Carmarthenshire branch, is knowledgeable about agricultural politics and farming – the backbone industry in this rural area. Steven Holmes is a new voice with “no baggage”, as he expressed it, but with the full support of the Welsh Conservatives. Matthew Paul, an experienced barrister in public, regulatory and administrative law, is “like a dog with a bone” when tackling problems, and he knows how local government works. As for community councillor Jacqui Thompson, she is a survivor of bruising encounters with County Hall and has been instrumental in opening up the workings of the county council to greater public scrutiny and accountability.


Farmers claim Tywi cycle path puts livestock at risk

Are modern demands for biosecurity ousting the public from the countryside? Arguments over the proposed Carmarthen to Llandeilo cycle path and walkway highlight the issue. See also the Carmarthenshire Herald, September 16, p.5 

Farmers in the Tywi valley are opposing Carmarthenshire County Council’s intention to reopen parts of the trackway of the former Llandeilo to Carmarthen railway, as a path for walkers and cyclists.

The county council’s ‘Towy Valley Cycleway’ is a venture to encourage leisure cycling, as well as walking, in a safe environment. Farmers, though, have numerous worries about the scheme.

The council’s Environment Department, headed by Ruth Mullen, has applied for permission from the Planning Department to create a path between Nantgaredig and Whitemill, using part of the former railway trackbed and an existing footpath which hugs the banks of the river Tywi/Towy.

For William Richard Lloyd Davies, of Cwm Farm, Abergorlech Road, Carmarthen, flooding is a large risk and he would rather the path ran alongside the A40, or formed part of Celtic Trail route 47, which extends across south Wales and takes in Llanelli and Kidwelly on the way to Carmarthen, completely avoiding the Tywi valley between Carmarthen and Llandeilo.


This map, courtesy of Carmarthenshire County Council and based on a Crown Copyright map, shows the route of the  proposed cycle path between Whitemill in the west and Nantgaredig in the east. The section bordering the river is on the line of an existing footpath. 

Mr Lloyd Davies has told the county council’s planning department that any elevation, even a slight one, “in the creation of the path, will act as a barrier for flood water to run back into the Tywi, and create additional and sustained flooding resulting in property damage and financial loss to myself as a land owner and to other landowners in the area.”

He says that the path plan conflicts with the Welsh Government’s strategic framework for the eradication of bovine TB in Wales, which requires the immediate imposition of movement restrictions once disease is suspected, keeping disease out of clean farms and preventing cattle from coming into contact with the pathogen.

Helen Scott of the Carmarthen Veterinary Centre has told the planning department that several clients along the proposed route contacted her with concerns. Miss Scott’s arguments include:

  • There is no provision for biosecurity cleansing and disinfection.
  • Disruption of boundaries could allow nose-to-nose contact between animals.
  • Dogs could transmit Neospora caninum, a cause of bovine abortion, and worry livestock.
  • Bovine TB, infectious bovine rhinotracheitis and Johnes disease could be transmitted.
  • People could be in danger from livestock.
  • Local wildlife could be disrupted.

The National Farmers Union has also put in a letter of objection on behalf of seven members. One is Clive Jones of Beili Glas, Whitemill. He points out that a “substantial part of the path will run alongside the River Tywi. As one of the land tenants occupying a part of the Tywi valley affected by the proposed development, I have over the years experienced the extensive, regular and unpredictable flooding from the River Tywi. I have grave concerns as to the danger the unpredictable water levels poses to the public using the proposed cycleway. I also have fears of the risk that the river holds even when not in flood, as sections of the proposed cycleway are located in a remote area, anyone who may be tempted away from the path to swim or jump into the river from the river bank could consequently find themselves in distress, with no assistance near by. There have been recent incidents on the Tywi river where such activities have been fatal.”

A detailed map of the proposed path shows exits via public and private rights of way in case of emergency. This map also has a cross section showing that the three-metre wide tarmac path, with one-metre verges on both sides, would be enclosed with wire mesh fencing supported by timber posts 1.2 metres high.

As regards safety, the riverside location has much in common with coastal beaches which carry ‘no swimming’ instructions when sea conditions are potentially dangerous, and at times of flood the path could be closed.

Natural Resources Wales has concerns of its own, about protected species, and is asking for further surveys. Dyfed Archaeological Trust wants protection for a Bronze Age round barrow and standing stone, and sections of Roman road. CADW, concerned about the round barrow, said:  “unfortunately the application contains no information as to how the construction work will avoid damage to the scheduled monument”.

Llanegwad Community Council, though, has given its backing to the pathway plan, as has the Carmarthenshire Cycling Forum, which liaises with the county council, The cycling forum  expects the creation of the path to take some time, and possibly require the use of Compulsory Purchase Orders.

Plan for 125 metre wind turbines at Rhydcymerau  

Could this be a trend? Receive planning permission for a project and quickly seek to make it much bigger? 

Carmarthenshire Herald, September 9th 2016, p.2

From supersize to megasize

Six months after winning a battle for planning permission, the firm proposing two wind turbines 100 metres (325 feet) high to the blade tip, sited north of Rhydcymerau on Mynydd Pencarreg, is asking to ditch those for even larger turbines, measuring 125 metres (406 feet) from ground to blade tip.

The structures would be taller than the 111-metre dome of London’s St Paul’s Cathedral, and the blade tips would be some 475 metres (1,544 feet) above sea level.

The site is above 350 metres, about half a mile north of Esgairliving and a smaller distance south-west of Pantycrwys.   The Allt y Mynydd care home is about a mile distant.

The turbine owners, EnergieKontor UK Ltd of Leeds, a subsidiary of the German parent company, argue that the taller turbines could yield 37.7% more energy, from 10,417 to 14,347 MW hours per year.  The location map indicates that one of the higher structures would have to be moved from the current approved position because if it toppled, it could fall across a public road.

A deluge of objections, as well as expressions of support, greeted the original planning application. Llanybydder Community Council, which objected strongly, is likely to consider the application for even taller turbines when it meets on September 27.

VAST opposition

The group Villages Against Wind Turbines (VAST) also opposed the original application on grounds including damage to the landscape and ecology, noise, traffic, and distance to the National Grid.

VAST commented that construction of the 100-metre turbines “would require over 2,500 vehicle movements. This includes over 1,300 HGV trips and 50 turbine loads. The applicants anticipate an eight-month construction period ahead of becoming operational in 2017 – and this coincides with the construction timetable for Brechfa West”.

Connection to the National Grid was also an issue for VAST, which said it would require more than six kilometres of overhead or underground lines.  “Members of the public were told at the developer’s exhibition that the connection would be underground. If this was truthful, then there will be a sizeable environmental impact from six kilometres of trenching. This should have been factored in to the developer’s assessment of the site’s suitability and consideration of better alternatives, with a closer grid connection,” VAST argued before the turbines were given planning permission.

In response to the new application to increase the turbines’ height, VAST secretary Caroline Hill said: “VAST is seeking professional advice before responding to a planning application for a variation in height on this scale.  EnergieKontor has not as yet submitted sufficient information for the full impact to be assessed.”

The latest application will be determined by Carmarthenshire County Council.


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