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Council will use reserves for road

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Carmarthenshire West Development.

Carmarthenshire West Development.

C A R M A R T H E N S H I R E COUNTY COUNCIL’s executive board could spend at least £4.5m of its reserves on constructing a link road for a speculative property development. The controversial housing development, to be situated West of Carmarthen and south of Pentremeurig Road, is beset by a number of logistical and environmental problems. The use of council reserves for the scheme, so soon after the budget row, has significant political implications. The council appears to be helping out private business interests while slashing services for the elderly and families. The plans were forced through by the council in the teeth of opposition from Carmarthen’s own Town Council, Dŵr Cymru, and neighbouring property owners. The Welsh Government’s Traffic Division has also expressed concerns about the development. In addition, the impact on Welsh language and culture was glossed by the authority’s planning committee when it considered the application.

The executive board’s willingness to consider dipping into council reserves to bankroll a project undertaken by a private company is in stark contrast to the stance it has taken on using reserves to cushion the blow of savage cuts to council services. At last month’s budget meeting, the Labour/Independent governing group voted down proposals to shield the most vulnerable from the effects of service cuts by using the council’s reserves, which are in excess of £130m. In addition, the Labour group – which is in coalition with Independents on the council – shows very little sign of delivering the expansion in social housing it promised to deliver in 2012. The Herald understands that primary access to the new development would be provided by the West Carmarthen Link Road. The road, which will consist of a two lane single carriageway road, will cross and link both development parcels on its route between the A40 Travellers Rest Junction and Jobs Well Road and College Road.

The new link road is needed to alleviate the strain placed on the existing road infrastructure. The cost of building the link road was intended to be funded by a roof tax (£12,500 per house) as the development went along. One of the first phases of development recently came before the planning committee. However, a last minute intervention from Cardiff Bay which put the initial stage on hold. Both the council and the developer appear to have adopted the surprising position that building 250 houses without the link road in place would not add significantly to traffic flows around the problematic College Road and Jobswell Road junctions. That position is flatly contradicted by the content of the Council’s own report on the original application, which states: ’The Head of Transport has raised no objection to the application, subject to the imposition of suitable conditions. These include amongst others the requirement that no more than 100 dwellings are constructed on the site PRIOR to the completion of the link road’. The Welsh Government has now placed a condition that only 60 houses can be built before the link road is put in. In order to retrieve the situation, Carmarthenshire planners are faced with Hobson’s choice of recouping the money shelled out from reserves in order to facilitate the development company’s preferred plan of construction.

Quite where this would leave the planned recoupment of the expense of building the road via the ‘roof tax’ is unclear, not least as part of the conditions for the construction of the new development include onerous obligations in relation to funding drainage and water for the homes on the site and preserving Tawelan Brook – a conservation area. In relation to the former, with Dŵr Cymru stating its infrastructure would not support the increased sewage and drainage flow, it is certain that an English water company will step in to the breach. The company behind the development, Carmarthen Promotions Ltd, is listed as having five directors. All of its directors appear to be involved in a number of property companies with minimal assets or cash flow recorded at Companies House. Four of the five listed directors appear to be concerned in substantial farming limited liability partnerships. All seem to be based in East Anglia and all were appointed directors in September 2014. As the development is a private one, the open market will determine price. It is, therefore, uncertain what effective steps the Council could take to recover the money spent on the link road in the event that the development does not proceed on the planned scale, or if issues arise with the development’s commercial viability at a later stage.

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Police officer punched and spat at minutes after aggressive man held knife to his own throat

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A POLICE officer was punched in the face and spat at as he responded to a report of a violent man with a knife.

The Dyfed-Powys Police PC was left with swelling and bruising following the incident in Carmarthen on Saturday, October 17.

He also attended A&E for his eye to be cleaned after being spat at by Michael Ivan Priestly, who has since been charged and sentenced for assaulting an officer.

The force received a report of a disturbance at a house in Glanffynnon at around 9.40am, where it was said the 43-year-old was in possession of a knife.

Sergeant Darren Morgan said: “We positioned ourselves outside the property, and the defendant came out in a raging state, shouting, swearing and throwing his arms about.

“His behaviour was so alarming that we feared for our safety until he went back inside.”

Further units attended to provide support, but once inside the house, the defendant’s behaviour became more concerning.

“Through the back window we could clearly see him in possession of a knife, which he pointed at us several times in a threatening manner,” Sgt Morgan said.

“He then put the knife to his throat. We weren’t sure if he was threatening to harm himself or us.

“We attempted to engage with him, but he came outside again, shouting aggressively and swearing.”

Priestly removed a six inch knife from the waistband of his trousers, and dropped in on the ground when instructed.

Efforts were made to calm him down, but he became more uncooperative until the point he lashed out and punched a PC, before spitting at him.

Priestly was arrested and taken to custody, where he continued his tirade against officers.

He was charged with assaulting an emergency worker, and appeared at Llanelli Magistrates’ Court on Monday, October 19.

He was sentenced to a community order, a rehabilitation activity requirement, 100 hours of unpaid work, and must pay a total of £280 in compensation and costs.

Sgt Morgan said: “I would like to commend all officers involved in the incident for their actions in preventing Priestly from potentially harming himself or others.”

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Killer Andrew Jones must spend at least 30 years in jail

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A KILLER from Carmarthen will spend at least 30 years in jail.

Andrew Jones, 53, from Bronwydd Road, denied murdering his long-time friend Michael O’Leary but was convicted by a jury.

Mrs Justice Jefford set a minimum term of 30 years which he must serve before he can be considered for parole. She described the killing as ” a planned ambush”.

She told the killer: “Michael O’Leary did something wrong but he did not deserve to pay for that with his life. All accounts of him is of a man who lit up the room and played a central role in the lives of his family.

“Your family stands by you. You are more than fortunate in that. The impact of your actions in their lives has also been devastating. They feel ostracised from the community from where they live.

“Your wife still talks about you as the love of her life and your children talk about you in glowing terms.”

The judge made an order for the forfeiture and destruction of a rifle but not of the other guns in Jones’ possession.

She added: “This was a remarkable investigation by Dyfed-Powys Police.

“The officers and operatives involved are too numerous to mention but they are all to be commended for their efforts.”

Mr Jones’ barrister Karim Khalil QC is now addressing the court.

He said: “The defendant himself is not a highly educated man. He made the best of the talents he had.

“He worked all hours, not in any sense workshy. He built a family life which is now destroyed.

“He is remorseful for what happened. He is not cold-blooded.

“He acknowledges the pain he has caused.”

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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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