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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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Carmarthenshire hometown heroes & lockdown legends sought for 2020 National Lottery Awards

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The National Lottery Awards 2019 winners on stage, including Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson from Wales, the first ever recipient of The National Lottery's Lifetime Achievement Award.

THE National Lottery is searching for your ‘hometown hero’ or ‘lockdown legend’ as part of the 2020 National Lottery Awards.

This year the annual search for the UK’s most popular National Lottery funded projects will, for the first time, honour individuals who have made an extraordinary impact in their community, especially those who have adapted during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

New figures reveal more than £3.2 million of National Lottery funding has been invested in good causes in Carmarthenshire in 2018/19 alone.

A total of 158 National Lottery grants were awarded in the region during the previous financial year, providing vital support to arts, sports, heritage and community projects.

From today, The National Lottery are calling for nominations of people who have done amazing things with the help of National Lottery funding and are an inspiration to us all.

Winners in each category will receive a £3,000 cash prize for their organisation and a coveted National Lottery Awards trophy.

Jonathan Tuchner from The National Lottery is encouraging the people of Carmarthenshire to make their nominations.

He said: “The National Lottery continues to have a positive impact on life across the UK. Thanks to National Lottery players thousands of projects are making an incredible difference to their local communities.

Now, more than ever, people have rallied together, and individuals are performing inspirational acts and extraordinary endeavors to help in cities, towns and villages up and down the country.

Thanks to National Lottery players, up to £600 million has been made available to support communities throughout the UK amid the coronavirus crisis. People have used National Lottery funding in amazing ways during these challenging times. We want to honour them as part of this year’s National Lottery Awards and recognise their selfless dedication and thank them for their fantastic work.”

Encompassing all aspects of National Lottery good causes funding, the 2020 National Lottery Awards are seeking to recognise outstanding individuals in the following sectors:

And there will be a special Young Hero Award for someone under the age of 18 who has gone that extra mile in their organisation. All nominees must work or act for a National Lottery funded organisation or have received National Lottery funding.

To make your nomination for this year’s National Lottery Awards, tweet @LottoGoodCauses with your suggestions or complete an entry form through our website www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/awards . Entries must be received by midnight on 19th August 2020.

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Chancellors economic update includes VAT cut for hospitality sector, and customer discounts

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The Chancellor had set out his coronavirus recovery package today.

Rishi Sunak set out the measures in his summer economic update in the House of Commons on Wednesday (Jun 8), as he faces pressure to assist those who are most vulnerable to the financial crisis.

The Chancellor said he will cut VAT from 20% to 5% for food if people eat out to help those businesses which he said had been hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

The chancellor announced discount to encourage people to eat out in August.

He says restaurants, pubs, bars and hotels as well as other attractions will be able to claim the money back within five days. It had been reported he was considering giving all UK adults a £500 voucher to spent with companies hit by coronavirus, but the Chancellor has decided not to go ahead with that proposal.

Instead Sunak announced a discount worth up to £10 per head for eating out in August. He said his final measure has never been tried in this country. It is an “eat out to help out scheme”, offering customers as discount worth up to £10 per head when they eat out from Monday to Wednesday in August.

Speaking in the Commons today, he said: “Our plan has clear goals, to protect, support and retain jobs.”

Regards furlough scheme, he said it must wind down, adding: “flexibly and gradually supporting people through to October” but that he is introducing a bonus for employers who bring staff back from furlough.

Employers who bring someone back from furlough and employ them through to January, paying them a minimum of £520 a month, will receive a £1,000 bonus.

He says that “in total we have provided £49bn to support public services since the pandemic began”.

He added: “No nationalist can ignore that this help has only been possible because we are a United Kingdom.”

Mr Sunak says the UK economy has already shrunk by 25% – the same amount it grew in the previous 18 years.

He also announced:

A £2bn kickstart scheme paying employers to take on unemployed 16 to 24 year olds for a minimum of 25 hours a week – he says the Treasury will pay those wages for six months plus a sum for overheads. He says there is no cap. This will apply in England and Wales.

VAT on food from restaurants, cafes, pubs and hotels will be cut until January 12 from 20% to 5%
Funding for apprenticeships and traineeships in England, there will be a separate announcement for Wales.

£1bn for the DWP to support millions of people back to work through Job Centres. A £2bn green homes grant in England to cover two thirds of the cost, up to £5,000, for energy efficient home improvements. Again the Welsh Government will have their own proposals on this given time.

A temporary cut to stamp duty in England and Northern Ireland.

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Calls for Amman Valley rail line to be mothballed

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CARMARTHENSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL today passed a motion tabled to investigate the opportunity to mothball the Amman Valley rail line until a Metro for the region can be established.

With the Amman Valley Railway line coal transportation coming to the end of its life, Carmarthenshire Council agreed there should be a feasibility study of the railway line, to see if we could do a modern environmentally-friendly green railway. The modern rail bus would connect the Amman Valley and the Gwendrarth Valley with Llanelli and Swansea.

This motion follows on from a motion tabled by Carmarthenshire Council nearly three years ago on the need for sustainable, environmentally-friendly and cheap public transport within Carmarthenshire, under the umbrella of a Swansea Bay Metro.

As part of the discussion, it was revealed that a feasibility study into the Swansea Bay Metro has now moved to Transport for Wales for competition after a delay in its competition.

Cllr Rob James, Leader of Carmarthenshire Labour, stated: “Like many communities in Carmarthenshire, residents in the Amman Valleys are unable to catch a bus a lot of time, when they do they realise the costs of ticket and it’s our town centres that are suffering as a result.

“There is a need arising with opencast mining ceasing in the near future to mothball the Amman Valley railway line until plans can be furthered on the Swansea Bay Metro proposal.

“We know from experience that attempting to bring lines back into use after years of neglect is extremely costly and as a result, makes infrastructure projects, such as this, less desirable for Governments.

“We cannot afford to sit on our hands and hope others will pick up the slack if we are to sort out public transport in Carmarthenshire.”

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