HARD-PRESSED parents and students will have to make do with such arrangements as currently exist for school transport.
A motion presented by Labour member for Llangennech, Cllr Gary Jones, received short shrift from Executive Board Member Hazel Evans at Wednesday’s meeting of the county council.
Cllr Jones’ motion called on the Council to make limited provision for 500 students affected by the sudden withdrawal of commercial bus services which brought children to school just before the start of the current school year.
Gary Jones told councillors that parents and children were being adversely affected by the sudden drop in bus services.
He explained that large bus companies had spent the last decade ignoring the requirement that their vehicles had to be disabled accessible if they carried fare-paying passengers.
As a result of that law, the bus companies had until January next year to provide vehicles up to spec.
Instead, the larger companies had stuck their heads in the sand, while smaller companies simply didn’t have the capital to invest in new vehicles.
He asked, therefore, for subsidised transport from the Council while a long-term solution was sought.
Cllr Hazel Evans said she was sympathetic but her response on the Executive Board’s behalf showed few signs of sympathy – if any.
The problem was not the Council’s responsibility to sort out.
The bus companies were to blame. So was the Welsh Government which set the mileage for subsidised school transport. What, she wondered rhetorically, about the 8,500 students who did not take public transport to school? What about them? Ultimately getting children to school was the parents’ responsibility, anyway.
As a display of tin-eared obliviousness, Cllr Evans’ performance would take some beating.
Never mind the cost, she didn’t even recognise the figures which Cllr Jones used to support his motion. She didn’t recognise them.
Cllr Jones did not intervene at the time, but he rather punctured Hazel Evans’ self-righteousness when he pointed out – delicately – that the figures came from the local authority’s own officers who dealt with the issue.
Glynog Davies, the Executive Board member for Education, was rather less negative than his colleague, but his sympathy was similarly constrained by the financial implications of providing a service.
He said that the financial outlook was not good and unlikely to improve as councils continued to face uncertainty over future funding from the UK and Welsh Governments and potentially faced being lumbered with more responsibilities without the money to pay for them.
Cllr Deryk Cundy said that his ward, Bynea, had been hit hard by the cut in bus services. Students were left walking to school in unsuitable conditions. He reminded councillors that one of the issues they had just debated was climate change, while queues of cars with their engines idling were forced to wait outside school gates every day. Cllr Cundy said families could not afford money from their already stretched budgets and students’ education could be affected.
Cllr Sharen Davies said the problems were no less serious in Llwynhendy, but that she and her colleague on Llanelli Rural Council, Cllr Jason Hart, had set about trying to find a practical solution rather than just words. She felt that solutions were available if councillors worked constructively in their localities.
Responding to the debate, Cllr Gary Jones made sure he got some retaliation in on Hazel Evans by pointing out officers provided him with the data underpinning his motion.
He proceeded to forcefully point out that the Council carried ample reserves. Those reserves were intended for a rainy day and it was – literally – students who were getting soaked.
The motion failed and a request for a recorded vote was rejected, as it was not asked for at the debate’s outset.
Laugharne Luxury Lodge plan hits pothole
THE OWNERS of a luxury lodge development in Laugharne face potential enforcement action from Carmarthenshire County Council. The company is alleged to have built a substantial roadway across fields near the development without planning permission.
Milkwood Spa, due to launch this autumn, is located on a site with a chequered planning history. It is located in a prominent position overlooking Carmarthen Bay and the village of Laugharne.
The current developers, UK Luxury Lodges, acquired the site from its previous owners after their attempts to get development going on the site stalled.
UK Luxury Lodges says the development will be the first resort of its kind in the region; welcoming guests after an investment upwards of £30 million.
Laugharne and nearby Pendine are popular tourist destinations, but with a track record of insecure, poorly paid employment. Speaking to us earlier this year Sharon Hurley, a director of the company behind the project, told us that she hoped the lodge and spa development would help create up to 110 new jobs in the area.
Past developments and proposals for developments have run into problems concerning their environmental impact and their effect on the local landscape.
A previous owner obstructed and extinguished a public footpath. The footpath was not relocated. No enforcement action took place over its loss.
Concerns also exist about the disturbance to a nearby scheduled monument and the area around the lodges and spa. Ironically for a project using the ‘Milkwood’ brand, developers have received local criticism for removing a significant number of mature trees to facilitate the development and damaging the landscape which is one of the locality’s chief selling points.
Issues of traffic, local parking solutions, heavy plant using residential roads, and blocked footpaths also exercise some residents.
Before we published our original article in August, we carried out an extensive search of the site’s planning history.
The County Council’s planning portal recorded no objections to the location’s development either when initial outline planning was granted for developing the location by its previous owner, or when it was acquired by the current owners in 2013 when reserved matters were dealt with under application number W/30157.
Concerning the wider conservation questions, one letter, about the linked application number W/33378, is blank on the Planning Portal.
We are assured, however, objections were raised.
A conservation area application had been submitted and approved and that the statutory consultees Cadw, Dyfed Archaeological Trust raised no objections to the development in so far as it affected the scheduled monument on the site.
When we questioned Ms Hurley about those prior concerns about development, she told us: “Creating a property that honours and celebrates the existing natural environment is so important to me and the team is working closely with local planning authorities to ensure the conservation of the surrounding historic environment.”
However, earlier this week, The Herald received a series of photos which show a permanent roadway being dug out across green fields. Machinery still being used on the works is plainly visible in some of the photos, as is the extent of the hardcore base and gravel laid over the top in some sections.
No planning permission exists for such development. Whether Carmarthenshire County Council, Cadw or the Dyfed Archaeological Trust would have been quite so supportive had they been aware of plans to dig a roadway across a green-field site in a prominent and sensitive landscape is open to question.
We asked Carmarthenshire County Council to comment on the roadway’s construction.
Head of Planning Llinos Quelch said: “We have been alerted to potentially unauthorised works on this site and we are dealing with it as an enforcement matter. Investigations will continue and appropriate action taken.”
Living Wage Week highlighted during Kidwelly launch
Plaid Cymru Mid and West AM, Helen Mary Jones visited Burns Pet Food in Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire to launch Living Wage Week locally.
PPLAID CYMRU Mid and West AM, Helen Mary Jones visited Burns Pet Food in Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire to launch Living Wage Week locally.
The company is a champion of the Living Wage movement in Carmarthenshire, and the visit emphasised the importance of employers adopting the Living Wage for their workers.
Speaking at the launch Helen Mary Jones AM said:
“A big thank you to Burns Pet Food for hosting the Living Wage Celebration in west Wales. It’s very fitting that we are here today in the headquarters of this pioneering company that was established to provide a much-needed focus on nutrition, health and natural ingredients in animal food. Animal welfare is at the heart of everything for the firm. Their ethical emphasis also extends to the Burns workforce.
“The organisation is the first champion of the Living Wage Movement in Carmarthenshire; what a privilege and a responsibility that brings and one that John Burns and his staff have taken on board with energy and commitment.
“Everyone here at Burns is a passionate advocate for paying a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work and we are delighted they hosted the event to help encourage and inspire as many employers in the region as possible to take up the mantle and follow their excellent example.
“Living Wage Week is about celebrating our Living Wage Employers – thanking them for making such a difference in people’s lives. It’s also about helping our friends and colleagues in other organisations who are also in favour of fair pay and want to learn as much as possible about what it means to become accredited Living Wage Employers.”
In addition to the advocation of the Living Wage implementation across Wales, Helen Mary Jones AM congratulated the 224 Living Wage accredited employers and celebrated the achievement in a statement of opinion in the Senedd. The statement has been signed by Labour and Plaid Cymru members.
Burns Pet Food in Kidwelly kicked started the celebrations of The Living Wage Week, which runs from 11th November to 17th November 2019.
Health Board issues clarification following row over hospital parking charges
HYWEL DDA UNIVERSITY HEALTH BOARD has put out a press release responding to criticism about its parking enforcement policy at Glangwili Hospital and at Prince Philip Hospital in Llanelli.
In August 2019, a new parking enforcement system was implemented to protect parking spaces for both patients and visitors, according to officials.
This enforcement was in the form of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras and the introduction of a four hour stay limit for patients and visitors.
While this has improved parking availability for patients and visitors, the decision has been made to temporarily suspend the parking enforcement following feedback from staff until additional parking improvement schemes have been implemented.
Until these schemes are in place and show improved parking availability for staff, it has been confirmed:
Parking Charge Notices (PCNs) will only be issued to those parked inappropriately i.e. causing an obstruction or to cars parking in zero tolerance zones.
Patients and visitors who need to park for over four hours are asked to input their registration details into one of the validation terminals available across both hospitals. However, during this temporary suspension no PCNs will be issued to unregistered vehicles exceeding the four hour limit
Members of staff with a parking permit who need to park as a patient or visitor should when not on duty must request temporary access to use the public (blue) car parks by contacting the Central Transport Unit on 01267 229620 or use their permit to park in a staff (red) or mixed (purple) car park.
Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda University Health Board (UHB), said: “The decision to introduce parking enforcement at Glangwili and Prince Philip hospitals was in response to long running difficulties that our patients and visitors have experienced when attending appointments or visiting loved ones. However, the changes made did not have the impact we hoped for so we are having to consider other options.
“I want to reassure members of the public that this is a temporary measure and call on staff to do their very best to refrain from parking in public car parks when on duty while we scope parking improvement schemes as a priority.
“Our choices are limited but I am confident we can find some solutions. We are going to need the help of our staff, however, to make a real difference.
“I’d like to thank all members of staff who have met with me to discuss what these possible solutions could be. We know we did not get this right for staff and we need to work with you to make sure that the decision made improves the parking experience for both staff and visitors.”
PCNs issued to staff parked in public car parks will be cancelled and refunds given. Please note this does not apply to PCNs issued to those parked in zero tolerance zones.
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