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Secret links behind the Parc Howard bid

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Emotionally charged meeting: Residents ask questions

Emotionally charged meeting: Residents ask questions

THE HERALD has uncovered the web of companies and directors behind proposals to take control of Parc Howard.
Having seen internal Council documents and emails, this newspaper is able to expose that discussions have been taking place between representatives of the County Council and Loca Ventures Ltd for some months.
Those discussions have resulted in very detailed proposals being made to the local authority in respect of the scheme to take Parc Howard into private hands. It is evident from the restricted circle of officers and Executive Board members who have been briefed about the scheme that local Town Council and local county councillors have been deliberately kept in the dark about the stage negotiations between the parties have reached.
The County Council is looking to offload the operation of some parks and play areas to community and town councils in Carmarthenshire as a means of saving money.
Over the past three years, Carmarthenshire Council has saved £44 million by slashing non-statutory services, including parks and play areas.
In a bizarre meeting with Llanelli Town Council earlier this year, then Executive Board member for Technical Services Colin Evans told stunned councillors that he would give no information about which parks the Council wished to offload as it was not obliged to do so.
Part of the proposals include a transfer of employees from the Council to the development company and the Council continuing to contribute to the maintenance of the grounds for three years after any transfer of lease. In the case of the latter, the Council would be bankrolling the grounds maintenance while forgoing control over the nature and quality of the works carried out.
While the information document sent to Llanelli Town Council details ambitious plans for expenditure in the first year, no indication is given as to how a small company with a negative net book value would be able to access funding for such schemes without further dipping into the public purse for grant support.
Perhaps part of the answer to that question lies in the web of directorships, links to so-called ‘wealth management’ companies, and offshore corporations that seem to lie at Loca Ventures’ heart.
The activities of Loca’s ‘introducer’, Tony Rees, which included a display of finger-pointing anger at a meeting of the Park Howard Association held recently which was attended by some local councillors and Llanelli MP Nia Griffith, combined with the cloak and dagger way negotiations have proceeded, have caused widespread disquiet.
Hengoed councillor Sian Caiach told us: “I’m shocked that our head of corporate property, Jonathan Fearn, and other officers are negotiating a deal to sell off this park and stately home without even informing Llanelli Councillors like myself and certainly not informing the public!”
The Chair of the Parc Howard Association is UKIP election candidate Ken Rees. However, a release from UKIP states appears to distance itself from its would-be MP.
“UKIP Llanelli would like to confirm that it was not previously aware of any meetings that have taken place between Ken Rees, the Chairman of the Parc Howard Association and the private company Loca Ventures regarding the future of Parc Howard. Any meetings that Ken Rees has taken part in regarding Parc Howard will have been done in his own capacity as Chairman of the Parc Howard Association and not as a representative from UKIP. Carmarthenshire Country Council has also reportedly met with this private company Loca Ventures to discuss the future of the Parc but have released no details.
“UKIP is fully committed to the future of Parc Howard, we also believe that it should remain in the public’s hands and run for the benefit of the people of Llanelli and for future generations to enjoy. UKIP believes that on all important local issues such as this the public should be kept fully informed, it should be up to the people of Llanelli who decide what the future of Parc Howard is.
“UKIP would therefore hold a local referendum if there was any proposal regarding a change of ownership of Parc Howard: let’s let the people of Llanelli decide, not the politicians.”
We spoke to Labour’s Calum Higgins, who told us: “We want Parc Howard kept in public hands and transferring ownership is something we would totally oppose. It’s not been done in a transparent way, and we are finding we are unable to get information from the council about the transaction.”
Cllr Higgins continued: “We will be leading the campaign to get the answers the public want and will be asking tough questions of the Council to make sure that information is out in the open.”
The Herald understands that the County Council is targeting seven parks in Llanelli, including Parc Howard and People’s Park.
The mansion house and grounds were gifted to the community of Llanelli in 1912 by Sir Stafford and Lady Howard who acquired the former Buckley Estate and gifted a 999-year lease to the then Llanelli Urban Council on terms that included
The estate to be laid out by a competent gardener as a people’s park
The house to be converted into a local museum or otherwise used for the benefit or enjoyment of the public
The whole to be kept in order in order for the purpose to which it is devoted
No intoxicating liquor to be sold on any part of the house or councils grounds
The rent to be £5 per annum and the work to be completed (so) that the park can be opened to the public on 21st September, 1912
In its edition dated January 4 1912, The Llanelly Mercury said: “We hope that these conditions will be sufficiently safeguarded in the deed of transfer, so as not to allow any quibbling over matters in the future.”
The current lease is held by Carmarthenshire County Council.

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RNIB brings LEGO® Braille Bricks toolkits to children in Carmarthenshire

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CHILDREN with vision impairment in Carmarthenshire are set to benefit from LEGO® Braille Bricks toolkits thanks to the Royal National Institute of Blind People’s (RNIB) work with the LEGO Foundation.

The toolkits have so far been distributed to Ceredigion Council, Swansea Council, Conwy Sensory Support Service, Carmarthenshire Council, Bridgend Council, Neath Port Talbot Council and Rhondda Cynon Taf.

LEGO Braille Bricks introduce a new way to help children with vision impairment develop tactile skills and learn the braille system. The kits are made up of approximately 300 LEGO bricks that are specially moulded so that the studs on top reflect individual letters and numbers in the Braille alphabet. The bricks also feature printed letters, numbers and symbols so that they can be used simultaneously by sighted peers, classmates, and teachers in a collaborative and inclusive way.

The kits are being brought to the UK by RNIB, which worked with the LEGO Foundation to develop and test the Braille Bricks and will distribute toolkits to schools and home-schooled children in Carmarthenshire from September.

RNIB Director of Services, David Clarke said: “We are excited to bring the LEGO Braille Brick toolkits to UK classrooms to help children learn how to read and write braille in a fun and engaging way. Braille is an important tool and these inclusive toolkits will make a real difference to children with vision impairment, allowing them to play and interact with their sighted classmates.”

RNIB has also trained teachers and support staff working with children with vision impairment in the teaching concept. Although the toolkit is intended as a playful introduction to braille for younger children aged from four up, it has also proven to have learning opportunities and benefits for children in secondary school.

Senior Play & Health Specialist at the LEGO Foundation, Stine Storm, said: “We are thrilled to launch the first wave of the LEGO Braille Bricks program and get the toolkits into the hands of children. With LEGO Braille Bricks, students and educators can tailor their activities in countless different ways to meet their needs and learning goals in a fun and inclusive manner. The possibilities for learning through play are endless, and we look forward to seeing how LEGO Braille Bricks can inspire children of all ages along their journey to learn braille.”

The UK is one of several countries that LEGO Braille Bricks will launch in this year. The toolkits, or sets of bricks, are not on general sale and can only be ordered by heads of service from local sensory services. Heads of service can also nominate an education professional from schools for children with vision impairment, or a QTVI (qualified teacher of children and young people with vision impairment), to place an order on behalf of their area. For more information visit www.rnib.org.uk/legobraillebricks

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Police appeal for witnesses after 20-year-old pedestrian tragically killed on A40

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE is appealing for witnesses to a fatal road traffic collision on the A40 west of Carmarthen on Saturday (Sept 26) in which a 20-year-old man, a pedestrian, lost his life.

The police have asked The Pembrokeshire Herald to publicise this appeal.

A spokesman for the police told this newspaper: “At around 9.40pm, a white VW Transporter was in collision with a pedestrian on the A40 westbound, near the junction of Llangynog, Carmarthen.

“The pedestrian, a 20-year-old male, died as a result of his injuries.

“It appears the pedestrian had left his vehicle, a black Seat, following a single-vehicle collision further along the westbound carriageway shortly before.

The police have asked that if anyone has any information on either or both collisions, or may have been travelling along the A40 at the relevant time, please contact the serious collision investigation unit, quoting reference DPP-20200926-339.

This can be done by email: contactcentre@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, by phone on 101 or by text: If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

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Tir Coed build outdoor classroom for Cross Hands Primary

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The local charity Tir Coed teamed up with Cross Hands Primary School to design and install a locally
grown woodland shelter to enable primary school pupils to benefit from outdoor lessons-even when
the rain pours!

Last year Cross Hands Primary School received funding from Carmarthenshire is Kind for their
intergenerational project. The project brought the schoolchildren together with older people in the
community. Through intergenerational activities, everyone involved increases social connectedness,
reduces social isolation, learns from one another and has a great time!

Before the lockdown, Tir Coed was contracted to lead a group mainly made up of parents from the
school on a shelter-building course. The attendees would gain knowledge and skills and the children
and the older people would be able to use the shelter, a third generation now included in this
fantastic project. The plans, however, had to change due to restrictions and in an effort to have it
ready for the children when they returned to school, three intrepid Activity Leaders braved the wet
August weather to build the beautiful shelter .

Studies have shown that being in the outdoors significantly reduces the risk of spreading the Corona
Virus. With this addition to their already impressive outdoor area, it is hoped that more learning can
take place outside the classroom. Deputy Head, Emma Walters said, “It looks amazing! I am very
impressed with the shelter and I cannot thank Tir Coed enough for organising this. Additional
covered space in the outdoors will mean that we can take more learning into our lovely nature
area.”

If you would like to find out more about the work of Tir Coed or have a project you would like our help
with you can contact Nancy, the Carmarthenshire Coordinator: carms@tircoed.org.uk

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