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The battle for the Gwenlais remembered

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screen-shot-2016-10-18-at-10-31-19DURING the 1980s and 1990s, a local campaign was fought by residents of the Gwenlais Valley about an interim development order 1947. The battle ended up in the High Court in London. However, due to the passage of the 1991 Minerals Act, the business involved in the battle withdrew their application and a public inquiry was ordered by the then Conservative Secretary of State for Wales.

Llansteffan resident John Moore was involved with the campaign when he lived near the valley with his family. Also involved in the campaign were local residents Robert Allen and Peter Stringer. The story of the campaign lasted over 10 years and were reported on both local and national news; also the group ‘The Campaign for the Protection of the Gwenlais Valley’ lobbied every MP in the country, which had an influence on the then Conservative Government to review the planning laws.

The story began when a quarry operating business wanted to re-open the Glangwenlias valley, who claimed to have the permission for the 360 acres; however, due to searches on property documents during a sale, this was not revealed and the battle began to save the quarry.

John Moore, who lived on Glangwenlais farm with his wife and children, had a visit from Peter Roberts who also lived locally to inform them of the firm’s intention. After that meeting, John was invited to go along to a local meeting with the group at the business’ offices to seek an explanation.

John Moore said of this: “It was totally unbelievable as the research had shown no planning consent and we were devastated but it meant we had a fight on our hands. I contacted Robert Allen and we began researching local planning offices for Dinefwr and the County Council.”

After John and Robert began the process, local resident Peter Stringer became involved, who John calls a ‘guiding light’ to the process and helped their cause dramatically. Peter suggested that they create a video highlighting this particular problem which began the process of local press highlighting the campaign and problem. An article written by Chris Brazier for the Sunday Observer led to other newspapers and TV shows getting involved. BBC Countryfile dedicated a programme to the situation, as did HTV.

After the programmes aired and the group took copies to local councils and the County Council, local residents began to question the order and the council took note about the situation. During the 1990s, the battle went to the High Court between the firm, Dyfed County Council and John Moore, of which he described: “It was frightening. When we were up in the court, it was awe inspiring after seeing it on the TV. However, we were there to be made party to the proceedings but due to the government’s 1991 Minerals Act, the case was withdrawn by McAlpine.”

It was under the new act that the quarry operators applied for a new planning permission, to which Mr Moore and the whole group objected. The case was taken to the Welsh Secretary, who called a public inquiry into the matter in 1993. During the inquiry, it was found by an inspector that the original planning consent was only for a limited area of the valley and the inquiry was backed by the Secretary of State. The consent said that the operator could continue to work on a specific set of land which they had already obtained. The business then appealed to the House of Lords, which took the battle to the High Court for the second time, where it was defended by Pat Langford, ending successfully in an out of court settlement.

By this time, John Moore and his wife had moved away. He would like to pay tribute to the work of Peter Stringer and Robert Allen for their work during this time, who have recently passed away.

He said: “Not only were they outstanding men but they became very good friends of ours. During this time, we worked collectively to highlight this particular situation and I think that without their help and support, it wouldn’t have been highlighted too largely. Our work was also supported by many others who I would like to thank.”

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Community

Llandeilo Festival publishes its Entertainment schedule

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“CHILDREN AND families are at the heart of our festival this year,” announces festival vice chair Debbie Ince. “On Friday 18th November the festival stalls will start trading at 10am but in the evening there will be the official opening, followed at 6:15pm by Santa coming through the town on his sleigh. A children’s Lantern procession from CK to King Street led by Llandeilo Primary School’s Samba group will meet Santa on King Street to tunes by the Llandeilo Town Band and bilingual hymn singer Ffion Haf. Once the children had their fill of Santa, the Christmas Lights will be switched on by Mayor Gordon Kilby. Local legend singer and actor Harry Luke and Ffion Haf will entertain the crowd until 8pm.”

People enjoying the festival

A spectacular and pet-friendly Laser Show will replace the controversial fireworks at 8pm. “There’s also a tea cup ride on King Street for kids,” adds Ince. “On Saturday and Sunday kids can go to Santa’s Grotto 10 – 4, and on Saturday to St Teilo’s Church or Hengwrt for activities. At our park and ride on Beechwood Estate ‘Sgiliau’ will be open for our youngest visitors.”

“There is of course plenty of entertainment for adults, too,” adds festival chair Christoph Fischer. “From Davies & Co Station Road to Flows on Market Street, most Llandeilo venues will play indoor music, many day and night. The stage will host a variety of acts: from school and adult choirs, bands, solo singers and dance groups, such as Mixed Youth Group, Lotus Sisters Belly dancers and Sunflowers Wales. Cooking demonstrations on Saturday and a Santa Run on Sunday morning round up the festival programme. You can find updates on the Llandeilo Town App Dyma Llandeilo.”

Santa at the Parade

“With our wide selection of street food, arts-,crafts-, fashion- and food stalls there should be something for everyone,” adds stalls coordinator and treasurer Mered Williams. “See you all on the 18th.!”

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Carmarthenshire County Council has launched its annual Christmas Toybox Appeal

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The appeal, in its 12th year, helps hundreds of children with families who can’t afford to buy toys or gifts.

Last year saw us help more families than ever who were struggling financially with more than 7,700 gifts distributed to 1,287 children. This year during these unprecedented times we rely on support more than ever.

The appeal was launched online for the first time in 2020 following the coronavirus pandemic and people were asked to make a financial donation instead of buying gifts and toys.

This year people can either give a financial donation or drop off gifts from games, arts and craft items to toiletry gift sets for all ages – from 18 months up to teenagers, at one of a number of collection points around the county.

Schools, family centres and youth workers identify those who are in greatest need of support and council staff will distribute them in the run-up to Christmas.

The council’s executive board member responsible for the Toybox Appeal, Cllr Linda Evans said:

“I am proud to be following on from the legacy of Cllr Mair Stephens who sadly passed away earlier this year. The Toybox appeal this year is going to be more important than ever. We have always had fantastic support and this year we hope this will continue to ensure that hundreds of children will receive a Christmas gift. We know times are hard, but if people are able to spare a gift or a donation no matter how big or small, it will make a great difference to those families less fortunate.”

You can make a donation of your choice online at the Christmas Toy Box Appeal website. If you have a cash or cheque donation please call 01267 246504.

To view the collection point locations please visit the council’s website

Donations are being taken up until November 30.

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Council responds at pace to deliver significant improvements in its planning Service

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Audit Wales has carried out a Follow-up Review of Planning Services by Carmarthenshire County Council and concluded that the council has successfully addressed all its recommendations.

In July 2021, Audit Wales published a report following a review of the council’s planning services, with its findings identifying significant and long-standing performance issues in the planning service that needed to be urgently addressed to help support the delivery of the council’s ambitions.

A total of 17 recommendations were made by Audit Wales for the council to address. All of which the report has confirmed have been met.

In response to the recommendations of the report, Carmarthenshire County Council convened an Intervention Board to provide oversight of a 49 point action plan to respond to the Audit Wales findings that were published in July 2021. Over the past 15 months, progress against the plan has been monitored through the council’s governance framework to provide assurance of progress made against the recommendations.

Audit Wales has been following the council’s progress through regular catch-up meetings with the council, document reviews and observing governance and audit committee meetings. They have also interviewed key council officers during the audit process.

Within the follow up-review, which can be viewed on their website, Audit Wales states that:

“The Council is to be commended for the swift, decisive action it took in response to the findings of our 2021 report, and for the way it has driven improvements in its planning service.

“The constructive way in which the Council received our report and acted on the recommendations is a particularly positive example of a Council demonstrating its commitment to driving improvement in service delivery.

“The Council has learnt lessons from the review that it has also applied more widely, particularly in relation to performance management.

“Overall, we found that the Council has successfully addressed all our recommendations and has responded at pace to deliver significant improvements in its planning service.”

Cabinet member for rural affairs and planning policy, Cllr Ann Davies said:

“I am very pleased with the Audit Wales report which states that Carmarthenshire County Council has succeeded in overcoming challenges within our planning department.

“The report is excellent, it praises the work and the change in systems, procedures and leadership, recognising the significant improvement that has been achieved.

“The issues in question were not due to a lack of work ethic, as I know first-hand of the effort and commitment that is put in by a number of our officers. It was rather the processes which were to blame and needed to be adjusted, as it did not provide officers with the appropriate environment to carry out the work required.

“I would like to thank all council officers that have worked so hard since the Spring of 2021 to achieve the goal of meeting all 17 of the recommendations that were initially set out by Audit Wales.

“The next step, of course, is to keep going, keep moving forward to stay at the forefront as one of the most productive planning authorities in Wales. There is further work to be done and we are committed to continuous improvement, especially in the world of enforcement but we are moving in the right direction with over 1000 enforcement cases having already been resolved in the last year.”

Click here to visit the Audit Wales website and view a full copy of the Follow-up Review of Planning Services.

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