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Questions raised over Brynmefys plans

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A WELSH ASSEMBLY member has slammed Carmarthenshire County Council over the derelict housing at Brynmefys, on the outskirts of Llanelli.Brynmefys

Suzy Davies was in the area campaigning with Conservative candidate Selaine Saxby when she decided to visit her grandparents’ former home on the estate.

However, she was unprepared for the large number of derelict properties that greeted her: “It is so sad to come back to somewhere that holds such fond memories to find that in a time where houses are so in demand these properties have been allowed to deteriorate in this manner,” Ms Davies said.

“The Welsh Labour Government in Cardiff has not met its own house-building target. But if this is the kind of support it gets from Carmarthenshire Council, it’s hardly surprising.”

Ms Saxby, who accompanied Ms Davies on the visit said: “It is particularly shocking that three families are still living on the road – what is being done to resolve this situation by Carmarthenshire Council – and how has it been able to continue for so long without action being taken by the current MP?”

We asked Labour’s Nia Griffith for her views on this: “I raised concerns about Brynmefys with Carmarthenshire County Council some time ago,” she said.

In a council meeting on April 15, Council Leader Kevin Madge claimed that the council had a ‘ten year housing plan’. However, with regard to Brynmefys, it is unclear whether this is a new policy, or a continuation of the ideas that have been kicking around for at least the past fifteen years.

The Herald has unearthed plans dating back to 2001 for what is described as ‘improved development of newly built houses at Brynmefys providing better mix of house type… We are looking to partner with a housing developer to provide houses for sale on the land freed up by the development. This should reduce the authorities’ scheme costs by providing an element of cross-subsidy for the land released to the developer’.

With match-funding, this would have been a £1.4m development. However, it appears that no developers were willing to step forward, and in spite of the project being classified as Category 1 – the highest priority – nothing happened except for the further deterioration of the existing properties.

Moving forward to 2005, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Empty Homes Policy attempted to tackle the problem.

Under the section title ‘Selling land where there is no purpose holding on to it,’ the document advised: ‘Redevelopment of the Brynmefys estate, Llanelli by working with a developer to provide at least 80 affordable homes with different types of tenancy.’ This work was due to be completed by April 2007.

A planning application by Gwalia CYF to build 103 affordable dwellings on the site was withdrawn in 2010.

Further reference to the estate’s future was mentioned in a CHS business plan from December 2013, which proposed that ‘Brynmefys is opened up for an ‘ideas’ process. It is not felt that the location of Brynmefys is suited for the development of council housing only.

People First candidate Sian Caiach spoke to the Herald regarding the council’s plans. She told us that the estate had been allowed to become run-down, and had not been considered for modernisation or rebuilding, as many similarly dilapidated areas had.

“I suspect that the County Council would like to sell the land as a cleaned-up Brown-Fields site but I’m not sure how this could happen,” she said, citing a recent example in the area where a development failed to gain planning consent due to sewerage and drainage issues.

Ms Caiach also informed us that during a special meeting of Llanelli Rural Council held recently, a County Council representative tried to gain consent for the demolition of a community hall on the site, which had been mothballed since the planned sale of the land in the early 2000s.

“The idea was that a public building on the site would reduce the value of the land to developers,” she said, adding that the representative had told them that the hall ‘spoiled the view from the entrance of the estate’.

Llanelli Rural Council believed that they have a significant say in the future of the community hall, and had expressed an interest in taking it on for a ‘peppercorn’ rent. Due to the location of Brynmefys, and neighbouring villages, it could be argued that there is an existing need for a social nexus regardless of any further development in the area.

Regarding future plans for the site, Ms Caiach told us that the County Council had been ‘vague’ about whether the development would incorporate a mixture of private and social housing or not: “We didn’t get any details, just that they were thinking about selling the land to a developer. Personally, I think it would just be a housing development,” she added.

In terms of reasons why a buyer for the land could be difficult to find, she gave the same reason that the council had for trying to sell in the first place. “People aren’t keen on living up there – you need your own transport.”

We contacted Carmarthenshire County Council to ask what their plans for the site were, and to explain the delay in replacing housing stock in an area that two years ago had 6000 people on the waiting list for social housing.

Housing Services Manager Jonathan Morgan said: “For a variety of reasons, including the economic downturn, we were unable to deliver our previous plans for Brynmefys, however we are finalising draft development plans for the site, which we hope to progress very soon. A number of ecological issues, now resolved, also prevented our plans to demolish the site. We have worked closely with the small number of owner occupiers on the site to offer them options, and will continue to liaise closely with owners remaining at the site.”

In terms of providing affordable and social housing, Carmarthenshire County Council is ranked 21st out of 22 local authorities in Wales.

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Carmarthenshire’s sensory garden: why locals should embrace this wellness trend

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WITH ‘#sensorygarden’ 499.1k views on TikTok – locals have the advantage of experiencing a sensory garden on their doorstep at the National Botanic Garden of Wales. Wildlife experts explain why you should visit.

Wildlife expert Sean McMenemy shares how sensory gardens can do wonders for our wellness whilst providing a safe haven for wildlife and encourages Carmarthenshire locals to visit their local sensory garden this autumn.

A sensory garden is an outdoor space that stimulates the five senses of sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste, and can be created in your own garden. Sensory gardens at home remain relatively rare, but the trend is growing with the TikTok hashtag ‘#sensorygarden’ amassing 499.1k views*. 

Carmarthenshire, dubbed the Garden of Wales, has a huge array of beautiful green spaces to explore. It’s home to the National Botanic Garden of Wales which spans a huge 568 acres, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. The stunning Great Glasshouse features a sensory trail that explores the largest single-span greenhouse in the world! From fluffy flowers from South Africa to a strongly scented Australian plant, it’ll engage all your senses. 

Having recently gifted King Charles with a beautiful oak sapling, the National Botanic Garden of Wales care deeply about the nation’s natural heritage. For those visiting the garden, the paths are wheelchair accessible with manual wheelchairs available on site. Open 10am – 6pm every day of the week.

Wildlife expert and founder of bird food provider Ark Wildlife, Sean McMenemy, explains the benefits of sensory gardening: “Sensory gardens provide a great deal of physical and mental benefits for different people and purposes. From getting vitamin D from sunlight to improving physical fitness by maintaining a garden, there are several physical benefits. Mentally, you can benefit from a mood boost and relaxation by spending time surrounded by calming stimulation.

“Sensory gardens can also have huge benefits for children, older people, those with learning disabilities and those who struggle with their physical and mental health. You can also create a sensory garden for your pets and garden wildlife!”

Top tips for creating your own sensory garden

If you do have the outdoor space, creating your own sensory garden is therapeutic in itself and doesn’t need to be a complicated process. The most important thing is to ensure that the garden engages all five senses. 

Melody Estes, landscape design gardening supervisor, says: “Whether you’re new to gardening or a seasoned pro, you can always improve your garden by adding some sensory elements.” 

Here are some tips from Melody for creating a sensory garden:

Sight – Plant colourful flowers that change with the seasons.

Sound – If you have a fountain or water feature on your property, consider adding some relaxing music to play alongside it. You could also place chimes near your front door to welcome people in.

Smell – Use scent. Consider planting scented flowers or herbs like lavender, rosemary and thyme that will give off a lovely aroma when they bloom.

Touch – Mix textures. The texture of plants can be as important as their colour and shape. Try using plants with soft leaves like ferns or grasses that are texturally different.

Taste – Planting herbs, fruits and vegetables not only provide tasty treats, but is a sustainable source of food.

Sean McMenemy adds: “Sensory gardens are an easy way to engage with wildlife and the outdoor environment. Growing your own plants and vegetables provides countless ways to learn about the natural world.

“You can bring your sensory garden to life by using bird feeders to attract beautiful feathered friends into your garden. They’ll bring the sound element to your sensory garden naturally. Fragrant flowers will attract colourful butterflies and other pollinators to your garden, giving you something to observe whilst helping nature to thrive.”

Some people may not have the time, money or space to create their own sensory garden. However, those with balconies and window ledges can still plant colourful, sweet-smelling flowers and edible plants. This mini sensory garden can still provide the benefits and satisfaction of an outdoor garden.

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Prince and Princess of Wales to visit Wales

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THE PRINCE and Princess of Wales have planned a trip to Wales to visit a variety of communities across the nation and learn about the work of key charitable organisations. 

The Prince and Princess have a deep affection for Wales, having made their first family home in Anglesey, and have thoroughly enjoyed their previous visits and the warmth and kindness shown by the Welsh people. 

Their Royal Highnesses are looking forward to spending more time in Wales over the next few years, they hope to strengthen their relationship with communities in all parts of Wales. 

During their first engagement, Their Royal Highnesses will visit the RNLI Holyhead Lifeboat Station, where they will meet crew, volunteers and some people who have been supported by their local unit.

Holyhead is one of the three oldest lifeboat stations on the Welsh coast and has a remarkable history of bravery, having received 70 awards for gallantry. 

Their Royal Highnesses will then take a short walk to the Holyhead Marine and Cafe Bar, where they will meet local people, including representatives of small businesses and organisations, including the Coastguard and Sea Cadets. 

In their second engagement, the Prince and Princess of Wales are expected to visit Swansea. 

Their Royal Highnesses will visit St Thomas Church, a re-developed church in Swansea which supports people in the local area and across the City and County of Swansea. 

Over the last two years the church has been transformed into a thriving community hub and is home to a vast array of services, including:

  • A foodbank which supports over 200 people per week
  • Swansea Baby Basics which distributes essential items for vulnerable mothers across the city, such as toiletries and clothes
  • Facilities for the homeless including food, showers and toilets
  • A not-for-profit cafe and community training kitchen
  • A surplus food distribution network which collects food from supermarkets at the end of each day and distributes it from the church to prevent food waste and to help end food poverty

As part of their visit, Their Royal Highnesses will meet those volunteering at the church across different initiatives including Baby Basics and the foodbank. Their Royal Highnesses will also spend some time meeting members of the public gathered outside the church. 

The Princess of Wales has previously worked with Baby Banks and the in summer of 2020 brought together 19 British brands and retailers to donate over 10,000 new items to more than 40 baby banks nationwide, operated by Baby Basics, Little Village and AberNecessities. 

Her Royal Highness has visited a number of baby banks across the UK, including in London, Sheffield and West Norfolk where she has spent time speaking with families about their experiences of using their local baby bank services, as well as helping unload donations. 

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Carmarthenshire farmer dies following attack by bull near Llandeilo

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A FARMER has died following an incident with a bull on a farm in Llandeilo.

The 58-year-old, named locally as Maldwyn Harrier, was attacked by the animal during a TB test on Friday morning.

Police have confirmed that they were called to a farm in the Penybanc area of Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, and are investigating alongside the Health and Safety Executive. 

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