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Encouraging signs of Carmarthenshire’s economic recovery

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Carmarthen High Street

POSITIVE signs are emerging as Carmarthenshire continues its recovery from the pandemic and pushes ahead with new ambitions for future development and growth.

Carmarthenshire County Council’s Cabinet has been updated on the progress of a comprehensive economic recovery plan which outlines 30 targeted actions to help get the county back on its journey of growth and sets out priorities for supporting businesses, people and communities over the next two years.

The update report discussed by councillors reveals the true impact of Covid-19 on the local economy, but also shows the positive signs of a quicker recovery than originally anticipated.

Supported by a recovery group, including key private sector industry leaders, the council said there is real confidence that Carmarthenshire’s economy can recover to become one that is even more productive than before.

Cllr Emlyn Dole, Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Regeneration, said: “The picture we are looking at now is somewhat improved to what we envisaged at the start of our recovery plan, and it is hugely encouraging to see positive signs and great progress already.

“Our economic recovery plan is unashamedly ambitious – we are absolutely determined to do everything we can to get Carmarthenshire back on track and continuing its journey of growth. “From the first update report we can already see that our ambitions are achievable, and that we’re well on our way to being where we want to be.

“We recognise, of course, that we can’t do this on our own – this will take the ambitions and commitment of everyone in Carmarthenshire – from public sector partners and organisations, including the private sector, to local businesses and local people. We really hope that we can all work together to develop Carmarthenshire.

“We have made every effort to ensure that people are with us on this journey, and fundamental to that has been the great vision of the economic recovery group which is made up of local independent business leaders that have ensured our response is in tune with the needs of businesses and communities across Carmarthenshire.”

The economic recovery plan focuses on 11 key themes, with emphasis on maximising opportunities for local businesses and growing the economy.

It sets out the authority’s aims to help businesses replace more than 3,000 jobs lost during the pandemic; safeguarding and replacing up to 10,000 at-risk jobs and creating around 1,700 new jobs – as well as supporting thousands of local businesses.

Key to the plan is supporting the county’s foundational economy and supporting local people to grow skills and talent in targeted areas so that there is a strong and resilient local workforce.

More than 830 jobs have already been created and almost 700 jobs safeguarded.

The council’s economic development team has engaged with well over 2,000 local businesses and provided around 250 people with training support.

One of the key areas of targeted intervention is supporting people to improve digital skills so they have better employment prospects, and more than 200 people have received such training.

Next, the council will focus on supporting 3,000 people into work, providing 2,000 additional homes, maximising the community benefit of development schemes and supporting businesses to take advantage of key grants.

The ambitious targets set out in tailored town centre recovery plans for Ammanford, Llanelli and Carmarthen will also be delivered – each of them highlighting key issues, opportunities and specific interventions for the individual towns.

The council has also promised to deliver 13 major projects, investing more than £140million in developing Carmarthenshire as a place to live, visit, work and do business.

It will look to maximise external funding to bring more prosperity to the county, as it has with the recent Levelling Up and Community Renewal Funding which has brought over £23million of UK Government funding.

Cllr Dole added: “We are determined to take advantage of every opportunity to accelerate Carmarthenshire’s growth and enable the economic success that Carmarthenshire can achieve, and deserves.”

More information about the Carmarthenshire economic recovery plan, including details about major projects, town centre recovery plans, development grants and opportunities for businesses to benefit from the council’s spending, can be found at www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales

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Business

Ascona Group announces new Car and Truck wash facilities

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Charlie's Truck Wash

ASCONA GROUP, one of the UK’s fastest-growing forecourt operators, is pleased to announce two new vehicle washing partnerships as part of improvements to its unique roadside retail proposition across its forecourt estate.

As part of a new partnership with the American based PDQ Manufacturing, a leader for in-bay automatic vehicle washing facilities, Ascona Group will be the first in the UK to install the ‘Laserwash 360 Plus’, a touchless car wash system for its customers.

The partnership will initially expand the wash options at the Hinton Service Station, with a view to roll out the system to other sites under the Ascona Group’s brand, ‘Charlie’s Express Car Wash’ later this year. The partnership is a significant investment for Ascona and demonstrates its commitment to ever improving the experience for customers.

Ascona Group is also delighted to announce a strategic partnership with WashTec UK that will see Ascona introduce a ‘First of its Kind’ truck washing facility at the Tenby Road site on the A40 Eastbound in Carmarthenshire, which offers the very best technology available to HGV drivers.

The truck wash employs a fully ‘closed loop’ total water recycling system, the first of its kind in Wales, which recovers all water used within the wash process, filtering it for reuse with little or no water entering the mains drainage system. This system ensures Ascona not only has the best commercial wash in South Wales, but also offers customers one of the more environmentally friendly approaches in operation.

Commenting on the announcement, CEO Darren Briggs said: “From the very beginning, we knew that our sites must present our customers with a unique and compelling offer which is why we are constantly seeking new and innovative ways to improve our roadside retail facilities.

“These two new partnerships further demonstrate our focus on creating industry-leading propositions and we are really excited to be working with PDQ Manufacturing USA and WashTec UK. Together, we are keen to continue to build on the success of these new operations and we are actively reviewing multiple opportunities across the Ascona portfolio to roll out more units such as these.”

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Community

Nearly £50,000 of National Lottery funding for community groups in Carmarthenshire

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FIVE local community organisations across Carmarthenshire are celebrating after being awarded a share of £49,575 of funding from The National Lottery Community Fund over the past month.

One successful project was MolTân Makers who will use their £9,820 grant to provide metal working workshops for people wishing to improve their mental health and well-being. The group will reach out to mental health groups and the wider community and also allow people to reconnect with the community following the pandemic.

One participant with MolTân Makers explained, “ The course was professionally run by four hard-working people who helped us with one to one tuition when needed. They were so welcoming and adaptable to individual needs and allowed me to attend the course at different hours due to health reasons.

“They were great company and created an interesting and positive atmosphere to help people with mental and physical health problems feel included and understood and we all took home what we made in the course.”

The Hangout received £10,000 and will help young people improve their mental health and wellbeing through structured outdoor activity programmes. The project will build on a previous pilot project that led to more young people becoming re-engaged in school following the pandemic and continuing to volunteer with the group after the initial sessions finished.

The Alternative Learning Company in Llanelli were awarded £9,955 and will recycle plastic bottles to build full size greenhouses. They will propagate plants for growing schemes in local schools and communities. The project will reduce the levels of plastic sent to landfill or polluting open spaces, and give young people an understanding of the impact of climate change.

Newcastle Emlyn Town Council will build an outdoor structure in collaboration with the community, to mark Her Majesty the Queen’s Jubilee. This £10,000 grant will fund building and design materials, and a water harvesting kit.

Messy Projects will use their £9,800 grant to run the activities and events they missed due to the pandemic. Activities will include celebrating the Queens platinum jubilee, a BBQ, and a Bonfire party.

John Rose, Wales Director at The National Lottery Community Fund, said “These groups play a vital role in supporting their communities and these grants will allow them to continue being there for people in future. 

 ”National Lottery players raise more than £30 million each week for good causes across the UK and the projects funded over the past month show the crucial difference players make through their tickets. I look forward to following all of their progress.”  

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Family of power station worker calls on former colleagues to help with asbestos claim

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THE WIFE of a Carmarthenshire man, who was just 66 when he died of an asbestos-related cancer, is calling on colleagues who worked with him in the 1970s to help understand where and how he contracted the disease.

Peter Colton, from Llanelli, died in July 2021 after being diagnosed with the asbestos-related disease, mesothelioma.

He worked as a conveyor and weighbridge operator for the CEGB at Carmarthen Bay Power Station. During his time at the power station, his duties included offloading coal wagons and conveying coal to the boilers.

It is possible that Mr Colton was exposed to asbestos during those years and now his family has sought the help of local asbestos specialists J.M Parsons, to investigate a claim for compensation.

Ann Colton, Mr Colton’s wife, wants answers. She said: “Peter was diagnosed with mesothelioma and died just six weeks later. He had been suffering from shortness of breath and just had no quality of life.

“It was devastating to see someone who had been so healthy and active slowly get worse and worse. We just want to know where and how he was exposed to asbestos and hope someone out there can help us.”

According to data from the Health and Safety Executive, annual mesothelioma deaths in Britain increased steeply over the last 50 years, a consequence of mainly occupational asbestos exposures that occurred because of the widespread industrial use of asbestos during 1950-1980.

Amanda Jones is one of the specialists at J.M Parsons, which is owned by Thompsons Solicitors. Thompsons has paved the way for asbestos litigation in the UK ever since it brought about the first successful asbestos disease claim to the House of Lords in 1972, 50 years ago.

She said: “We would be grateful to hear from anyone who remembers working with Peter Colton in Carmarthen Bay Power Station in the 1970s or anyone who worked in the same field as Peter beyond the 1970s.

“Such individuals will be invaluable to Mr Colton’s family as they may be able to add important information that will assist us in building a civil claim. We hope that we will then be able to answer questions about the conditions that Mr Colton worked in during his working life.”

Anyone with information should contact Amanda Jones on 01554 779940, or via email at amanda@jmplaw.co.uk.

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