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‘Land issues’ cost council £1.1m

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Disappointed with the cost to the council: Meryl Gravell

Disappointed with the cost to the council: Meryl Gravell

COUNCILLORS attending a  meeting of the Community Scrutiny Committee on Monday (Sept 14) were surprised to discover that Carmarthenshire County Council’s much-vaunted Cross Hands East development would in fact cost the council £1.1 m more than was anticipated. Cllr Ken Howell asked officers to explain the £1.1m overspend, described as ‘due to land issues’ in Appendix D of the Capital Budget Monitoring Scrutiny Report. In response, he was told that as a result of a Lands Tribunal, the council’s original valuation of the land, which was acquired under a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) had been successfully challenged. As a result, the council was forced to pay a higher rate. Apparently, at the time the valuation had been based on original land ownership. In response to a question from the Chair, Cllr Deryk Cundy, Councillors heard that there was no way in which the authority could recoup this money.

Commenting in local media, Executive Board Member for Regeneration Meryl Gravell said that it was ‘disappointing’ that the council should be forced to pay the extra costs. However, The Herald has learned that CCC was aware that a challenge was being launched as long ago as November 2013, when the matter was raised at a Community Scrutiny Committee meeting. The minutes for that meeting state: ‘Further information was requested in relation to the strategic employment site planned at Cross Hands East. The Head of Planning Services advised that the Compulsory Purchase Order had now been confirmed by the Welsh Minister however 2 land owners had still not agreed the valuation of their land and were appealing at the Land Tribunal. Statements of case had been exchanged and evidence would be given within the next 2 months.

This would not delay progress with the scheme.’ The Land Tribunal was concluded in November 2014, in favour of the claimants. The transcript of the tribunal reveals that CCC had originally rejected a Certificate for Appropriate Alternative Development (CAAD) for full residential development for the site, but had accepted that planning permission would have been granted for the development of business and industrial units (Use Classes B1 and B8) on the south-westerly part of the site. The reason for the decision was as follows: “Residential development of the entire site would be of a scale considered contrary to Policy CUDP 1 of the Carmarthenshire Unitary Development Plan which allocates further development in Carmarthenshire to settlements in accordance to a sustainable strategic settlement framework.

While Cross Hands is allocated as a Growth Area adequate land has been allocated to meet the housing element of this role and the development of the entire site would lead to an over provision of housing to the detriment of the concept of a sustainable community. The site is however located adjacent to the existing industrial estate and the south westerly part would be an acceptable extension to the estate subject to conditions to protect the residential amenities of properties in the area.” The CAAD for the second plot of land certified that planning permission would have been granted for residential development (Class C3) only in respect of the frontage land to Black Lion Road to a depth of approximately 50m.

The reason for the decision was as follows: “The scale of the residential development proposed would be considered contrary to Policy CUDP 1 of the Carmarthenshire Unitary Development Plan which allocates future development in Carmarthenshire to settlements in accordance to a sustainable strategic settlement framework. While Cross Hands is allocated as a Growth Area adequate land has been allocated to meet the housing element of this role and the development of the entire site would lead to an over provision of housing to the detriment of the concept of a sustainable community.

The frontage of the site however aligns with the present pattern of development along Black Lion Road and the development of such an area is not regarded as undermining this key strategic policy of the Unitary Development Plan. “However, it was decided that residential planning should have been given to part of the first site, and that claims that the site was outside the Unitary Development Plan area were irrelevant given the scale of the industrial development proposed by the council. In response to Eifion Bowen’s claim regarding the Cross Hands East development falling in line with CCC policy of ‘permit[ting] small-scale employment undertakings outside the limits of all regional settlements throughout the plan area’ the adjudicator pointed out that: “On 29 November 2012 planning permission was granted for development of the site as an “Industrial Park, including the development of business and industrial units (Use Classes B1 and B8), offices, business incubator units, a hotel, a business central hub, resource centre, energy centre…”

In my judgment, such a development cannot realistically be described as comprising a small scale employment undertaking.” It was also determined that an increased area of the second plot should have been given residential planning under the CAAP, and that the number of houses now permitted – a total of 95, would not have interfered with the UDP. Adjudicating, NJ Rose stated that Mr Bowen had placed emphasis on the fact that the plots were outside the UDP area: “In my judgment CCC did not consider that boundary to be of material significance when considering proposals for development in the area”

Mr Rose said: “There are a number of reasons for this conclusion. Firstly, as I have said, PDB31 was allocated on the UDP for employment use, although it was outside the settlement boundary. Secondly, CCC did not rely on that boundary as a reason when they issued the certificates which are the subject of this appeal. Thirdly, CCC granted a positive certificate for an extension of the existing Cross Hands business park into the south-western section of the Bonnell land, which was itself outside the settlement boundary. Fourthly, there are other significant areas which were allocated for residential development beyond that boundary, namely PDB29 and PDB30. The former was identified in the UDP as being suitable for mixed use, and outline planning permission has been granted for 250 dwellings. PDB30 was identified as a development brief site to include relocation of a scrap yard with residential to the east.”

A statement released jointly by Ms Gravell and executive Member for Resources David Jenkins said: “The County Council is obliged to pay compensation for property it purchases under compulsory powers. The estimated level of compensation to acquire property to create the access road to the Cross Hands East Strategic Employment Site has increased following a Lands Tribunal decision which has increased the value of the land bought for the road.” This summary, while admirably to-the-point, could be considered somewhat lacking in the finer detail.

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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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