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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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Community

Carmarthenshire Archives’ new building officially opened

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ON MONDAY, November 28, Cllr Rob Evans, Chair of Carmarthenshire County Council, unveiled a specially designed plaque to commemorate the official opening of the brand new Carmarthenshire Archives building.

The official opening was attended by year 6 pupils of Ysgol Y Dderwen, along with their Headteacher Mr Dylan Evans, who designed the plaque by compiling various artwork and sketches that are housed at the Archives.

Established in 1959, Carmarthenshire Archives is the local authority archive service for the County of Carmarthenshire and the new building is located at St Peter’s Street, Carmarthen. 

The service is home to our extensive collection of historic documents that date from the 13th century to the present day. The collection includes archives, maps, books, photographs, videos and sound recordings. It is the Archives’ mission to preserve and make its documents available for general study and research.

Admission to Carmarthenshire Archives is free and open to anyone who wishes to use the Council’s records. Most of its services are free, but we do charge for some extra services and help.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Leisure, Culture and Tourism, Cllr Gareth John commented:

“Congratulations to the pupils of Ysgol Y Dderwen, they have designed an excellent and appropriate plaque that is inspired by the treasure troves of our archives. It was wonderful to welcome them to the official opening so that they can see their work take pride of place at a building that holds great significance to us in Carmarthenshire. 

“This is a brand new and modern building that is fit to keep and protect our county’s most precious historical documents. 

“But of course, these documents are meant to be viewed and studied by school children, students, academics and anybody who has an interest in Carmarthenshire’s rich history; and this excellent facility provides the perfect space for people to come and view these treasures.”

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Llandeilo gas works to begin say Wales & West Utilities

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WALES & West Utilities will shortly begin work to upgrade gas pipes in Llandeilo.

Wales & West Utilities has liaised with Carmarthenshire County Council to plan the work and it has been agreed that work will commence after the town has celebrated the Festival of Senses.

The £123,000 investment scheme, which is essential to keep the gas flowing safely to heat and power local homes and businesses, will begin in New Road on 21 November. This section of work will be complete before Christmas and Wales & West Utilities will return to the town next year to undertake further work in the Crescent Road area. Barring any engineering difficulties, work in the town will be complete by the end of February next year.

Wales & West Utilities Adam Smith is managing this gas pipe upgrade work. He said: “Working with the Council, we have planned this work to accommodate the needs of the town.

“While most of the gas network is underground and out of sight, it plays a central role in the daily lives of people across Llandeilo. Whether it’s heating your home, making the family dinner or having a hot bath, we understand how important it is for your gas supply to be safe and reliable and there when you need it.

“We know that working in areas like this is not ideal, but it really is essential to make sure we keep the gas flowing to homes and businesses in the area, and to make sure the gas network is fit for the future. We’ll have a team of gas engineers on site throughout the project to make sure our work is completed as safely and as quickly as possible while keeping disruption to a minimum.

“This work is essential to keep the gas flowing to local homes and businesses today, and to make sure the gas network is ready to transport hydrogen and biomethane, so we can all play our part in a green future.”

Our Customer Service Team is ready to take your call if you have any questions about our work. You can contact them on freephone 0800 912 2999.

Alternatively, you can contact us on Twitter @WWUtilities or Facebook.com/WWUtilities.

Wales & West Utilities, the gas emergency and pipeline service, brings energy to 7.5m people across the south west of England and Wales. If you smell gas, or suspect the presence of carbon monoxide, call us on 0800 111 999 straight away, and our engineers will be there to help any time of day or night. Before visiting, we’ll ask you to let us know if you or anyone in your household, is experiencing Coronavirus symptoms or self-isolating. We’ll still come and help you: but our teams will take some additional precautions to keep us all safe.

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Police appeal following theft of items from Home Bargains Crosshands

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OFFICERS from Dyfed Powys Police have confirmed that they are investigating the theft of items, including a Christmas Nutcracker Ornament valued at £129.99, from the Home Bargains store in Crosshands, Carmarthenshire.

The theft occurred at about 12:40pm on Tuesday, 27th September 2022.

Officers have carried out all possible lines of enquiry, and are now appealing for help from the public.

They would like to identify the people in the CCTV image, who may have information that could help the investigation.

Anyone who knows who the people are, or if you believe you are pictured, contact Dyfed-Powys Police.

This can also be done either online at: https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.police.uk or phoning 101.

If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

Please quote reference DPP/2006/27/09/2022/02/C

Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111, or visiting crimestoppers-uk.org.

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