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Community spirit saves nursery from ‘disaster’

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The completed portakabin: After help from the community

The completed portakabin: After help from the community

THE CLOSURE of a school in Llansawel which resulted in the loss of a nursery has had a happy ending after community members step in to help out in a massive effort.

The village hall committee trust have provided a new home for the Cylch Meithrin, a popular nursery group based in the village school, which the county council closed last Easter.

Bill Davies, the secretary for the committee, spoke to the Herald about the issue, explaining: “The closure of our school was of course a disaster for our village. Cylch Meithrin had occupied one of the school’s outbuildings for about forty years and were given notice to quit around Christmas 2014.”

The committee felt that to lose that nursery as well as the school would have compounded the problem, as parents would quickly be persuaded to take their children elsewhere as the lack of certainty for a continuous service had been lost.

Due to impracticality, the village hall were unable to hold the children from the group as it would conflict with other on-going community activities that take place there, and the lack of space would be insufficient for the children.

Bill Davies explained: “We felt we had to act quickly and there was no time to apply for supporting grants, so we chose to use some of the hall’s own savings, so that we could assure parents that the new space would be satisfactory and that there would be no break in the service.”

To attempt to provide somewhere for the nursery, the committee purchased a large elderly portakabin on Ebay, which was an ex-MOD classroom, and measured approximately 10 metres by 7.5 metres. The room was brought to the committee from Essex by a local road haulier Roy Davies, and was stored in his own yard until the time was right.

The committee then applied for, and successfully received, planning permission whilst preparations for a building foundation were carried out, including water and electric supply, and sewerage.

When the building was put in place, the committee realised that more needed to be done in order to accomplish the task successfully for the nursery. Bill Davies continued, “We realised that we would have to do a good deal more to it than originally intended, to make it comfortable, especially when we learned that it had been made for export to the Middle East and that the level of insulation was less than we had supposed. Basically, we had bought a strong steel frame but everything else needed to be improved.”

Throughout the summer and autumn of 2015, Bill Davies and the rest of the committee took part in a great effort to finish the building. The windows and doors were replaced with larger doubleglazed units, insulation on the walls was doubled and tripled in the roof space, children’s and staff toilets were installed, and a new kitchen and cloakroom/hallway were put in place. The building was rewired to have a new false ceiling, a water heater, and a thermostat-timer controlled heating system. The interior was then also decorated and ramps were built up to the entrance of the building.

After months of dedicated hard work, the project was completed in November, but since then the committee have been waiting on CSSIW (Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales) to finish their processes to allow the Meithrin to move into their new home. Carmarthenshire Council has allowed the Meithrin to remain in its old home until the transition can be made.

The total cost of the project was under £14,000 which included the £1500 cost of the building itself. Various contributions to help out were made by members of the community including the doors and windows who were fitted by local builders Emyr Roberts, and Elgan Davies. Emyr also used skilled labour to install the kitchen free of charge. Other general work was carried out on a volunteer basis by various members of the committee. All materials and costs were paid for by the committee, and the total cost amounted to approximately three quarters of the committee’s savings.

Barrie Martin, the Trust’s chairman, said: “We were fortunate to have managed the Trust’s finances to have accumulated a surplus: we do not exist to build a miser’s heap; and you could hardly think of a better use for the money than to keep the Meithrin in our community.”

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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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