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Flooding issues discussed at Senedd

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Joyce Watson: Councillors ‘must be held to account’ over flood plain planning applications

Joyce Watson: Councillors ‘must be held to account’ over flood plain planning applications

PLANS tabled by the Welsh Conservatives at the Senedd last week received a mixed response from opposition parties.

The debate, led by Conservative Shadow Environment Minister Janet Howarth, focused on the Welsh Conservatives’ Five Point Plan to alleviate flooding in the future, mixed in with what the Welsh Conservatives described as ‘widespread condemnation of the response of the Welsh Labour Government to the flooding crisis’.

It did not take long for comparisons to be made with the UK Government’s response to the flooding in the north of England. Ms Howarth refused to take the opportunity, offered by former Environment Minister Alun Davies, to condemn the UK Government’s handling of the flooding.

The plan put forward by the Welsh Conservatives concentrated around the following:

  • Exploring the provision of rate relief for impacted businesses;
  • Reviewing how the Trunk Road Agency responds to adverse weather conditions;
  • Assessing the management of the A55 in relation to flooding;
  • Providing additional freedoms to farmers and landowners to clear ditches, drains and agricultural channels; and
  • Assessing how the Rural Development Programme can better support flood prevention schemes for communities affected by flooding.

The first three of these ideas were taken on board by Natural Resources Minister Carl Sargeant, which led to Ms Howarth claiming after the meeting that: “I welcome the Welsh Government’s endorsement of our proposals to support those affected by flooding and take measures to prevent future floods.

“Lessons must be learnt from the way these floods were handled to protect families, businesses and communities in future.

“This is further evidence that it’s the Welsh Conservatives, not Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, offering new ideas and real change.”

However, other proposals were met with less enthusiasm. A plan to deregulate the clearing of ditches, drains, and agricultural channels was blocked.

In certain flood-hit areas of Yorkshire, the clearing of ditches, which facilitated the quicker movement of surface water towards more densely-populated areas downstream, was partially blamed for the severity of the flooding.

Giving landowners and farmers freedom to clear channels ‘could have serious consequences’, Mr Sargeant warned.

“We recognise that a free-for-all clearing of ditches and drainage can have a major impact on communities – we have to be balanced in our approach to this.

“NRW has an annual programme to de-silt water courses where it can make a difference, and landowners can undertake watercourse maintenance themselves subject to consent.”

Mr Sargeant also pointed out that deregulation would lead to landowners ‘de-risking’ their own land, and that dredging could cause problems by speeding up water transfer, leading to problems downstream.

Conservative Shadow Local Government Minister Janet Finch- Saunders also appeared to assume that the floods which devastated large regions of the UK were worse in north Wales due to the Welsh Labour Government. “I can assure you that many miles away up north we are still reeling from the devastating floods of the last few weeks,” she stated, presumably meaning north Wales.

Ms Finch-Saunders also claimed that ‘when flood water and raw sewage were ‘gushing in “there was no comment from you, First Minister – no leadership.

“You can shake your head, but facts are facts – you have failed miserably where flooding is concerned.”

This is, of course, in stark contrast to the flood defence plan implemented in England over the past five years, and Mr Sargeant appeared to lose his patience, claiming in his response that Ms Finch-Saunders had been ‘tweeting away from the comfort of her home’ while NRW officials were out dealing with the flooding in her area.

It is also worth pointing out that Carwyn Jones did in fact make several visits to areas of north Wales affected by flooding, including Llanwrst, which was specifically mentioned by Ms Finch-Saunders.

During these visits, Mr Jones pointed out that north Wales had “more rain than the north of England did and we were less affected.

“The people who were affected, it was awful for them, let’s not try and minimise that. But the defences that we had in place held in the main – yes, there were some areas where that didn’t happen.

“But the big challenge is, and this is what the scientists are telling us, is trying to predict where flooding will happen.”

Labour AM Joyce Watson raised an issue particularly pertinent to Carmarthenshire – that of planning for development:

“Planning permission all too often allows properties to be built on flood plains – very often by Councillors who allow that permission to go through,” the Mid and West Assembly Member claimed.

“They must be held to account on those decisions.”

Given that concerns have been previously raised concerning flood risk at two major proposed developments in Carmarthenshire – Carmarthen West, and the Grillo site in Burry Port, this would seem somewhat relevant.

In the case of the Carmarthen West development, it was claimed by local Councillors that the modeling for the dispersal of surface water was not conclusive, and that properties in Johnstown could be affected by surface water flooding.

Ms Watson also claimed that most new homes will have an extra 20% area of impermeable land – either hard-standing for a vehicle or a patio – added by new owners, and that this was not accounted for, something that will only exacerbate such problems. She suggested that all future hardstanding should be permeable to ease this issue.

Issues with ‘contradictory’ planning policy advice had been previously raised by Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire AM Angela Burns in First Minister’s Questions.

During a heated debate with the First Minister Ms Burns said: “When are you and your Government going to get to grips with planning policy? You have a policy that enables Councils to allow house builders to develop in areas of flood risk as evidenced by the builds in my constituency that have suffered from being flooded in the past 3 months let alone the past few years…”

Speaking afterwards Ms Burns said: “This is such a serious issue but the Welsh Government are dragging their heels over sorting it out. We’ve seen flooding in Tenby and Llansteffan, Amroth and areas around St Clears to name just a few instances. Houses are built, communities are undefended, flood defences delayed because their risk is deemed low.

“And yet the same policy that allows that development stops a multi million pound business expansion which has an even lower level of risk. A business expansion that would have brought another 150 jobs to Carmarthenshire and made west Wales a centre for film and music.

“It’s illogical and contradictory, I was shocked by the First Minister’s response and his refusal to recognise that contradictory planning guidance is being used as a tool to stifle business growth but doesn’t protect homes”.

The multi-million pound business development Ms Burns referred to was the Corran development near Laugharne, where recent plans to create a wetland holiday village which promised to create over 200 jobs, were refused permission in part due to the flooding risk, local infrastructure issues, and the environmental importance of the site. The plans were voted down by an overwhelming majority of Councillors on the Planning Committee.

However, other projects in Carmarthenshire were praised, including Rainscape surface water removal projects in Llanelli.

John Griffiths AM said that the Welsh Water scheme to ‘green’ the Llanelli area to hold water rather than allowing it to run off and create flood risk was ‘absolutely the right way to go.’

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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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Witness appeal after car is stolen and burnt out

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE is investigating the theft of a car from a property in Lando Road, Burry Port, which was later found burnt out in Pembrey Country Park.

Officers are appealing for witnesses to the theft of the blue Ssangyong Rexton, which took place sometime between 5pm on Friday, 11th November, and 9am on Saturday, 12th November, and would like to speak to anyone who may have information or CCTV or dashcam footage.

Anyone with information that could help officers with their investigation is asked to report it to Dyfed-Powys Police, either online at: https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.police.uk, or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

Quote reference: DP-20221112-109

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

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