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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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Shock in Carmarthenshire as it’s named as one of the top locations for most reckless young drivers in UK

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CARMARTHENSHIRE has landed some unwanted publicity after being named as home to some of the most reckless young drivers in the UK.

According to comprehensive analysis by Adrian Flux, the county is one of the areas with the speediest teenagers on the road. On average 87.1% of FluxScore users there will receive a serious warning about their speeding compared to less than one in five in Conwy (17%).

The warnings are triggered by a black box that sits in the driver’s car to monitor their performance in the hope of improving safety and saving them money.

“This gamification style approach has helped sensible drivers save up to 60% for year-long safe driving upon renewal,” said Scott Goodliffe at Adrian Flux, one of the UK’s largest specialist motor insurance brokers.

“Unfortunately, some users are less attentive or cautious and their behaviour is a cause for concern because it leaves them more likely to make a claim or hurt themselves or others.

“It’s disappointing when alerts have to be sent but we’re proud that they are helping to change behaviour behind the wheel. We already know FluxScore is reducing the number of speeders across the board by 70% and hopefully this analysis will help address the small number who negatively impact these already impressive figures slightly.”

There are also considerable concerns about how quickly youngsters are travelling in Rhondda Cynon Taf with the area also being named and shamed in the top 10. It’s a much better picture in Conwy though with youngsters there being rated amongst the most careful drivers in the UK.

Adrian Flux’s self-fitting black box sits on the inside of the windscreen and tracks journeys. It helps reward safe driving by providing daily updates on the FluxScore app to show how the previous 24 hours’ driving has affected a driver’s renewal premium.

FluxScore sends alerts to drivers who it deems as driving dangerously or above the speed limit. The findings focus on Alert 2s, which are considered serious speeding events and take into account other factors such as the type of road. If a driver receives three Alert 2s, this will result in their policy being suspended.

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Local specialist contractors needed for countryside works

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CARMARTHENSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL is seeking local specialist countryside contractors for work on Public Rights of Way and conservation sites throughout the county.

Businesses in Carmarthenshire are being encouraged to tender for the countywide framework, which is for two years, starting in September with an option to extend for a further two years.

The work will include the management of nature reserves, mitigation for development and government funded habitat projects on sites with challenging conditions, ecological constraints, wet land and difficult access.

Examples of the work include path maintenance, installation of countryside furniture (stiles and gates), mowing overgrown fields, chainsaw and strimmer work, excavator work, woodland management, fencing and tree planting.

A proven track record and a good understanding of working in the rural and natural environment and knowledge of conservation is essential, as is an understanding of the way that the land changes in challenging weather conditions.

Applicants will need to make available vehicle inspection documents and maintenance records, certificates of operator competency (in relation to plant hire with operatives), health and safety policy and relevant insurance documents.

Any suppliers interested in tendering for this work need to be registered on the National Procurement Portal Sell2Wales website, where they can express their interest and receive further information.

This is a free online service and allows businesses to promote their organisation not only to the council but to other Welsh public sector bodies, and to receive notifications about contract opportunities suitable to their field of work.

The council also encourages businesses to register on the Business Wales Business Directory – a free resource where businesses can advertise their services.

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Police appeal for information after vehicle collides with two pedestrians

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POLICE say they are appealing for witnesses following a road traffic collision which occurred on College Street, Newcastle Emlyn just after 4pm on Monday 20th June.

A black coloured Honda CRV vehicle collided with two people on the pedestrian crossing.

A 70-year-old female sustained serious injuries and was airlifted to hospital.

A 50-year-old female was taken to hospital by ambulance with what are described as minor injuries

The 64 year old female driver of the vehicle was arrested on suspicion of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, and has been released under investigation pending further enquiries.

Anyone who witnessed the incident, or has information that could help officers with their investigation, or anyone who was driving in the area at the time and has dashcam footage, 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-20220620-283.”

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