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Council’s cool reception for ice cream parlour

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Shirl’z: Council says each case is looked at on merit

Shirl’z: Council says each case is looked at on merit

THE PROPRIETORS of a vintage-style ice cream parlour, due to open on Nott Square next month, faced an unexpected setback last week, when they were visited by planning enforcement officers.

However, following an outcry on social media, Carmarthenshire County Council has said that it will try to work with Shirl’z Old Fashion American Ice Cream Parlour to ensure that the business can still go ahead.

Mark and Debbie Thompson took over the premises on the corner of Nott Square by the Guildhall in December of last year: “We phoned the council planning department and said what we were going to do,” Debbie told us.

“They said we wouldn’t need to apply for a change of use if we were just selling ice cream, but if we were selling hot dogs we would need one. They said it should be okay .”

The couple began renovating the shop, with the intention of turning it into a retro-themed fifties Americanstyle diner. A grand opening, featuring live music and a classic car display was planned for March 19.

However, following a visit by planning enforcement officers on Friday (Feb 5) they were told that this would not be possible. Shortly afterwards, the following sign was put up in the shop window: ‘Shirl’z old fashion American ice cream parlour will now not be opening due to the reasons below.

‘Today we had a visit from Carmarthen Council Planning department informing us that we will not be allowed to open due to the area being classed as a conservation area and no food is allowed to be sold.

‘When we pointed out that within 30 yards there are 6 different places selling food and another one (a foreign bakery) had just been approved he refused to answer . When we also informed him that our application hasn’t been put in yet he told us that if we do it will be refused along with any appeal, so thanks to planning enforcement officers along with Carmarthen Council, they have cost the local economy 10 jobs and decided to keep another derelict empty shop in Carmarthen T own C entre.

‘Shirl’z will now go to a town outside of Carmarthenshire where the Council welcomes new business.’

This led to a heated response from other traders and residents. Fellow Nott Square business Splash described the news as ‘devastating’ on social media. “Nott Square could have become a real destination again,” they added.

A number of other people criticised the council for the decision, leading CCC to respond on F acebook, saying that ‘ officers are however working with the new occupants to see if a positive outcome can be achieved by clarifying (a) what the new occupants are seeking to use the unit for and (b) what might be acceptable in planning terms given the policy states that anything bar A1 use would not be acceptable ‘.

However, Mark told us that at the time when this was posted, he had received no contact from the council other than the phone call in December (which they instigated) and the visit from enforcement officers on Friday. “Our first ‘correspondence’ was via someone else’s F acebook page!” he added.

A representative of the planning department did contact Mark the following day. Mark said that he was told that they could serve ice cream and hot dogs at the site, subject to planning approval, but restrictions would be placed on opening times and the number of customers.

“We’re not looking at cramming people in – I’ve already planned the layout of the booths – but I asked what if, for example, we were allowed ten customers and had nine, and a woman and her child came to eat? Would they have to wait until someone left?” he wondered.

Mark told us he was ‘not condemning’ Carmarthenshire County Council: “The problem is that the philosophy of local authorities is out of date,” he added. “They don’t need so much A1 retail ( the current classification of their shop ) but at the minute food still sells in town centres.”

The couple had high praise for local MP Simon Hart. “We emailed him on Saturday, not expecting to get anything back, but within a couple of hours he was in touch saying that he would look into it, and we were in contact a couple of times over the weekend,” Mark told us.

Mr Hart agreed with Mark’s claim that council planners need to be more flexible: “My view has always been that some Council planning departments need to change their mindset. Too often the default position is one of ‘no chance’ whereas it should be ‘let’s see how we can get this to work’, especially where the creation of new jobs is concerned. And this is quite often at odds with other Council departments – eg those responsible for inward investment etc – who are keen to facilitate new, interesting projects.

“We all realise that planning conditions are important but so is the creation of new career opportunities.”

Carmarthenshire County Council head of planning Llinos Quelch said: “The council was made aware early last week that new signage advertising ice cream, burgers and hot dogs had gone up on 6, Nott Square, which is a unit in a conservation area, and has recently become vacant.

“Officers visited the premises to establish, due to the wording of the sign, whether the proposed use of the unit was a move away from the A1 (retail use) permission currently in place for the shop and would thus require planning permission.

“Planning permission for a change of use from retail (use class A1) to use class A3 would be required if a formal cafe/take away were to be developed.

“In the Carmarthenshire Local Development Plan the site is located in the prime frontage area where the emphasis is to retain A1 retail uses, and change of use to cafe/takeaway would be contrary to Policy RT2 of that Plan.

“Officers are currently working with the new occupants to see if a positive outcome can be achieved by firstly clarifying what the new occupants are seeking to use the unit for and then subsequently looking at what might be acceptable in planning terms given the policy states that anything other than A1 use would not be acceptable.

“In deterring applications where the sale of food is to take place each case is looked at on its own merits as to whether a change of use from retail is required or not, based on the Use Class Order. The operations of the individual business such as the proportion of hot food sold, the nature of cooking/heating of products on site and whether food/drink are consumed on or off the site are some of the contributing factors towards the assessment of whether it remains primarily within the A1 use class or not.

“The occupants of Unit 6 have been advised to hold off from submitting a planning application until they have advice back from the council in order that they can amend/ add to any application as appropriate prior to submission.

“The council has kept in regular contact with the new occupants of the unit following the visit on Friday and advice has been issued regarding the way forward with an offer to meet up further to go through any proposed application. Once there is clarity around the exact nature of the operations to be carried out within the new unit, more detailed advice can be given as to what approvals may be required. That dialogue with the owners will continue.”

Meanwhile, Mark and Debbie are continuing to redecorate the premises, and are ‘hopeful’ that they will still be able to open on March 19: “It’s moved from a definite ‘no’ to ‘see how it goes’,” Mark added.

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Warning of serious disruption on M4 and M5 today due to fuel prices protest

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POLICE have warned of “serious disruption” to drivers using the M4 and M5 on Monday 4 July due to a planned protest.

Protesters intend to block the Prince of Wales Bridge from 7am until 7pm as part of a nationwide campaign against rising fuel prices.

The protest is due to start at the M4 Magor services at junction 23A eastbound and the Clevedon Interchange at junction 20 of the M5 westbound.

It is also expected to cause disruption to the M48 Severn Bridge and the M32.

Drivers are being urged to avoid the area or plan alternative routes.

Bristol Airport has issued a warning urging travellers to allow extra time if heading to or from the airport.

Police said additional officers will be brought in to ensure the protest is carried out legally.

Drivers have been advised by Gwent Police to work from home where possible and avoid the area between 7am and 7pm, with protestors planning to block parts of the road between M4 Magor services, junction 23A eastbound, and Junction 20 of the M4 between those hours.

Chief Superintendent Tom Harding said: “Gwent Police, and Avon and Somerset Police, are working jointly with neighbouring police forces and partner agencies to ensure emergency and critical services continue and to reduce disruption to both road users and local communities, however we are preparing for serious disruption throughout the day.

“I would encourage drivers to reconsider their journey, consider working from home and avoid the area where possible.

“The right to protest under UK law must be balanced with the rights of the wider community who may be affected. We have additional officers and support in place on Monday to ensure the protest is carried out in accordance with the law.”

The planned protest is thought to have been organised by the Facebook group Fuel Price Stand Against Tax, and has attracted both criticism and support online.

The latest travel disruption comes following the closure of the Severn Bridge for a second consecutive weekend, as well as the Severn Tunnel rain line which will be out of use until July 10 due to essential work. Motorists will be unable to cross the M48 Severn Bridge until 6am on Monday as it is undergoing essential work for eight months.

The bridge was first shut last weekend as painstaking work to repair and replace corroded suspension cables began. Traffic on the bridge is likely to be very heavy on Monday due to the fuel protest.

Police have told protesters banners must be tightly secured to vehicles and nobody should be walking around on the bridge during the demonstration. Protesters will stay inside their vehicles or stand beside them.

An organiser said: “We will now only be doing it on the Prince of Wales Bridge. We have to keep in mind everyone’s safety and if we block the bridge totally and there is an emergency there would be hell. Yes it means only one bridge but [due to the amount of traffic caused] there will still be a massive impact.”

Two weeks ago one of the initial M4 bridge protest organisers Ashley Fowler said : “We’re all car enthusiasts and we have all been worried about fuel prices and when I saw the post about blocking the bridges we began talking about it. Then people started asking me to make an event so we could update each other.

“I made the event because I run a car club in Cardiff which I started on social media during the pandemic lockdowns to help people’s mental health. When we can we go out to car parks and just meet up and have a chat but during the pandemic we weren’t able to do it so I made the group.

“Now we can’t meet up so much again because of the cost of fuel. I know some of them can’t drive so much because they need to feed their kids. It’s serious. People are getting really depressed about it. One of the boys in the group has actually sold his car due to fuel price rises.”

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Business

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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