Column published in Llanelli Herald on June 9th
“Change must be discussed with the public rather than announced to the public" Health Secretary Vaughan Gething said to me in the Senedd the other week after I’d raised Hywel Dda Health Board’s failure to engage with people before deciding that the surgeries in Burry Port should merge.
The Health Board have not proved very good at taking people with them when they make changes, and neither has Carmarthenshire Council.
There is a clear pattern of high-handed decision-making by the Council leadership as we have seen in the way they changed the status of Llangennech school, have chosen to dig up Llanerch field to build a new school, and are pushing ahead with developments in Parc Howard.
Of course, it’s a good thing that the Council has taken the park off the asset transfer register and is willing to invest in its future. That it is only right given the investment the Council has put into Carmarthen Museum (£1.5 Million) and Oriel Myrrdin Art Gallery £199 (which has had lose to a million pounds).
The grounds of the park are the crown jewel of Llanelli, but the mansion house is not achieving its potential. The museum has some fascinating exhibits but badly needs modernising to bring these displays to life to better tell the remarkable story of the town.
Council Leader, Emlyn Dole, has developed a ‘masterplan’ for the park but many of its details are shrouded in secrecy - for ‘commercial reasons’ we are told.
The Council is not showing itself to be open to discussing with the people of Llanelli how the potential of the park can be harnessed.
At last week’s public meeting about the proposals by Carmarthenshire Council to build a car park within the grounds the Chair of the Parc Howard Association, Gareth Morris, denied that they had been consulted; in fact he said they have had no voice in discussions with the County Council, and instead they were being told what they would get.
“All of a sudden we are given 21 days to protest against quite a drastic change in the park. The wedding venue discussions have been between the leader of the County council and people he knows. There are people like myself who can’t understand what the County council’s philosophy and main aim is” Gareth Morris told the Parc Howard Association meeting.
I’m concerned that the Council are rushing their plans, and the paused work on the new play area is proof of this. The planning application for a car park is causing great anxiety and I think it should be withdrawn.
Park Howard belongs to the people of Llanelli, its future can’t be decided in secret.