MAKING A DIFFERENCE?
The projects that could transform our town
THE departure of the recently-completed Welsh Water RainScape works has done wonders for the appearance of Llanelli for those coming from the town’s railway station.
The walls which surrounded the works, on Glanmor Road and Great Western Crescent, had stood quite noticeably for the best part of two years.
But what are the other ongoing sagas in Llanelli which are in need of a swift resolution?
IMPROVE LLANELLI’S RAILWAY STATION
It was announced a year ago that the town’s railway station would be getting a much-needed makeover, and it has since received new toilets and waiting rooms.
Transport for Wales has since announced that as part of its commitment to mid and South West Wales, more investments will be made in Llanelli’s station in 2025, while stations in Carmarthen and Machynlleth will receive investments in 2021.
Sean Rees, councillor for the Glanymor ward, believes that more needs to be done to improve the facilities.
He said: “There is plenty more to do when it comes to improving our railway station.
“The recent refurbishment has seen the upgrading of staff, disabled, gents and ladies toilets and new waiting rooms on both platforms. All of which need to be open for longer periods than at the moment.
“These improvements do show what can be achieved through the efforts of our strong community campaign, and how our area has been proactive in identifying necessary improvements and bringing about change.
“For a town the size of Llanelli, the station really ought to be staffed to a sufficient level, with CCTV to keep rail users safe and assistance available should information be required.
“The response seems to be ‘no they can’t, as a result of antisocial problems.’ Why should the reckless actions of a minority result in people who use our rail network being penalised?
“There also needs to be a greater frequency of services for West Wales, as currently the further west you go on the rail network, the worse it gets.
“I will be meeting shortly with representatives from Transport for Wales to discuss all of this and how we can ensure Llanelli gets its fair share of further investment.”
FRESHEN UP THE TOWN BY DEMOLISHING OR RENOVATING ITS EYESORES
As much as East Gate makes Llanelli seem modern and rooted in the 21st Century, the same can’t be said for other parts of town.
Carmarthenshire Council are aware of this, and three buildings – Crown Precinct, the miserable looking Ty Melyn, and perhaps most sadly the former Siop y Werin – have already been commissioned for demolition.
No. 10 Park Street, more commonly known as Circles, is set to be demolished in the coming days, with Siop y Werin not too far behind, with the council on track for completion by the end of the year.
The council recently announced that following a £4.5 million investment, key locations in the town centre were being targeted for further improvements.
The investment into buying and renovating underutilised properties from the private sector aims to modernise buildings and then let them at an affordable level of rent.
Market Street north, Market Street south and the YMCA building are three of the key sites that the council wishes to develop.
Leader of the council and executive board member for regeneration, Councillor Emlyn Dole said: “Confidence in Llanelli town centre is growing. We are moving quickly ahead with our plans for regeneration and are actively marketing a number of key sites that have huge development potential.
“Like many high streets across the UK, Llanelli town centre is not without its challenges, but we are working hard to ensure we give the town the best possible platform for success.
“We have recently spent £4.5 million buying empty retail units from private ownership and bringing them back into use at an affordable rent, and I’m so pleased to see new independent businesses up and running already.”
Those who visited Llanelli town centre for the town’s first food and drink festival were treated to the wonderful sight of Stepney Street and Vaughan Street packed with visitors.
It’s exactly what we all want to see happening in Llanelli town centre, and the place really felt like it had rolled back the years.
Chairperson of Ymlaen Llanelli, Lesley Richards said: “It was a fabulous event for the town, which brought in lots of visitors old and new. The atmos-
phere was amazing, and lots of our town centre businesses reported being very busy, which is just what we hoped for. “Events like this are a showcase for what the town has to offer permanently as we have so many brilliant businesses here. New visitors come to town for one of our events and then return when they see what’s on offer.
“Lots of people have been telling us how much they enjoyed it and how lovely it was to see the town so busy. We will definitely be looking at doing the event again next year.”
FILLING THE TOWN CENTRE
A number of units in the town centre remain empty as they continue to compete against the continuing success of Parc Trostre retail park on the outskirts of town.
Bargain Buys is one of the most recent shops to leave the town centre, while others including Marks & Spencer and Vision Express are just two on the list of businesses that have relocated.
President of Llanelli Chamber of Trade and Commerce David Darkin said: “A vibrant town centre is important as the heart of a community which is why having occupied building in the town centre is so important.
“Empty shops in the high street can be found up and down the UK and abroad, a symptom of the rise of e-commerce.
“It’s important, therefore, that we seek to diversify the uses of town centre premises in order to keep them as a thriving centre to the community.”
THE CAUSE OF THE FLY INFESTATION
It caused misery for many across the town in the summer, and last month Natural Resources Wales explained that the fly infestation may have originated in England.
The environment body has been investigating the cause of the infestation which blighted the town during the prolonged spell of warm weather.
It emerged that scrap metal business AMG Resources Ltd was the probable source of the problem, as NRW stated that it was working with them to reduce the chance of the flies returning.
Residents were forced to buy sticky strips, fly spray and countless other products in a bid to rid their homes of the pests, and demanded answers as to why it took so long to locate the “most likely” source.
Councillor Sean Rees declared that the problem “must not be allowed to ever happen again”.
At the time he said: “A task and finish group should be set up within the county council’s environmental and public protection scrutiny committee to launch a full-scale investigation into the cause, to see what lessons can be learned and what steps are now being put in place to tackle any future problems should they arise.”
REGENERATING STATION ROAD
Station Road’s decline is something that is widely acknowledged – but a hefty cash injection could soon start to improve that.
Several people living and working in Station Road were asked to identify problems that had brought about its decline, and each of them focused on one issue in particular: drugs.
In Llanelli, the town centre and Station Road have been earmarked for funding, with Welsh Government money complementing other regeneration projects including the £1.3 billion Swansea Bay City Deal, which takes in Carmarthenshire.
Councillor John Jenkins previously described Station Road as a poor introduction to the town for people disembarking at Llanelli station.
“When you get off at Llanelli train station, this is your entrance to the town of Llanelli,” Mr Jenkins said.
“It needs to be improved greatly – a concentration of low-cost housing, and the associated problems that come with that, have made this a very unwelcoming gateway, so I think action needs to be taken.”
Referring to the investment, council leader Emlyn Dole said: “The Llanelli proposals are focused around the core town centre and Station Road area with a view to building upon the good work and investment previously made via the Welsh Government’s former Vibrant and Viable Places initiative.”
Councillor Sean Rees says more needs to be done to improve facilities at Llanelli’s train station.
Councillor John Jenkins on Station Road, Llanelli, which he says needs improving.
The old Siop y Werin site, one of the empty shops in need of renovation.