10 towns pro­posal at heart of plans for ru­ral econ­omy

Llanelli Star - - LETTERS - Richard Youle [email protected]­line.co.uk

A PRO­POSAL to re­ju­ve­nate 10 towns is at the heart of far-reach­ing plans to boost Car­marthen­shire’s ru­ral econ­omy.

For the past two years a cross-party group at the coun­cil has been analysing the is­sues fac­ing ru­ral life, such as job op­por­tu­ni­ties, trans­port and Brexit uncer­tainty for farm­ers, and has now pub­lished a re­port.

The re­port’s 55 rec­om­men­da­tions have been ap­proved by the coun­cil’s ex­ec­u­tive board.

One of the rec­om­men­da­tions is to help re­vi­talise 10 towns – Llan­dovery, St Clears, Whit­land, Newcastle Em­lyn, Laugh­arne, Cw­mam­man, Llany­by­d­der, Kid­welly, Llan­deilo and Cross Hands – by de­vel­op­ing spe­cific pro­pos­als with com­mu­ni­ties there.

“The im­pact will be on the vil­lages around as well,” said Cefin Campbell, ex­ec­u­tive board mem­ber for com­mu­ni­ties and ru­ral af­fairs, who in­tro­duced the group’s re­port at a meet­ing on July 1.

These could in­clude busi­ness hubs to sup­port new and ex­ist­ing busi­nesses in the area, and also pub­lic sec­tor hubs.

The task group wants to boost spend­ing within Car­marthen­shire and re­verse the trend of around 1,000 young peo­ple leaving the county an­nu­ally.

The re­port also said a greater roll-out of su­per­fast broad­band was needed - plus an un­der­stand­ing of why up­take of ex­ist­ing digital in­fra­struc­ture was low - and bet­ter trans­port links, more af­ford­able hous­ing, and homes for young fam­i­lies.

Mr Campbell called for less strict plan­ning guide­lines and dif­fer­ent pro­cure­ment meth­ods to boost hous­ing sup­ply and sup­port lo­cal pro­duc­ers.

Agri­cul­ture was de­scribed as the back­bone of many ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties with “im­mea­sur­able” value, de­spite only em­ploy­ing 2.9% of the county’s workforce.

Brexit is caus­ing uncer­tainty, and a lack of pro­cess­ing fa­cil­i­ties has long been a bug­bear for dairy farm­ers.

Car­marthen­shire has around 475 dairy farms - 28% of Wales’s to­tal - but the vast ma­jor­ity of milk is trans­ported out of the county and Wales for pro­cess­ing.

The task group has rec­om­mended de­vel­op­ing a pro­cess­ing fa­cil­ity, based on a co-op­er­a­tive model, to in­clude milk, cream, yo­ghurt and ice cream.

Mr Campbell called on the Welsh Government to bring for­ward a plan recog­nis­ing the im­por­tance of agri­cul­ture, and also asked for more money for small ru­ral schools.

Car­marthen­shire has 17 ru­ral schools with fewer than 50 pupils, and sus­tain­ing them was de­scribed by ex­ec­u­tive board mem­ber for ed­u­ca­tion coun­cil­lor Glynog Davies as a “vast” fi­nan­cial chal­lenge.

As part of its work, the task group com­mis­sioned a sur­vey which asked peo­ple what the main chal­lenges were fac­ing ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

Tourism is a sig­nif­i­cant growth sec­tor in the county, and the re­port rec­om­mended de­vel­op­ing new cycle routes on dis­used rail­way lines where pos­si­ble.

Mr Campbell also said the county needed to bet­ter show­case its nu­mer­ous ru­ral events and shows.

The re­port, which also said that 50.2% of the pop­u­la­tion in Car­marthen­shire’s ru­ral wards spoke Welsh, will go be­fore full coun­cil be­fore a costed action plan is de­vel­oped.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive Wendy Walters said taking the plans for­ward would mean a re­di­rect­ion of ex­ist­ing re­sources.

She said if new of­fi­cers were needed “we would se­ri­ously have to look at the re­source im­pli­ca­tions of that.”

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