City deal scheme on hold
MOVE FOLLOWS UNI SUSPENSIONS:
A MAJOR £200 million development in Carmarthenshire has been put on hold amid the suspension of senior academics at Swansea University.
Carmarthenshire Council issued a statement yesterday saying it “needed further reassurance” and “needed to show that the due legal process has been followed and public funds have been fully protected”.
Council leader Emlyn Dole said the assurances were needed “given the ongoing internal investigation at Swansea University”.
One of the academics suspended by Swansea University was the dean of its school of management, Professor Marc Clement.
Prof Clement is credited as being the architect of the ambitious Wellness Village scheme, which is looking to secure £40 million in backing from the £1.3 billion City Deal for the Swansea Bay City Region.
It is a joint project between Carmarthenshire Council, Swansea University and two health boards.
It had been hoped work could start on the project at Delta Lakes by the end of the year.
The first phase of the project, previously set to open in early 2021, is planned to include a community health hub, extensive landscaping and a top quality leisure centre.
It is also planned to include an institute of life science centre, assisted living accommodation and a hotel.
Alongside Prof Clement, three other academics have been suspended. One is the vice-chancellor, Professor Richard B Davies. The other two have not been named.
Prof Clement has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
Mr Davies earlier this year announced he was retiring at the end of the current academic year.
Carmarthenshire Council said officers “have also been asked to explore a potential alternative delivery model for the village”.
Prof Clement is a former director of Kent Neurosciences but resigned in August 2015 before the company entered into a 10-month exclusivity deal with Carmarthenshire Council to be the wellbeing village’s development partner back 2016. Kent Neurosciences was dissolved early this year.
In an EU procurement tender exercise, for which there was only one bidder, the contract was awarded to a newly-created company, Sterling Health.
Directors of Sterling Health include Franz Dickmann, who is a former director of now dissolved Kent Neurosciences.
The project has yet to confirm the identity of its private sector backers.
It is understood that it has been in talks with a number of banks and other financial institutions.
Even if Carmarthenshire signs off the business case for the project following the independent assessment, the Welsh and UK Governments will have to carry out their own evaluations before releasing any City Deal backing.
However, without the required committed funding from private sector backers, they will not agree to any funding contribution.
The project is being driven by Carmarthenshire County Council, under its chief executive Mark James, in partnership with Hywel Dda and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg university health boards and Swansea University.
They say the proposed waterfront site at Delta Lakes would create 2,000 jobs.
Emlyn Dole, said: “Executive board members are satisfied that the project business case for the village is robust, but we need some further reassurance before finally signing it off.
“Given the ongoing internal investigation at Swansea University, this is the right and prudent thing to do because we need to show that due legal process has been followed and public funds have been fully protected.”
The proposed Wellness and Life Science Village at Delta Lakes, Llanelli.
The suspended Professor Marc Clement.