2017 was an eventful year at a local level. Llanelli Online was there wherever there was breaking news. There is an old saying that nothing travels faster than bad news. Unfortunately it is still true as the calls, emails and messages are almost without exception to do with bad news stories.
The year started with the loss of one of Llanelli’s music men, Deke Leonard. The country and town were gripped by local council elections, a general election and Welsh Assembly elections. Add to that Brexit and the first part of the year was heavily politically based.
Plaid Cymru took over control at County Hall but lost most of its representatives in Llanelli on the local and county councils. Nia Griffith was returned as the Llanelli MP and Lee Waters replaced Keith Davies as the AM for Llanelli.
The County council fought off the scandals of Parc Howard, Llanerch Fields and lost a case brought by former ski slope manager Eirian Morris. Some scandals closer to home appeared in Private Eye gaining the award ‘shit of the year’ for some. The CEO had his day in court and blogger Jacqui Thompson was ordered to pay him her dues but she won another battle to keep her home for now. An autistic girl was awarded damages having been ‘snatched’ from her family by police and the County Council.
Two local girls did Llanelli proud by winning gold and silver medals at the Special Needs Winter Olympics. The Scarlets won the Pro 12 cup. The Reds won the league and the cup and at Carmartheshire League level there were some great battles for the silverware. Burry Port Ladies took the WRU Women’s Bowl and Llanelli saw numerous triathlons, which showcased the areas outstanding natural beauty. Bont’s Brett Johns took on the World’s cage fighters at Las Vegas and won. Luke Jones from Bont also took on the world in Cologne and won in judo. Former Wales and Scarlets players gathered to unveil a special memorial stone on the site of Stradey Park. Jonathan Davies was named as BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year.
We saw armed police on the streets of Llanelli on a number of occasions. Llanelli MP Nia Griffith was caught up in the Westminster terror attack. Another attack in Manchester saw the town coming out for a candlelit vigil. Tragedy struck across Wales as a fire engulfed a farmhouse in Llangammach. Young mother Katrina Evemy was brutally murdered and her killer locked up for life.
Doctors surgeries came under threat from closure as did the DWP building. Other buildings were earmarked for demolition including Crown Buildings and the old Ty Melyn. Plans for the new Wellness Centre were kept alive as well as plans for an 80 bed motel at Cefn Sidan. Plans for a giant space net were approved and then disapproved as it had allegedly been sited over a mine shaft and without planning permission. New schools were planned and new schools were opened including one in Trimsaran.
The Royal Welsh Show was bathed in sunshine but tragically a young man went missing and was later found dead. There were a large number of missing people reported across Wales and again, a small number were later found dead.
Those who passed away included former First Minister Rhodri Morgan, actor Roger Moore and politician Carl Sergeant. The town also lost Jean Hywel, a stalwart of music in the town.
The public turned out in protest at plans to site a car park at Parc Howard and they turned out in force for the Jesse Glynne and UB40 concerts. Lord Griffiths of Burry Port visited the town to deliver a speech and Neil Hamilton opened a new office in the town.
The town had more than its fair share of fires including one at the library, Ty Elwyn, the St Elli Shopping Centre and the latest at Granby Close where ten-year-old Tia Hughes saved the day with her quick thinking actions.
Jeff Edmunds became the Mayor of Llanelli and West End star Samantha Thomas performed at the civic service at the Parish Church. West End and Broadway star John Owen-Jones also appeared in Llanelli market to help open his brother’s sausage shop.
Llanelli turned out in force to unveil a new memorial stone to those who fell in recent conflicts. The public turned out again for the annual Remembrance Day Parade. Primark opened its doors and local councillors set up food clubs for children who needed a meal in the school holidays. Llanelli saw the soup kitchen attracting greater numbers and a man living in a tent yards from the proposed Wellness Centre. The council listed its homeless figures as zero.
Pontarddulais unveiled a memorial to miners from the Graig Merthyr Colliery. Storm Ophelia hit but the damage was limited. The Ray Gravel Trust reached a landmark £1million raised and celebrated with a glittering ceremony at Parc y Scarlets. The Llanelli Boys Grammar Old Boys and Graig Comprehensive Former Pupils Association also held events including a dinner where the main guest was Welsh billionaire and Specsavers owner Doug Perkins.
The scandals kept coming and none more so public as the death of Carl Sergeant and subsequent calls for the First Minister to be investigated and questioned by the First Minister’s Scrutiny Committee. There was a sexual abuse scandal at one of West Wales’ most sacred beauty spots, Caldey Island. Revelations of the failings of the police helicopter service led to claims of security on the cheap.
Local newspapers began to show the cracks with the closure of some editions and the closure of the Llanelli Star offices on Cowell Street. We ended the year with armed police on the streets again and more buildings set for demolition. The Police and Crime Commissioner claimed that his force was winning.
Numerous events were organised in the town centre including Superheroes Day, the Reindeer Parade and the Christmas Carnival. Thousands turned out in support.
It has been a very eventful year and despite all the tragedies, the decay, the stories of a drug and crime ridden town there have been many many stories, which indicate that Llanelli is still a town with hope, a town with a future and a town full of people who will question, challenge and respond to whatever life throws at them.
We would like to thank our regular contributors especially the Reverend David Jones. We would like to thank those who have taken time to advertise with us. We would also like to thank each and every person who has taken the time to visit our website and social media pages. We look forward to bringing you all the news for Llanelli in 2018.
Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda.