CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save Llanerch field as a village green say they are optimistic that they have done enough to convince the decision makers that the field should be given village green status rather than be used to house a new school.
Local people attended the inquiry, which took place over four days at the Llanelli Town Hall.
The panel heard how important the field was to people young and old and how much it had been used over the last half century.
Campaigner Sharon Burdess who lives near to the field said: “Over the years communities have been created on Llanerch field. Scores of children have played there informally and as part of organised groups.
“The field has always been highly valued by the local residents and by those who have used it for sport and recreation for so many years.
“The field has been in use since the 1940’s and generations of families have benefitted from its locality and its open availability. Sporting teams have formed unique bonds on this precious green space and there is a real sense of belonging within the community.
“These customs reflect the ancient law of custom where such a pattern of use created a presumption that the local inhabitants had established recreational rights over the land
“Carmarthenshire County Council has put in a planning application but no action or building can take place until the village green application decision is made.
“This decision is made by an independent Inspector. His decision and report should be completed in the next six weeks.
“We are hopeful that we have done enough so that Llanerch can be granted village green status but if not we will take it to a judicial review.”
The plans submitted for the land south of Heol Nant Y Felin are for the construction of a new 420 place Welsh primary school and 60 place nursery including overspill car parking with associated access, infrastructure and landscaping works. You can view the planning application here.
Two local councillors Cllr Rob James and Cllr Phillip Warlow submitted evidence at the four day inquiry, which took place at the Town Hall from the 13th of April.
Cllr Rob James said: “As one of the County Councillors for the Lliedi ward, I wish to submit further evidence to support the village green application for the land south of Heol Nantyfelin, known as Llanerch playing field.
“Having recently stood for election, I spent more than six months knocking the doors of local residents and hearing their views on a wide range of issues. During this period, there was much discussion of a school being proposed for the playing field. It became clear talking to local residents that the large majority of individuals living in the area had many memories of playing on and enjoying this recreational playing field. It was also stated that these residents had a strong desire for local children and adults to enjoy continued free access to this precious recreational space.
“As a County Councillor, I feel compelled to articulate the views of those that are unable to do so. Whether it is local children that use this field to explore the natural world and build strong social relationships with their peers; individuals easing any mental health issues by walking their dog on the field; or elderly individuals that no longer have the mobility to use the field themselves, yet enjoy watching their family enjoy the green space; there are many individuals that are not in a position to express their desire for Llanerch field to be designated a village green.
“Whilst the onus is on the applicant to illustrate how this application meets each individual requirement to be designated as a village green, it would be remiss of us not to attempt to understand the raw emotion and attachment that individuals across Llanelli and further afield have with this green space. They believe that this land was a gift to them, that this area is theirs to make use of and protect, and that it should be available for future generations to utilise.
“I hope that Carmarthenshire Council’s Officers and Executive Board Members see it within themselves to realise the importance of Open Spaces for the wellbeing of all in Carmarthenshire, appreciate that any action that results in the loss of this much treasured green space goes against the principles of the Future Generations and Wellbeing Act and begins the process of designating the land south of Heol Nantyfelin to be a village green.”
Llanelli Town Council also submitted a letter of support for the retention of the field. They had also asked to take over the asset but that request was denied by the county council who took the facility off the asset transfer list.
Lee Waters AM and Nia Griffith MP also expressed their concerns that the council were planning to build on a green field site when brown field sites existed in and around the area. One of those would be the Heol Goffa School, which is set to move to the Delta Lakes site.
Speaking after inquiry Lee Waters AM said: “This week a hearing at Llanelli Town Hall has been taking evidence on whether Llanerch field should be registered as a ‘Village Green’ and protected from development.
“Carmarthenshire Council are arguing they own the field and can do what they like with it. I fully support local campaigners who want to protect this green lung for future generations.
“Ysgol Dewi Sant desperately need a new building, but this is the wrong location. Nia Griffith and I have asked the Council to consider redeveloping the Heol Goffa site once the School moves to a new building at Delta Lakes. But they are dead-set on using this green space.
“This is very unfair on Dewi Sant pupils as there’ll be a delay before a new school is built if the ‘Village Green’ application succeeds.”
The AM’s comments are commensurate with the Welsh Assembly Government’s policy on play, which state:
At all ages, children and young people want places to go to enjoy one another’s company. They need to be able to choose their own activities. Play should be free from inappropriate danger – but at the same time, children want to take increasing risks. We need to increase the types of place where children can play while continuing to safeguard their safety. We are tackling this at national, local and community levels.
There is no doubt that the staff and pupils of Ysgol Dewi Sant need a new school after what some are claiming to be years of neglect to the point where the school was being described as ‘not fit for purpose’. Some elements have attempted to ignite the argument of Welsh v English but that has to date gathered no more momentum than the fizz from a flat bottle of lemonade. Those campaigning claim they support both the Welsh language and the need for a new school, but only when equal weight has been given to all possible sites and in line with protecting green play areas and community spaces. A decision of some sort is expected towards the end of May 2018.
You can also look back at the history of the arguments for and against the use of the land for development on this website.
We made a film dealing with the issue of the enormous sewage tank beneath the field and you can watch that here.