A new film, which looks at the recent ‘goings on’ at Parc Howard has been released by 22 year-old Aimee Thomas, a journalism student at the University of South Wales in Cardiff. Aimee, who hails from Llanelli said that she wanted to find out more about the park and make a film setting out some of its recent history and ‘the truth behind some of the headlines’. The film is part of her major project.
The headlines and history include a failed Heritage Lottery Bid, which Executive Board member Meryl gravel blamed on local people – members of the Parc Howard Association (PHA). It also highlights the bulldozing of the park without consultation and the Council’s more recent plans to turn it into a wedding venue despite the fact that only a few hundred yards away there are numerous wedding venues including The Best Western Diplomat, Hotel The Thomas Arms Hotel, The Stradey Park Hotel and the Council’s own Town Hall.
Saving The Crown Jewel: Aimee Thomas
The film also looks at the involvement of a company called Loca Ventures Ltd and a lone figure named Tony Rees who was exposed at a park meeting as allegedly having been introduced as a representative of the company at what was described in local press as ‘clandestine meetings’ with officers and executive board members of Carmarthenshire County Council.
The film maker interviews The Leader of the County Council, Emlyn Dole as well as Meryl Gravell and members of the PHA. In the film Mrs Gravell reiterates the fact that she was informed by the Heritage Lottery people that the bid had been scuppered by local people. Llanelli Online can reveal that the Heritage Lottery Fund were contacted and that their response was that they had never issued Mrs Gravell with a statement to that effect. In fact they clearly replied setting out the reasons for the failure of the bid and that failure was clearly as a result of poor administration.
A letter sent to the PHA clearly indicates that there had been failings in the application but does not mention any scuppering by local people or members of the PHA. They state:
A considerable amount of community consultation had informed your proposal, but the work to prioritise your capital works and activities, deciding which to take forward and which to save for a future project, had not yet been done. For this reason your grant request was high compared to other applications in the batch and works did not appear well planned.
The Parks for People programme expects schemes to focus on the conservation of existing historical features of the park and costs should reflect this. Your application showed costs for new capital works that were more than double the costs of restoration work and this should be addressed if you hope to resubmit.
A lack of available match funding meant that HLF’s grant rate was high. Further information on your fundraising efforts would have been useful.
Significant training opportunities would be created through the project but the relationship between new facilities at Parc Howard and those already existing at the Tywi Centre and Aberglasney (both of which have received HLF funding) was not described.
Estimated volunteer time and costs for activities were considered relatively low while professional fees for the development phase were considered high. We would not be able to cover the costs of existing council staff through the development grant unless they were to work above their normal contracted hours.
Llanelli Online contacted The Heritage Lottery Fund again today, Wednesday (Apr 12) and they confirmed once more that they had not sent any letter to Mrs Gravell stating that the bid had been scuppered by any resident, nor members of the Parc Howard Association.
Llanelli Online received the following letter from HLF today, Thursday (Apr 12).
April 2017 Heritage Lottery Fund statement – Parc Howard, Llanelli Statement
Commenting on the grant application made to HLF by Carmarthenshire Council for a project at Park Howard, Richard Bellamy, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Wales, said: “We received a £4.5m grant request for an ambitious project at Parc Howard, Llanelli, in 2013. “As with all project applications we receive, careful consideration was given to the project proposal. However, given the amount of funding requested, and the significant competition at the Board meeting, we were unable to support the application. “The Board considered that the application presented was significantly underdeveloped; in particular, the proposals did not focus clearly enough on essential conservation work that would protect the historic features of the park. “We met with Carmarthenshire County Council officials following the decision not to support the project and offered detailed feedback on how their proposal and application to HLF could be strengthened.”
The planned giant trampoline was also put on hold when residents complained that there had been no consultation and that a planning application had not been submitted despite the apparatus overlooking several properties giving users of the apparatus a clear view into surrounding homes and gardens. There was also the revelation that a disused mineshaft sat close to the site of the trampoline. The area around the park is known to be associated with mining activity. The PHA have also raised their concerns regarding mine shafts at the park and at a meeting on August 2 they ask if old mine shafts have been built on in the older children’s play area and if the shafts had been filled in.
Llanelli Online has also received an email from a source who wishes to remain anonymous. The email states that the council was hoping that the Cambrian Heritage Regeneration people who run Llanelly House would help them fund some of the work needed at Parc Howard. The email states that allegedly the Cambrian Heritage Regeneration said that they would not get involved with the council’s plans for the park because of the mining problems at the property and the fact the park was dangerous.
Llanelli Online contacted Cambrian Heritage Regeneration Trust and one of the trustees Alison Evans categorically denied that this was the case.
Aimee Thomas is planning to spend some time getting work experience with Llanelli Online. Her film will certainly stir up emotions around the park and its future. It has in recent times become the most public political football in the town. With the forthcoming elections local politicians will be seeking to limit any damage to their reputations and be seen to support plans for the town’s green spaces. Those at grass roots level appear to have lost patience and lost faith. Parc Howard remains in public ownership but the legal documentation as to who actually owns the park remains an enigma.