Sian Caiach Writes: Councillor Meryl Gravell has been in charge of either the whole of Carmarthenshire County Council or its Regeneration/development wing for the Council’s entire life – nearly 18 years, She is generous to her friends and especially Nottingham based developers Henry Davidson Developments, So generous that she gave away the town centre where I live to them, Llanelli.
It is current wisdom, at least to Mrs Gravell, is that the way to stimulate the Carmarthenshire Economy is to build things. Although building things clearly gives jobs to planners, builders and all the relevant construction trades one would think that after things had been built these jobs would tail off. So apparently, you then have to build more things. The master plan was clearly to abandon buildings on the West side of Llanelli and rebuild them on the East side. Few new jobs, local tradespeople not invited and small businesses often disadvantaged.
First came the out of town retail parks with free parking and often lower rents which attracted much business from a town centre with very limited free parking.
The Scarlet’s Rugby Stadium, moved from the West to the East side of town and doubled in size. Unfortunately the ticket sales did not double as there was not a huge increase in punters to fill the seats.
The old Theatre, Theatre Elli which also doubled as a Cinema was also replaced by new buildings on the East Side, with similar capacity to the old ones. Town centre large stores like Marks and Spencer’s and Tesco relocated to the bigger out of town units to the East as did many other chains and the process continues. The Eastgate was supposed to attract shoppers back to town and didn’t.
At least the sewage outfalls into this post industrial water feature might be finally dealt with, or the decorative fountains shown in the plans may be rather challenging!
The truth hurts, People have spent too long and been stressed waiting to escape from hospital and instead the Council is using their money. promised to build a care home, to back a vanity project. which may never get off the ground.
In Llanelli the County Council has a habit of not only bending over backwards to favour developers but also a disturbing habit of giving away everything to them. The cost free 150 year lease to the Scarlets on their new stadium for example.
The Eastgate project in Llanelli town centre is our best example of Council :Policy to feed the .Rich at our expense. A leasing company from Nottingham, Henry Davidson Developments, turns up mysteriously. Its a private company with no experience o building town centres and is given the Eastgate Project to build and run. The County Council buy the buildings on the site, demolish them, prepare the ground and agree to pay £5 million in rent for the offices over 20 years. They refit the offices at Council Expense and move in staff from offices we already own. and didn’t need to pay rent for.
We showered this project with public money and gave away the site to the nice developers, HDD. The project was described by HDD as a £20 million build. Given the free town centre development land , indulgent planning permission and site preparation as well as financial support it could certainly have cost that much in public money and public assets.
So HDD were gifted the whole Eastgate estate:- car park, shops, offices, a hotel, a bus station and a cinema.
HDD sold it on to a property investment firm called Ignis for around £16 million. Ignis sold it later to Standard Life Investments. At the beginning of March 2017 Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management announced a merger to form the largest property management company in the UK with a book value of £11 billion.
In Llanelli the high price of unit rentals in the Eastgate mean that the retail area has never been fully let. Millions of public money spent to eventually give away the Eastgate to a huge conglomerate which will exercise control over our new town development solely for the purpose of their own profit. Councillor Meryl Gravell, the Council Leader who formulated and agreed the deal for the Eastgate project has a lot to answer for.
How can we trust her with the Swansea City Bay Region “City Deal”ARCH project at Delta Lakes? So far all she had done is stopped the building of a much needed care home just to support the project. Which lucky company is going to get the 40 acre site to sell on for profit when we, the public, have given away ownership of the land and borrowed heavily to pay for the building and infrastructure? Do we let another part of Llanelli be donated to the rich by this generous lady? We get the debt and higher council tax, Meryl’s mates get our money and the profits. Its been done before!
Siân Caiach represents People First