A Llanelli town councillor has expressed his concerns regarding what he calls a ‘climate of fear’ persisting in the Seaside area of Llanelli which is he claims as a result of the growth of multiple occupancy homes in the area.
The homes are rented out via housing associations, who have also come in for criticism over the way in which they are dealing with residents who might have issues and who may be at the centre of some of the problems the community is facing, including anti social behaviour, drug and alcohol abuse and petty crime.
Following the meeting called by resident Amanda Carter Cllr Rees said: “Tonight, around 100 people attended a Public Meeting held in Glanymor to discuss some of the recent incidents in the area involving drugs and Anti Social behaviour.
“From the conversations I’ve had with many, I completely share the community’s concerns and frustrations. People should not have to feel like they are living in fear of what is about to happen next.
“The increase in groups that are gathering down in this area engaging in drugs and having a pure intent of causing anti social issues is very worrying. The growth of the County Line networks where drugs are being moved from bigger cities like Birmingham into our smaller communities presents just the latest challenge in a series of problems for our police.
“I think it is only when you actually live in our community that we know of the challenges we face. All of us see it every single day, in our streets, our back lanes, our parks and playgrounds and our other community facilities.
“I’m sure if we went round the room here tonight, every single person would have their own story to explain what we have had to cope up with for many years.
“There ought to be a duty of care here to our community. These housing associations and some private landlords need to take responsibility not only for the upkeep of some of their properties but also for the people that they are moving in. The lack of monitoring is concerning.
“Surely it can’t be right that while their lowest paid employees struggle on the breadline, the average annual salary of a Housing Association Chief Executive now is over £160,000.
“Just to put that into context, that is more than what the Prime Minister gets. Another classic case of profits coming before people.
“There is no accountability, no responsibility and it would appear no credibility left.
“There has been a noticeable increase in the number of HMO’s (Houses of Multiple Occupancy) in our area.
“In my years on the Planning Committee of Llanelli Town Council, I don’t think there has been a monthly meeting where a HMO hasn’t been proposed for either Seaside, New Dock or the Morfa areas.
“We should not be the dumping ground for Carmarthenshire. We at the Town Council have and rest assured will continue to object to such HMOs because we want to regenerate our area for the better.
“Yet, time after time again, the County Council’s Planning Committee overrule us and go ahead anyway. Surely what these properties should actually be used for is housing for families!
“There is currently a County community engagement regeneration programme for the Tyisha Ward so why again should the Glanymor Ward be left behind?
“We need that programme to be extended to cover us too so everyone can be brought together regularly in one place – the Police, Housing Associations, Councillors but most importantly us as a Community so that we can all have our say.
“This in partnership as a sustained joint effort to tackle the scourge of these drugs, anti social problems and to avoid any potential future tragedies from happening.”
The local perspective
Speaking to Llanelli Online organiser of the meeting and local resident Mandy Carter began by saying that she was disappointed that the local county councillor and members of some of the housing organisations had not turned up.
Speaking about the issues, which surfaced at the meeting Ms Carter said: “We have had enough. We have a shop keeper who has been racially abused and all he had was a scribbled note on a leaflet from the police saying they were not taking any further action. It has been handled wrongly.
“The meeting was packed but some of the main people were not here. There was a lot of anger. People want something done quickly. We are hearing about thirteen year olds groomed in the community. We are unable to find out any information about possible evictions.
“We have called another resident’s meeting so that we can discuss what can be done. I have to thank the police and Family Housing for coming along last night.”
What the county council had to say
We contacted Carmarthenshire County Council to ask if they had concerns about the number of multiple occupancy homes in the area and if they had evicted anyone as a result of reported drug abuse and anti social behaviour.
We asked if they were carrying out checks and acting on reports from residents. We asked what checks were in place to ensure that the residents taking up the housing were not involved in crime and drugs use.
The council’s executive board member for housing, Cllr Linda Davies-Evans said: “From a planning perspective, any application for planning approval for change of use to a HMO is considered on the basis of its planning merits.
“The planning system cannot control occupancy of that property which is the responsibility of the landlord.
“Careful consideration is given to the potential impact of HMOs on the local community and we monitor and regulate the management standards of the established HMOs in that area on a regular basis.
“We work closely with Rent Smart Wales to enforce these standards.”
The county councillor’s response
We contacted Cllr John Prosser to ask why he did not attend the meeting given the brevity of the situation. Cllr Prosser said: “I emailed the organiser my apologies prior to the meeting.”
The email read: “I shall have to apologise but I am unable to attend the meeting this evening due to prior commitments. I agree with you that there are problems in the area.
“I have spoken with the offices of our MP and AM and requested that they attend a meeting that I shall organise on a date (to be decided) that suits CCC Officers, the police, MP & AM and other interested organisations.
“We have found that by working together solutions can be found.”
What the housing group had to say
We contacted some of the housing organisations concerned and asked what measures they have in place for dealing with the issues being reported by residents.
Sarah Daniels, Service Manager form the Pobl group said: “Last week one of our Community Safety Officers was informed by email of a meeting taking place on April 1st in the Seaside area of Llanelli.
“He replied to the email explaining that he was unable to attend and offered to meet on an alternative date or to arrange for a senior manager to make contact to discuss any concerns in more detail.
“However, he did not receive a reply and therefore was unable to progress a follow up meeting.
“We understand that another meeting has been arranged for 29th April and I will be attending along with a member of our Senior Leadership Team.”
We contacted Dyfed-Powys Police to ask what their concerns were and whether they were implementing any measures to tackle some of the issues.
The police perspective
Superintendent Gary Mills, Carmarthenshire Commander, said:
“It is a sad fact that controlled drugs are available and being used at all levels in society; there is no evidence to indicate, however, that these substances are being supplied and used more in Llanelli than any other similar areas in the country.
“Dyfed Powys Police is committed to tackling the supply and misuse of drugs in our communities. As part of our ongoing efforts to reduce the threat and harm caused by Class A drugs, the Force set up Operation Cryptic which focussed on the supply of Class A drugs, namely heroin, in the Llanelli area.
“The Operation resulted in 21 defendants being sentenced to over 70 years between them. The sentencing for this operation has been taking place over a number of months, with the final phase of sentencing taking place last Friday, March 29th.”
More information on Operation Cryptic can be found on the link.
Superintendent Mills added:
“In addition to taking enforcement action the force is very much focussed on working with partners, including the Dyfed Drug and Alcohol Service, to ensure people receive treatment for their drug misuse.
“We urge users of Class A drugs to seek the help and support which is available to them. Our partners are ready and waiting to help-it is essential that these people obtain the support and assistance which is on offer.
“I want to be clear though: if people do not want help and continue to be involved in the misuse of Class A-we will seek to prosecute them.
“We will also continue to work with the public and encourage anyone with information about drug misuse to report their concerns to us on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously 0800 555 111.”
DDAS can be contacted on 03303 639 997 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In response to Ms Carter’s comments on the racial abuse Dyfed-Powys Police said:
“Police received a complaint in February which was initially recorded as a hate incident.
The incident has since been reviewed and has been recorded as a crime and is being fully investigated.
Police have been in contact with the victim to provide an update.”