The Fight For Llanerch Field: A Special report by Alan Evans & Iwan Lewis
Residents of Llanerch have said that they do not wish to become embroiled in a Welsh Medium row, which divided the community of Llangennech when it comes to their own fight to save a green field site in their village. In an interview with Llanelli Online representatives of the Save Llanerch Field stated:
We are totally in favour of a new Ysgol Dewi Sant school and we totally support Welsh Medium education.
Llanelli Online met with committee members on Monday (Sep18) and they laid bare their struggle to save a green field in their community, which as it stands is set to have a new school built over an enormous underground (alleged) sewage tank.
At present there is a pre-application consultation process taking place online and at the town’s library.
Speaking to Llanelli Online the campaigners said: “We are not against a new school or Welsh Medium education. This should not spiral into a Welsh Language argument as it was in Llanegennech. What we want is a fair, open and transparent process involving the whole community. The catchment area is well outside of Llanerch and people coming to the existing school pass existing Welsh Medium schools to come here. Other brown field sites have been suggested, which would alleviate issues such as parking but also ensure that a green field site were not sacrifices.
The campaigners question the logic in depriving their community of a green space. They said: “We have lots of deprived children living there (Llanerch). That is a free open play area for them. There is a fence around it, it is protected and it is safe. There are lots of people travelling from miles around to use the field. We object to them taking away a green space.”
Following fund raising efforts the group have sought ‘village green’ status for the field. Speaking about the process they said: “We have put in an application for village green status to save it. We have faced legal difficulties and funding difficulties. We have had confirmation that the applications are running separately Planning can be approved but nothing can be built on until the village green application has been resolved. There is no timescale. As long as the village green qualifies it will or it won’t be granted. If they do grant planning and the council decides it can build and if the village green application is approved they will have to reinstate the green at cost to the tax payer. There has already been a lot of money squandered on the investigative works. We don’t agree with them building on any green spaces. There are plenty of sites including Heol Goffa and the Copperworks site. The feasibility studies were flawed and a number of the sites were green field spaces.”
Media coverage of the issue at Llanerch has been scant and the campaigners claim that very little has appeared in local press in their favour. They said: “There has been very little press coverage in the local media, certainly nothing in our favour. Local media have not been robust enough nor aggressive or professional enough to look at research and put our argument across. There has been no interest even though we have approached them.”
The campaigners are adamant that they will take the fight to the County Council. They said: “We are fully committed to seeing this through and if the village green application fails we will fight it on other issues regarding planning. A lot of the parents do not live in this area. People have not been made aware of the scale of the tank below the site. They have not said that there are any other issues. There is nothing to worry about. It is a sewage tank but yet again they stated that it was a water tank on the news. It is a horrendous prospect if something goes wrong.”
Asked about the risks to flooding the campaigners said: “The school would be shut down for a mop up exercise. We have seen water coming out and it has not been tested. They rose the levels of the field some years ago and it is now just below a cat15. We have video footage showing the river levels. The trees are being taken away as well. There is a traffic problem already. Siting the school at Copperworks would alleviate traffic problems. It is a far more sensible option. There will be more traffic at a standstill there. It will be gridlocked in the mornings That will not be good for the children or residents in the area.”
Speaking about their lack of faith in the planning process within Carmarthenshire County Council the campaigners said: “We are aware of how the planning process works at Carmarthenshire County Council. We do not have confidence or faith in that process. We will fight this to the bitter end. We are fighting for a community here and the loss of the heritage of the community. That field was left the same time as Parc Howard to the children of Llanelli who use it on a regular basis as does the community. It really isn’t fair to have that taken away for a school that could be placed anywhere. A school, which won’t have the facilities they have promised they won’t fit. It could be anywhere, the catchment area is so vast. Carmarthenshire County Council’s core policies are respecting the public and being respectful for the environment.”
The ‘underground tank’ covers most of the length of the field
The campaigners claim that the drive to build the school goes against the Plaid Cymru administration’s own national policies. They said: “We would also note that the Plaid Cymru policy they fought on at the last election was for protecting green spaces and just across the bridge in Loughour they are the ones fighting to keep the school off the site there. There is a lot of political hypocrisy. We wrote an open letter to Leanne Wood asking how the policy could differ so much across a small bridge. We were not furnished with a response. The community are very generous and supportive.”
The group have a petition page where they state: Penygaer field and Llanerch fields were left to the people of Llanelli for recreational use, as was Park Howard. These areas are classed as G2, which is for recreational use and can only be developed if classed as ‘redundant’. The council are siting Llanerch field as being redundant as the football did not want to use this year as it was not being maintained. This is a recreational playing field, and the fact that football is played there is incidental, the field is used by many sections of the community and therefore wider views should have been sought in the usage of this land.
You can listen to the full interview here: