A meeting of the Parc Howard Association (PHA) was held at the Mansion House, Parc Howard today, Saturday (Jun 3). The meeting was open to the public and by the start of the meeting they had turned up in numbers. Following the confirmation of the last PHA meeting’s minutes the PHA Chairman Gareth Morris read out his own letter to the County Council objecting to the plans for the park as a resident of Old Road. Mr Morris went on to claim that the PHA had no voice in discussions with the County Council rather that they were being told what they would get.
Labour’s Rob James was invited to join the panel to relay how he thought the previous public meeting at the Selwyn Samuel Centre had gone. He said that he would be submitting the feedback he received back to the County council and that he had written to the County Council to request that the applications should be withdrawn and that more information should be provided for the general public by way of display boards.
Catriona Walden addressed the meeting saying that she had launched a petition and had written to the council. She said that the County council had claimed that the PHA had been consulted and that those claims had been repeated in the local press. She said her concern was with the role of the Association claiming that it was originally set up in 2003 to deal with a former application for a car park. This was confirmed by another former member of the PHA.
Barbara Willis also confirmed that the council had wanted to site a registrar’s office at the park with a car park in the rose garden. Barbara Willis said: “We won that battle. What narks me now is that the County council have the audacity to call this their plan when it is a PHA plan given to them in 2012 when we should have had success with a Heritage Lottery bid. Car parking has never been accepted by the PHA.”
Barbara Willis went on to say that she would like to see a host of organisations coming together including the PHA, the town and Rural council, the heritage organisations and sporting organisation running the park to the advancement of the park. She said:” I don’t see why we should have a wedding venue here. There are more than enough in Llanelli.”
One local resident said that she was against a wedding venue having gone through problems when it was a wedding venue in the past. She told the meeting that there were problems with noise, broken glass and drunken behaviour. Another resident said that people had been drinking in the grounds and that buses had been waiting for drunken revellers at 1.30 in the morning.
Gareth Morris said that it was a difficult position to be in balancing public opinion towards the park and the aim to protect and preserve the park for the people. He said: “It is quite a delicate matter we need to think about and not shoot each other down.” He said that he had criticised former members of the PHA for not getting their voice heard but now appreciated that they did not have a say at meetings. Mr Morris claimed that Emlyn Dole would say that they (County council) were not in a position to discuss items. He said: “It is an admission of guilt on my part for not being forceful enough in those meetings. All of a sudden we are given 21 days to protest against quite a drastic change in the park. The wedding venue discussions have been between the leader of the County council and people he knows. There are people like myself who can’t understand what the County council’s philosophy and main aim is.”
Mr Morris was asked if he had told the council that PHA had not supported the issue of the car park. He said that he had not written back and that maybe he should have. Secretary Jayne Rosser said that PHA had listened to a council who had said they wanted to improve the park but never at any point had the council come up with any specifics. Mr Morris was told that the PHA could take a democratic vote and a democratic view and represent that view to the council. Mr Morris was pressed again by Catriona Walden who asked if there was a need for another association. She said: “If the present committee is not willing to act then the park needs an organisation that is.”
Barbara Willis reiterated that the PHA had always been against a car park. She said that the park needed an element of commercial development but that that should be done in house where the profits could be ploughed back into the park. Speaking about those plans Barbara Willis said: “We could repair the band stand and have concerts and charge for them. If we could have use of the ground floor we could have pottery or IT or genealogy. We don’t want a company based goodness knows where coming in and taking the profits away. We have got to fight for this and if we don’t it will go on our graves forever.”
A number of speakers from the floor called for a more aggressive approach from the PHA. Mr Morris explained that the PHA were doing their best with negotiations where they were given scant information often at the last minute. Mr Morris was asked if he had written to the County Council stating their objections to the plans. He said that he had not. There were further calls for the PHA to write to the council and object to the plan or else allow a newly formed organisation to do so.
Following a lengthy presentation of facts and figures from Michael Bassett from the Carmarthenshire Unified Sports Committee, which claimed that all the Executive Board members lived outside of Llanelli. He said: “As far as we’re concerned the people of Llanelli have spoken. There’s no representation from Plaid Cymru in this town. Let’s get Mari Arthur out as well. Let’s back Nia and we will have no Plaid Cymru representation in this town. Then we do have a mandate to fight against them. We need to have this mandate. Nobody wants a wedding venue here and nobody wants a car park here.”
Mr Bassett claimed that the cost of running Parc Howard was approximately £100,000. He claimed that other properties in Carmarthenshire were being heavily subsidised when losing money including the St Clears Craft Centre, Laugharne Boat House and Pendine Camp.
At the end of the meeting Barbara Willis made the following proposal;
We the people present at the open meeting of the PHA held on the 3rd of June 2017 ask that the PHA write to Carmarthenshire County Council requesting that they abandon both the planning applications for the car park and the play area and to engage in a public consultation for the future of Parc Howard.
There was a show of hands and the proposal was carried unanimously.