What a spectacle it was at the Selwyn Samuel Centre on Tuesday (May 30) as Carmarthenshire County Council sent one of their officers to face the public of Llanelli, predominantly those living around Parc Howard who did not need any encouragement to bay for blood.
Being thrown to the wolves as a substitute for the holidaying leader and for that matter the absence of the rest of the executive board was Head of Corporate property Jonathan Fearn. Before he had even started there were calls for him to stand up and speak up.
The meeting was chaired by Labour’s Rob James and Shahana Najmi. There was a very distinct absence of political impartiality at the top table and in the room. Why would any Plaid Cymru supporters, councillors or prospective MP’s turn up to this meeting when the nub of the problem is their very own leader’s masterplan for the park? The scars on the landscape, bulldozing without consent, the derelict play equipment and the whiff of a Sheik still hang in the air around Parc Howard.
The room was packed with people queueing up to ask their questions and to try and get some answers. Unfortunately Mr Fearn could provide nothing other than a plan, a claim that there had been consultation and a claim that the car park would be of benefit to the park and any commercial venture waiting in the wings. None of their details were forthcoming either as it is classed as sensitive commercial information.
Residents took it in turn to quiz Mr Fearn who responded with the council’s default response, ‘I don’t have that information’ or ‘We stuck it in the Star and on our website’. In fairness Mr Fearn acquitted himself admirably under fire and he was a fine example of the council’s defence mechanism at work. Although the questions did hit a nerve many were left unasked, such as, How much did the failed attempt to site the space net cost? Where exactly are the mine shafts located? Why are the council placing large numbers of cars in a public park used for health and well being? Who are the mystery commercial bidders? How much will the council loan them? What if the commercial venture fails? etc, etc.
The meeting was steered heavily towards the issue of a car park. With only a week or so left until the deadline for objections and then a planning meeting, which from experience involves a proposal a seconder and approval. When all things have been considered it is hard to see anything other than what the council wants taking place.
The objectors will have had their five pence worth and gone back to those lovely homes around the park in an area already identified by some at the meeting as heavily polluted and a rat run for cars.
A lone figure at the back of the room delivered another blow to Mr Fearn. Councillor John Jenkins asked Mr Fearn not to mislead the gathered crowd into believing that the local councillors had somehow been in discussions and had approved the master plan. This he said was not the case. Those naughty officers and members of the executive board had done it Guvna and they the poor councillors were only fed the minutes to look at and say that they were factually correct. In other words, know your place.
Mr Fearn was given the same messages over and over again. We do not want a car park in the park. We have not been consulted. We don’t believe the council know what the people of Llanelli want at Parc Howard and they have not listened to us for the last umpteen years.
Llanelli Online filmed the meeting and we will be uploading that footage here soon.
It was left to Nia Griffith to deliver the final message to Mr Fearn. It was in so many words, ‘Go back to County Hall and tell them that they need to put the plans on hold and start a consultation process with the people of Llanelli.’
What the absent leader and the absent executive board members will think of that is a matter for speculation.