Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Shouting and screaming

The Carmarthen Journal reports that the Executive Board of Carmarthenshire County Council decided not to implement proposed increases in pitch fees for its sports grounds in the south of the county this year when it met to consider a mammoth agenda of reports and proposals on Monday (see previous post).

The council says it will now go out and consult with the sports clubs affected, many of which warned that the dramatic increases in charges would force them to close.

The Journal's report quotes both Council Leader, Kevin Madge (Lab), and Colin Evans (Lab), whose portfolio includes grounds maintenance.

It is not clear from the report whether Meryl Gravell (Ind) was present. Her portfolio includes sport, and she has had remarkably little to say about the row which has been rumbling on for several months.

Rather less reticent was Pam Palmer (Ind) whose rather vague portfolio of responsibilities includes 'Community Planning' but not planning, police liaison, bio-diversity and sustainability. Unlike Meryl, Pam does not represent a ward in the south of the county; in fact she is the only member of the 10 member Executive Board to represent a ward in the north of the county. So perhaps she was speaking as 'Youth Ambassador' (yes, really) when she lashed out.

"The status quo is not an option", she said, and people could not go "shouting and screaming" when things change next year.

Meryl could not have put it better. In the eyes of the two veteran Independent leaders any form of dissent or criticism from the public, whether it's fee increases of up to 2,000% or school closures, is just the rabble waving placards and screaming. As Meryl has said before, councillors who listen to this sort of thing are just weak.

That's local democracy for you.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Rubbish statistics - Updated

According to Carmarthenshire County Council's press office (story here) which knows a thing or two about toxic effluent, the county is "winning the race towards zero waste", and is not only the top performing Welsh local authority when it comes to waste recycling, but second in a list of 172 authorities in Britain compiled by Resource magazine.

Cllr Colin Evans (Lab), member of the council's Executive Board, says that all the council's hard work is paying off, while the Director of Technical Services, Richard Workman, is delighted that Carmarthenshire is performing so well.

The Resource article can be found here, and to view the league table click on "United Countries" at the bottom of the piece.

As always with statistics it depends which end of the kaleidoscope you are looking through, but in terms of the percentage of household waste which is recycled in Wales, Denbighshire (58.1%) and Monmouthshire (58.4%) both outperform Carmarthenshire (56.8%).

The statistics relate to 2012/13, and the Resource article notes that for the first time since it began compiling its league table, a majority of councils in the UK saw a decrease in their recycling rates. Compared with most other councils, however, Carmarthenshire was doing a good job.

Coming up to date there is probably less cause for celebratory press releases and back slapping.

At the beginning of this year the council announced that it would be terminating its contract with the AWS household waste recycling centre at Llangadog. The site serves a large area in the north-east of the county, and is the only waste recycling centre not to be run by CWM Environmental, the council's wholly-owned subsidiary.

The aim of the closure was to save £250,000, although local campaigners pointed out that the net saving would probably be rather less as it was likely to lead to an increase in fly tipping.

The centre also employs 10 people, and considering the service that is provided and the benefits to the community and the environment, that is a bargain compared with some of the other job creation schemes championed by the council (Towy Community Church's bowling alley being just one). Somehow, it is doubtful that Kevin Madge will be very keen on telling people in his area how he approved a scheme to cut jobs.

The remarkable thing about the Llangadog centre is that it achieves recycling rates in the range of 80-85%. Responding to a letter from fellow blogger Pat Racher Dodd, the council's Technical Services Director, Richard Workman, said, “We recycle in excess of 55% of what we collect which is above the government target.”

In response to protests, the council eventually backed down and agreed to extend the contract for the Llangadog site for another year, albeit on amended conditions. Whether it survives next year's round of cuts remains to be seen.

Colin Evans's message seems to be that recycling is OK as long as the council can tick the right boxes in government surveys, but anything more than that is a waste.


Response from John Rees, Managing Director of CWM Environmental

There is an obvious thread in a number of your most recent blogs linking CWM Environmental to Carmarthenshire County Council.

Yes the Company is owned by Carmarthenshire and ultimately they can decide on its fate. The thinly veiled innuendo of day to day control and influence however, could not be further from the truth.

We survive on being commercial, competitive (speak to Ceredigion on the collection and processing of their kerbside recyclate) and reinvesting. A straight forward search on the Company would show we do not have any Councillors on the Board. There are independent non-executive Board Directors who are appointed by the Council to oversee governance and compliance with company law and that’s it!

The real point you air brush out is whether services provided to the Council do actually provide value for money from any contractor and do they contribute towards the delivery of the waste strategy .In CWM’s case all the Company’s  investment in infrastructure does that. In the last 5 years this has exceeded £3m .This investment would otherwise fall on the ratepayers of Carmarthenshire, what other contractor does that?

In the meantime we employ over 60 local people and through our Environmental Fund grant aided over 80 projects throughout the County to date, what other contractor does that?

Oh! And in your ‘filltir sgwar’, 9 projects totalling over £200,000, with another one to consider in the May round of bids. So it’s not just  about the one project in Johnstown you harp on about.

John Rees (1 of 62 employees of the Company who care for what we do and achieve in Carmarthenshire)

Cneifiwr writes  I would like to thank Mr Rees for getting in touch and putting his point of view across. I would also be very pleased to publish a list of the projects which have benefited from the Environmental Fund.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Planning: Special Offer

Last week's Tivyside Advertiser carries a rather misleading report (not available online) on a supermarket planning application in Newcastle Emlyn. In fairness the council's own report on the plan is less than clear about what is being proposed.

For those who do not know the town, Newcastle Emlyn has a population of about 1,500 (including Adpar across the river in Ceredigion). It is well served by its retailers, including a supermarket (CK's), a Co-op, a Spar, a butcher, a baker, a delicatessen and a great little shop specialising in mainly locally produced foods.

In recent years the town has also developed into something of a centre for the antiques trade, and jostling alongside all of this is an electrical goods specialist, several gift shops, cafes, two women's fashion shops, banks, a newsagent and several hairdressers. There is also a popular weekly fruit and veg market.

The town has weathered the recession well, and there are currently only a couple of empty premises. Local retailers will tell you that things have been very tough, but they have survived. Together they employ a couple of hundred people, and the bulk of the money generated stays in the town and the surrounding area because unusually nearly all of the shops are locally owned.

Carmarthenshire County Council's contribution to the town's economic welfare has been to steadily ramp up car parking charges (one hour will now cost you 70p), close the public toilets in the main car park and approve planning applications for two new supermarkets, including one which would have as much floorspace as all the other shops combined.

The two supermarket planning applications went in in rapid succession a few years back, and both were approved in 2011.

The first was for a Lidl store opposite the existing CK's supermarket. The consensus locally was that it would be largely a positive development, complementing existing businesses and offering more choice at competitive prices. Very few objections were received by the planning department, and most of those that were came from representatives of the rival proposed development up the road.

Lidl and the site owners were made to jump through a series of hoops by planning officers, who insisted on exhaustive traffic monitoring on the road outside.

The plan was eventually passed, and Lidl pulled out because it was not happy with some of the conditions imposed. Time passed until Aldi recently announced its intention of taking on the site, subject to some modifications of the planning consent.

The second much larger store is earmarked for a site currently occupied by a car showroom (Cawdor Cars) and one of the county council's car parks. It is not known which of the supermarket groups would operate it.

This was the subject of a fierce battle, and hundreds of objections were lodged. It was also strongly opposed by the Town Council. Despite being very close to a busy road junction, the planners were satisfied with a very perfunctory traffic assessment which contained several serious flaws.

Eventually the second application was also passed, albeit by the narrowest of margins, in September 2011.

Nothing has happened on either of the sites since, and it became apparent last year that although the Cawdor application had been passed, the site owner had failed to enter into a Section 106 agreement which was a condition of planning.

Without a S106, the site does not have formal planning consent, and subsequent enquiries with the Welsh Government showed that while this is within the law, it is extremely unusual for a planning authority to allow a S106 to go unsigned for so long. Applicants are normally given two or three months to sign, and if they don't, planning lapses.

The problem the developer faces is that the S106 agreement provides for a walkway from the site of the proposed supermarket through to the main street, but he does not own the land in question and has apparently not been able to come to an agreement with the owners.

To try to overcome this obstacle the developer has tried to have the strip of land declared a public right of way. This can be a very long-winded process and could take many years, particularly if anyone lodges an objection.

The latest ruse is to try to bypass the S106 log jam with a unilateral offer to pay in £10,000 to the council in return for removal of the S106 requirement, although this is not exactly made clear in the planning officer's report which was due to go before councillors last week.

At the last minute it was agreed that a decision to rubberstamp the application and pave the way for final consent on the cheap would be deferred while planning officers give the matter further consideration.

Whatever happens it seems highly unlikely that the improvement works to the walkway will be carried out any time soon, and for those familiar with the site it is obvious that £10,000 is nowhere near enough to pay for the work. The mystery also remains over whether any supermarket group is actually interested in taking on the site.

The rush to push the plan through looks like an abuse of the planning process to the detriment of the town.

Completely irrelevant to this saga is the fact that the council would apparently quite like to flog off the public car park which the developer argued in 2011 was in imminent danger of sliding down into the river. It is therefore good to report that the car park is still there and open for business.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Dau ddydiad i'ch dyddiadur

Trefn Cynllunio er budd ein Cymunedau

Cyfarfod cyhoeddus a drefnir gan Gymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg

Neuadd Felinfach, 8pm, Nos Iau, 8fed o Fai
Cyng. Lynford Thomas (Cadeirydd)
Siaradwyr: Dylan Iorwerth, Euros Lewis, Owen Llew, Gareth Lloyd, Dafydd Edwards, Cen Llwyd
Am ragor o fanylion: 01970 624501

(A public meeting in Welsh in Felinfach between Lampeter and Aberaeron to discuss the changes which are needed to make a fairer planning system.) 


Cyllideb decach i'r Gymraeg

Cynhadledd Mudiadau Dathlu'r Gymraeg, Canolfan Soar, Merthyr Tudful, 21 Mai

Bydd arbenigwyr iaith a gwleidyddion o bob plaid yn ymgynnull i drafod cyllideb decach i'r Gymraeg mewn cynhadledd a drefnir gan Fudiadau Dathlu’r Gymraeg yng Nghanolfan Soar, Merthyr Tudful,  ar 21ain Fai.

Ymhlith y siaradwyr bydd Carwyn Jones, y Prif Weinidog, Kirsty Williams arweinydd y Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol yng Nghymru a Leanne Wood, arweinydd Plaid Cymru. Yn dilyn sesiynau’r gwleidyddion bydd Paul Bilbao o wlad y Basg, y Cynghorydd Cefin Campbell a fu'n arwain Grŵp Gorchwyl ar y Gymraeg yn Sir Gâr, Siân Lewis o Fenter Iaith Caerdydd, Dai Bryer o'r Urdd a Rhian Huws Williams o Gyngor Gofal Cymru. Bydd gweithgareddau'r dydd yn cael eu llywio gan y darlledwr Vaughan Roderick.

Am fwy o wybodaeth, neu os hoffech fod yn bresennol yn y gynhadledd, cysylltwch â Gaynor Jones: / 01554 833902

(A conference to discuss fairer funding for the Welsh language with in put from Paul Bilbao, a specialist in language planning from the Basque Country).

Saturday, 26 April 2014

The Resistible Rise of Nigel Farage

Elections to the European Parliament will be held on 22 May, and if you watch TV you may have noticed that, it being election time, the parties are given slots to make election broadcasts. Most people switch over or switch off at that point, but if you are interested in the way we are governed, some interesting conclusions can be drawn.

The Plaid Cymru broadcast featured shots of Jill Evans MEP among others, mentioned some of the party's policies including an ambitious apprenticeship scheme which could be part-funded by the EU, and drove home the message that Plaid is the only one of the parties to put Wales and Welsh interests at the heart of its campaign.

UKIP's latest broadcast featured a 30-something year old man called Andre Lampitt. No sooner had the broadcast been aired than it turned out that Lampitt, who was born in Zimbabwe, has political views which would have gone down a storm at party rallies in Nuremberg in the 1930s.

Africa should be left to the Africans so that they can kill themselves off. Ed Milliband is, Lampitt believes, not British but Polish. Muslims are animals. And much more of the same, all posted by Mr Lampitt in semi-literate English on social media websites.

An embarrassed Nigel Farage later suspended him from the party, but there are plenty more Lampitts in UKIP, and the party has been busy stoking the fires of xenophobia with a series of billboard posters with messages such as, "26 million people in Europe are looking for work. And whose jobs are they after?" (a finger points out at you - yes, you).

The latest UKIP fiasco is another billboard poster depicting what purports to be an out of work "British" builder. "EU policy at work. British workers are hard hit by unlimited cheap labour". It turns out that the man in the picture is not a builder but an Irish actor.

For the record, Ed Milliband's father was born in Belgium in 1924 to parents originally from Poland. He came to Britain in 1940. A few million people in Britain would fail the UKIP poster boy's citizenship test on that score.

The Tories' broadcast, on the other hand, had an air of desperation about it as it tried to sell David Cameron's half-baked and doomed attempt to negotiate new terms of membership and a promise to hold a referendum.

A mad dog and a rabit caught in the headlights, perhaps, but at least both parties talked about Europe, what with these being European elections.

The Labour Party managed to pull off the trick of producing a broadcast which not once mentioned Europe, Brussels or UKIP. Instead it spent the first half talking about the cost of living, fuel prices and the cost of childcare before moving on to attack first the Tories and then the Liberal Democrats. Not one of the issues raised has anything to do with the EU.

Attacking the LibDems really is like flogging the proverbial dead horse, and they really need not have bothered.

UKIP, on the other hand, is the antithesis of everything Labour is supposed to stand for and the most dangerous development in British politics in living memory. And yet it is the elephant in Labour's room.

UKIP is likely to pick up more votes from disaffected Tories than anywhere else, but the latest poster campaign is clearly pitched at white working class voters, a group Labour has neglected before in parts of London and the north-west of England with the result that extreme right wing groups like the BNP picked up council seats.

The calculation that Labour's election strategists appear to be making is that their enemy's enemy should be allowed to get on with it. It's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui being played out for real.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Warthogs and a Man with a Van

No sooner had the Wales Audit Office received a complaint about the Scarlets/Marstons land deal in Llanelli than Rebecca Television has published further revelations about David Pickering, chairman of the WRU, and another interesting property deal involving many of same characters just up the road at Llangennech.

Our story begins back in 2007 when the Ministry of Defence, which then owned what locals know as the RN, began discussions with Carmarthenshire County Council about the feasibility of turning the 37 acre site in Llangennech into a mixed development of housing, retail units, a hotel and what an MoD official quaintly termed "drinking establishments".

The idea was to get the site adopted for redevelopment under the council's Local Development Plan, and documents obtained under FOI show that discussions had reached a fairly advanced stage by 2008, with meeting notes revealing that the Ministry and the council had been talking about how to overcome objections from public bodies such as the Countryside Council for Wales, Welsh Water and the Environment Agency. At one point an MoD bod happily notes that the Environment Agency appeared to be taking a rather more pragmatic approach to the concept.

For reasons which are not clear, the meetings came to an abrupt end and the MoD decided to sell the site. According to reports from the time, this was to have taken place by public auction, but at the last minute up popped Carmarthenshire County Council which was very keen to secure ownership of the site - not for itself, but for "persons known to some of the officers" who had a potential employment opportunity which could bring many new jobs to Llangennech.

Enter Carmarthenshire County Council

Things then moved rather swiftly, with the chief executive of Carmarthenshire County Council going before the full council to persuade them to approve a deal whereby the council would purchase the site from the MoD and then immediately resell it to the investors - unknown except to Mr James and possibly a couple of other senior officers, with the investors reimbursing the council for any expenses incurred.

Several councillors who were present at the meeting in February 2009 recall feeling somewhat queasy with what they were being asked to sign off, and the minutes of the meeting show that questions were asked as to why the mystery investors could not deal with the MoD direct.

There has never been a satisfactory answer to the question why the MoD, which had been preparing to sell the site by auction, could not or did not want to deal with the private investors.

Also unexplained is why the deal went to the full council for approval, when the size of the transaction was well within the scope of powers delegated by full council to the Executive Board and officers. Even more unusually there is no record of the deal ever having been discussed by the Executive Board, which at the time was headed by Cllr Meryl Gravell.

What appears to have swayed the more nervous councillors present was the prospect held out by senior officers of new jobs being created in the area after staff previously employed by the MoD had been made redundant.

And so the deal was approved, and the council purchased the site before immediately reselling it to the investors "known to some of the officers". At the last minute a clause was inserted into the sale agreement to keep local councillors happy. This gave Llangennech AFC the right to buy a portion of the MoD site for £1 at any date up to May 2014, as the club desperately needed a larger ground.

That some councillors at the time did feel uneasy about the way the deal was done was borne out a few months later when the Western Mail disclosed that the two men behind the venture were David Pickering, then as now chairman of the Wales Rugby Union, and a business partner, Robert Lovering.

Or not, as the case may be.

The plot thickens

According to Rebecca Television, Land Registry records show that the site is owned by Robert Lovering alone, and that he paid £845,000 for the 37 acre estate which was sold in two lots (not £700,000 as reported by the Western Mail).

The same nervous councillors told the Western Mail that they wondered why other potential bidders had been prevented from competing to buy the RN, and according to Rebecca another developer had been proposing to offer over £2 million for this piece of real estate.

Securing best value for the taxpayer does not appear to have been top of the priority list, but Carmarthenshire County Council is adamant that the deal was subject to an independent valuation. In view of what we now know about the council and independent valuations (see Caebrwyn), this assurance will probably not put inquiring minds at rest.

The council nevertheless rejected a freedom of information request asking for disclosure of the valuation report.

A bargain

For those unfamiliar with the area, the Llangennech site (now renamed Stradey Business Park, although it is nowhere near Stradey Park) is impressive, and huge. It contains a large number of well-maintained buildings, including office accommodation and some very large warehouses. The MoD certainly did not leave a wreck behind when it went.

Bearing in mind that Marstons paid £850,000 for a 120 year leasehold on an undeveloped site of 1.17 acres nearby in 2012, the value of a 37 acre site with lots of well-maintained buildings just up the road must be rather more.

Messrs Pickering and Lovering ("known to some of the officers"), or possibly just Mr Lovering, had bagged themselves an amazing bargain which must be worth several millions today.

Defending the deal to the Western Mail back in May 2009 (a separate article here) assistant chief executive Chris Burns said "Local authorities are often criticised for being slow to react. In this case we have been entrepreneurial". Unfortunately for the council taxpayer, being entrepreneurial meant helping someone else make pots of money.

Corporate collapse

This brings us to one of the most extraordinary aspects of the deal. As Rebecca Television reports, David Pickering had and has a less than glorious track record in business, with a whole string of companies in which he was involved as a director and/or shareholder going bust in the years prior to the Llangennech deal. One of the biggest losers in these corporate collapses was HMRC which Rebecca Television estimates lost around £4 million in unpaid National Insurance, VAT and other taxes.

David Pickering was nevertheless the public face of the rebranded Stradey Business Park in Llangennech. Although it is not clear what his stake in the venture was, he remains the public face of R&A Properties, the private partnership which operates the site.

It is also reasonable to suppose that he was one of the investors "known to some of the officers" that the councillors were told about.

What is clear is that councillors were not told that they were being asked to sign off the sale of a publicly owned asset to a partnership which included someone with a very chequered financial record, a history of bad debts to HMRC and County Court judgements against him.

Whether the MoD was made aware of the identity of the mystery investors is not known, but both councillors and the MoD might have had second thoughts if they had been told.

Companies House records show that some of the companies associated with Pickering and Lovering have continued to lead a rather volatile existence since the Llangennech deal. One of them, Aggrelek Ltd, was dissolved in March this year. It was registered to an address on the Llangennech site, and both men were directors. Unusually, it went through five changes of name since 2010, with three name changes taking place in 2011.

Jobs, jobs, jobs

In the first Western Mail article from May 2009 David Pickering told Martin Shipton that the blue chip client he had up his sleeve was "sure" to provide 100 jobs before Christmas.

Back at the council meeting in February councillors were told that there could be 25 jobs by September, 65 jobs within a year and up to 400 in the long term.

Whether five years counts as "in the long term" is not clear, but the council says that 170 people are currently employed on the site. These include a cafe, a "man with a van", a gardening services business, an office run by the Prince's Trust (yes, Old Big Ears), a major road haulage firm, a small manufacturing company and Thales, the French defence giant.

More jobs are about to be created by the imminent arrival of a night club where you will soon be able to bop the night away despite objections from some of the other tenants to the recent licensing application. The site's operators supported the licensing application by saying that a night club would provide entertainment for some of the many prominent visitors they get (more on that below).

Back in 2009 David Pickering said that if he and Robert Lovering had not secured the deal, there was a danger that their blue chip client would have moved to France. Thales (the mystery blue chip client) is of course a French company.

Why Thales, a massive defence group, decided it would rather be a tenant to two small-scale Welsh businessmen than buy the site itself is another mystery, but sure enough, they moved in and started work on Warthog armoured vehicles for the MoD.

A glance at the site on Google maps shows that the part of the Llangennech estate where Thales operates was never going to employ large numbers of people for the simple reason that car parking is limited to about 18 vehicles. Unless they are employing Oompah Loompahs.


Staying with our Western Mail article from May 2009, David Pickering explained that the venture would be operated by R&A Properties. Despite the name, this is not a limited company but a private partnership.

"We've been advised to do it this way by our professional advisers", he told Martin Shipton.

It is certainly unusual for a fairly large business undertaking not to operate as a limited company because it leaves the owners with unlimited liability in the event that things go wrong. On the other hand, partnerships do not have to disclose details of who is involved, shareholdings or accounts.

Shortly after the Llangennech site was acquired, David Pickering told the Western Mail that the partnership had invested £200,000 in renovating some of the buildings. Where that money came from is not known, but more renovation work was carried out later. In December 2011 the county council awarded a grant of £281,000 to R&A Properties to refurbish two buildings, and newspaper and other reports show that senior council figures continued to retain a close interest in the venture.

Staying in touch

Shortly after the council approved the purchase and simultaneous resale of the site in February 2009, the chief executive of Carmarthenshire County Council accepted an invitation from David Pickering to a rugby international. As we can see from the following response to a freedom of information request, Mr James turns down the vast majority of the invitations he receives:

Around the same time Mark James, Meryl Gravell and David Pickering were spotted having lunch at nearby Machynys Golf Club.

This was reported on Scarletfever, a forum for Scarlets fans, by an observant member of the public who identified herself as "Corgimum":

David Pickering was having lunch in Machynys Golf club two weeks ago- sitting at the next table to us with Carmarthenshire Chief Excutive, Mark James and Meryl Gravell. He was with another man with white hair and who had a hearing aid. After their lunch ended and the Carmathenshire people left, he and the other guy ordered a bottle of white wine and looked like they were celebrating something.( With lunch they had drunk sparkling water). 

There were many more get togethers and photo opportunities following the 2009 deal:
Llanelli Star
Regeneration and Leisure executive board member Cllr Clive Scourfield, Robert Lovering of R&A Properties, Council Leader Cllr Meryl Gravell and Chief Executive Mark James.
Handing over the keys (BBC)
In May 2011 R&A Properties submitted a retrospective planning application for an array of 1,600 solar panels which had been installed on the rooftops at Llangennech. It seems that nobody had thought to check to find out if planning permission was needed, but R&A Properties need not have worried because the county council obligingly granted planning, with Mr James popping down to Llangennech for another photo opportunity and interview:

/English/news/PublishingImages/SOLAR 02 LOW.jpg
Retrospective planning permission granted (council website)
The council's press office issued a celebratory press release which included the following contribution:

Mark James, Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council, said: “This is very innovative thinking by R&A Properties – especially so because of the location of the solar-powered panels on the roof which means that no-one can see the cells, yet they are able to produce thousands of pounds of clean energy which is used on the business park to drive industry.  It is a win for the businesses and a win for the environment.”

It is fair to say that Mark James and Meryl Gravell were not the only visitors. 
Despite his jet set lifestyle, David Pickering remains a loyal supporter of the Labour Party. In 2010 he got into a trouble for using a WRU e-mail address on invitations to a £1,000 a plate fund raising dinner for Labour in Cardiff.

Here is another snap from September 2009 from the blog of former Labour county councillor Steve Lloyd-Janes:

A family day out in Llangennech

Coming up to date

Rebecca Television's latest report says that yet another Pickering company, Stradey Safety Products, appears to have stopped trading. It is registered to an address on the Llangennech site.

But there is good news as well. Hydro Industries, a company in which Pickering's partner Robert Lovering is involved, also operates from premises on the trading estate. It supplies water treatment technology, and was recently involved in a greening project down the road at Parc y Scarlets along with CWM Environmental (wholly owned by Carmarthenshire County Council), and Dragon Energy Solutions (previous post here).

Sadly, things have worked out less well for Llangennech AFC, which was given an option to buy part of the site for £1 back in 2009 as a sweetener and a gesture of commitment to the local community. 

When the club tried to exercise its option, it ran into opposition from Mr Pickering (here). Discussions dragged on, with attention turning to an alternative site and the possibility that Messrs Pickering and Lovering might help fund a new site in return for cancelling the option.

Subsequently, in 2013, the club was persuaded that the plot at the Llangennech business park was too small, and the club was looking at the possibility of using the sports field at Llangennech Junior School instead. It is understood that efforts to find the club a new home continue.


Rebecca Television is continuing its investigation into the story, and this blog will monitor any new developments.
All of the information in this piece has been gathered from newspaper reports, freedom of information requests and other sources in the public domain. It is important to stress that there is no suggestion that any of those involved have acted illegally.

Nevertheless, serious questions remain to be answered, and the conduct of senior figures in the County Council once again raises concerns about governance and ethics.

It is highly unlikely that the 2009 deal would have gone ahead had it not been for personal relationships, and it is hard to imagine that the council would have given such a big helping hand to anyone not "known to some of the officers". 

The story also illustrates the extent of personal ties between key players in the council and rugby bosses and the way in which their activities are now very far removed from the world of the players and ordinary supporters. Put simply, this is unhealthy and bad for both the council and the game.

Anyone with further information is welcome to get in touch through the e-mail address at the top of this blog. Similarly, the author of this blog will be pleased to correct any errors contained in this piece and to provide any of those mentioned with a right of reply, provided the response is not defamatory.