Wednesday, 2 September 2020

The Big Stink

IN 2016, after 8 years of a legal action at the European Court, the UK Government was convicted of being in breach of the EU Urban Waste Water Directive in Llanelli,
a law which states that all urban sewage should be completely treated before discharge into any body of water. Not only was the local sewage treatment provider Welsh Water, spilling raw sewage into the Loughor Estuary/Burry Inlet but it was also aware that this site was supposedly a nature reserve and major Cockle fishery with E.U, Natura status. In Llanelli, an inadequate new sewage treatment plant had been in operation since 1997 , replacing many smaller ones and using UV light to kill the bugs. As the town grew with much new housing the sewage discharges increased. The rich cockle fishery was greatly diminished and in 2005 a mass cockle death event occurred known as the “big Stink” when millions of cockles rose to the surface of the Loughor estuary, died and rotted THe picture seems to show a shingle beach.It is the shells of millions of dead cockles in 2005. As this was Wales,huge efforts were made to hide the inadequacy of the local sewage system. Several reports suggested all sorts of reasons other than the sewage that could be killing the cockles and other wildlife. One of the worst deceptions was blaming, a “new” protozoal parasite Minchinia Mercinaria which was was said by a National Resources Wales officer to have caused havoc in the clam beds of Virginia. When I tracked down the scientific paper and its authors the organism had in fact not killed a single clam. The USA clam fishery is major business and “High Tech”. The “new” microscopic parasite was not a new organism to the world. It had been found in a routine sample of 180 juvenile hard clams. One of them had a small infection. Electron microscopy showed it had a new variant of a Minchinia parasite not yet described in the literature. The Virginia studies showed it to be harmless,,with 30% of other clams in the group showing antibodies to it having made a complete recovery. The only clams that died were those deliberately killed and dissected to find the parasites and antibodies The researchers realised that it was not a new organism as reports of it came in from all over the world when they published their techniques, and findings, including Llanelli. It could not have spread worldwide so quickly from Virginia but our local Cockle gatherers were blamed for bringing it in to the cockle beds on their boots. The fact that the Americans had shown it to be of no commercial significance, ie harmless to their fisheries, was kept from the public. Other theories included suicide by oversexed cockles, however the deaths were seasonal and similar to other sewage polluted waterways, where algal blooms reduce oxygen levels, suffocating shellfish.and other water dwellers.. The County Council Senior Officers must have been fully aware and kept on encouraging the Councillors to grant planning permission for more new houses, mainly for incomers , telling the county Councillors that more homes meant more council tax. A case was accepted by the European Court in 2008 in the name of Mr David Conrad Rees, Chair of the Sandy and Stradey Residents Committee, representing an area where sewage flooding was a serious problem.. He was joined by local cockle hand gatherers, many of whom had lost much their fishing grounds After 8 years of excuses and denials in Carmarthenshire,,the UK Government accepted guilt. Members of the public had to fight to prove the breach in EU rules. Welsh Water submitted a plan to provide more sewage treatment without the huge expense of building a new sewage treatment plant. It was called “Rainscape”. The idea was to remove surface water from the sewers by draining it away in a new pipe . The major element of Rainscape, the digging of a 1.5metre drainage tunnel to drain the groundwater from south Llanelli, has stalled and Rainscape has not yet been completed. The problem is that the drilling rig  appears to have hit one of the large aquifers which lie under the town and had somehow been missed  in the surveying of the tunnel route. This aquifer was uncharted and very large and extends under the train station and railway tracks. I have seen the Morgan Sindall report showing that there are difficulties in extracting this water and essentially nowhere to safely pump it to, at the time of writing the report, It also runs the danger of shifting the existing rail tracks if a void is formed beneath them. High groundwater levels are also a problem and could quickly refill the aquifer. There are ways of puttting a tunnel through an area like this but I am told these are civil engineering projects of high cost and some risk. Has Welsh Water got the funds to do this? This has meant that the last section of the Rainscape tunnel remains unfinished. As this is the scheme designed to produce the  improvement demanded by the European Court .There is no news. The Scheme cost over £90 million. . I’m concerned that raw sewage is still being discharged into the Burry Inlet and there is no sign of a plan B. Even more worrying is the County Council appears to have given planning permission for numerous buildings in the Llanelli catchment area over the past few years without checking that any improvement in sewage discharges had been achieved, surely adding  to the foul sewage loads into a Natura Wildlife site, and likely further deterioration of the very poorly "protected" habitats.  In Welsh tradition there have been few surveys of the wildlife or bacterial water quality studies – if you don’t look maybe no-one will notice! Llanelli Beach was last tested, I believe in 2009 , and the numbers of bacteria were so high the Council stopped testing. It is not a designated bathing beach and as it is owned by the council, who know it is probably still polluted, with never ne allowed to be. However, it is used for bathing and paddling by visitors. I have asked the County Council for the beach water to be tested many times. Unfortunately only "designated bathing beaches" are regulated and have regular testing, Llanelli Beach does not qualitf.
To me this looks like the Rainscape project has, at best , stalled and at worst, failed .I can see why it is difficult to dig the tunnel under the station but surely we should know the prognosis of the scheme? If it has failed or been seriously delayed it has significant planning implications and a new way must be found to clean up the estuary, instead of deliberately worsening of the pollution of our estuary. As the health of the Estuary is not regularly tested it could simply be declared “dead”, of no wildlife value and that I suspect , may be the goal, an argument o allow the pollution as much of the habitat has already been destroyed. It has been suggested to me that the project is on stop as Welsh Water hopes that leaving the EU will negate the findings against the UK in the European Court. Why do our elected Councillors allow the Burry Inlet to be an open sewer? I’d love to see it returned to a clean wildlife haven and prosperous fishery..The UK Government has accepted that there was a serious breach of the E.U. Urban Waste Water Directive in Llanelli , and expected Welsh Government,,through NRW as the regulating body and Welsh Water as the polluter, to remedy the situation long ago. Something has gone wrong and no-one is telling! It appears. very little has been done as requested by the European Court.. Welsh Water explain that without the frequent sewage spills into the estuary Llanelli would flood again with sewage and the pollution of the estuary and fishery is therefore necessary to preserve public health. What sort of 3rd world country do we live in?

Thursday, 4 June 2020

Hardship and Uncertainty - how long will we be living with the virus?


Few people in the UK seriously envisaged a worldwide pandemic such as the one we have now. I recently spoke to a former member of the Wales Pandemic Committee who described the meetings as often more of "free lunch" than a serious attempt to work through the reality of various pandemic issues. Apart from setting aside stocks of masks and gloves, very little was done.

It's said that in the West we were expecting the next pandemic to be another strain of influenza. The plans were based on epidemic precautions to treat diseases like swine 'flu.

NHS " managed" first wave of SARS 2 ,but many patients still waiting for routine treatments

In 2009 -2010 a pandemic flu epidemic arose in Mexico and spread across the world. At least a quarter of a million people died, but because many European elderly people had some useful immunity to this type of 'flu, it did not have the devastating effect that was expected. Since then, flu vaccines have been used extensively in the West to shield the vulnerable from influenza outbreaks with general success.

In the Middle East and Far East,they had  experience with the new pandemic diseases SARS 1 and MERS, which  probably gave their countries, who had experienced nasty coronaviruses before, an advantage when Covid 19 emerged as it was similar to these previous diseases of which they had experience earlier in this century. They already had the expertise with deadly coronoviruses to use immediately. It is so close in nature to SARS that Covid 19  is officially now referred to as SARS - CoV2, - SARS2 for short

SARS 1 - Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome was a very similar coronovirus, originating in bats and probably mutating after close exposure to other animals, which emerged in  China in 2002 and caused 8.000 cases over 26 counties with almost 800 deaths.. Like Covid 19 it is thought to have come from live food markets where animals are kept in close proximity to each other and in poor conditions. The symptoms were very similar except that diarrhoea as well as a high temperature and cough, was a common symptom. It was a severe illness and death rates were higher with around one in 3 cases needing hospital care and one in 10 people dying. This compares to a 1% death rate of SARS 2/ Covid 19 , the virus active here now.

Empty Streets across Europe - now lock downs being relaxed  

In the original SARS outbreak no drug cure was found and despite years of work, no vaccine  was ever produced. The disease was controlled and eventually eliminated by screening for high temperature, isolating those with symptoms and their contacts, and strict infection control in hospitals. As it was a more severe infection ,it was easier to track down carriers and follow up contacts.

 With SARS2 /Covid 19 many people have the virus and spread the virus with no symptoms themselves. A recent research report from China suggests that these carriers may feel well but still have the distinctive lung lesions of SARS "on CT scans, adopted by many Chinese hospitals for instant diagnosis, rather than a swab test with a wait for a result.
JAMA. 2020;323(14):1406-1407. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.2565

The Chinese have used lung CT lung scans for diagnosis and evaluation from early in their epidemic as they usually show the very distinctive Covid 19 lung lesions, even in those who feel well. In the UK we have struggled with testing for various reasons, and were not able to quickly isolate cases as the Chinese were, nor probably did we have their access to CT scanners.

We were in the UK  prepared for 'Flu, we had pandemic committees across the UK, officially "ready"  for a deadly flu epidemic but with no apparent expectation of a SARS type virus. Along with the large number of asymptomatic carriers, and the ease of spread,, the UK was unprepared for this new illness.


The UK Government was reasonably quick to try to preserve the economy, setting up various schemes to lay off workers on 80% pay, a plethora of grants and financial assistance and a blatant  abandonment of most self employed people with modest incomes.

Here in Wales converting Rugby Stadiums and other buildings into hospitals that we eventually did not need, became a bit of an obsession .Now they are being reviewed. we will probably retain a few but the ones which were completely unused may well be "stood down". People who recover from ITU treatment do often need rehabilitation but it seems that the survivors were fewer than calculated and extremely keen to get out of hospital and have physiotherapy in the community.

Its difficult to assess whether or not we are  about to get a significantly bigger second wave , but in the absence of a vaccine or a preventative drug it would be logical to assume that we may well get a second wave and until we get on top of this virus, could easily have more waves later on.

SARS 1 was eliminated by 2004. It was starved of life by stopping people spreading it to others. Some of the survivors were monitored for antibodies long term, they all had plenty to start  with and the antibody counts fell off over 3 years or so, but not entirely, There were a big efforts to make a vaccine to SARS1 but none were successful, and as no new outbreaks happened the projects were abandoned.


SARS2 is a different animal in that a lot of victims do not show symptoms immediately, and some not at all. These cases are all infectious. Out doors is relatively safe because the virus appears mainly spread by coughs  and breathing, and outside the air dilutes it quicker. It takes a number of virus particles to start an infection and overwhelm our defences, so concentrating many people close together helps the virus spread easily,  hence social distancing .

 Indoors is more dangerous as the viruses can accumulate in the air and get breathed in more easily. Hygiene, hand-washing,social distancing and face coverings should help slow the spread, but relatively few of us have met this new virus before and so most of us probably have no immunity to it. We won't know until antibody tests are readily available to the public, how many of us have already had the illness.

 Research seems to be showing that the amount of virus carried by patients in their nose and throat is much the same in those who feel well throughout their infection compared to those who  are sick. So even if all of us who have symptoms isolate for 14 days , many people will still be distributing the virus into the air and on urfaces without even realising the danger they are to others. Some of these will eventually feel ill but many others may never know they have had it, without the further  tests not yet available to the public.Test , track and isolate is not as easy with this particular bug.

It seems easy - test everyone who feels ill with the right symptoms, if they are positive isolate them, find out who they have been in contact  with, and tell them to isolate too. If they get symptoms, they get a test as well and their contacts are traced if that test is positive. The idea  is to chase down every new infection and catch anybody likely to be a carrier before they have a chance to infect anyone else. In the end the virus is starved of victims and dies out.

There are a few things which could be problematic and make this difficult:

The accuracy of the testing.

No test is absolutely 100% effective. The original tests used in the UK had a significant false negative result, some because the virus was at too low a level early in the infection and others due to poor swabbing technique and problems with the test itself, but in combination some calculated that 10% or more positive cases may have wrongly been given negative results.
Presumably we have more accurate testing now, as if not, we will lose some cases which should  be isolated and have contacts traced. False negative tests could leave infectious cases in the community with false reassurance.

The number of cases infected who have symptoms.

There is now lots of evidence that this disease has a considerable number of asymptomatic carriers. These people feel fine and may never be aware that they are carriers. Some of these are the legendary "super spreaders" and these people unknowingly are dangerously infectious. Also, as the protocol is only  to test those with symptoms, these cases could be totally missed,

Co-operation of the public

There must be public trust for co-operation. People must understand why they must self isolate and at present  the plan is to ask everyone to self isolate after contact, even if you have had the virus before,

To self isolate for 14 days takes some commitment if you think you have already caught the virus, been isolated or even hospitalised, and got over it. I think these people will naturally feel most aggrieved , and should be offered an antibody test which  is evidence for having had the virus and recovered with some immunity

Although it is true that we do not know exactly how long the immunity lasts, it probably lasts at least a year and maybe longer if the SARS1 data is relevant. As we actually have do have antibody test kits to check the presence of antibodies, surely we could use them?

There have not been any proven cases of reinfection after recovery from the illness but there are cases of long lasting disease with complications where the virus was secreted for a long time before the patient was finally clear of the virus, This allowed them to test positive some weeks apart but was not thought to be a new infection, just a resurgence of the original one.

There is no scientific evidence I can find of any people definitely catching it twice. As there is no drug treatment for the disease, every survivor has had antibodies to the virus as it was the only way they could have recovered is through their own immune system finally killing the virus.

The Asymptomatic Carrier Problem

The test. track and isolate policy is planned to be used with symptomatic people. already sick with the virus. We know that many people just do not have symptoms, so may not be picked up.

 For instance an asymptomatic carrier may pass the virus to 2 people. He or she recovers without even knowing they were were ever infected. Of the 2 people infected by them,  one becomes sick, lets call them A, has a test and A's contacts are tracked and isolated and A isolates too.The original case may now be testing negative and may be asked to isolate,as a contact of A but its too late. Theyare  probably not infectious now. Even if they did test positive there is no way of knowing whether they were  infected by A, rather than the source of A's infection.

 The other has a mild or asymptomatic case, lets call them B and never gets tested and is unaware they are infectious,. A and B may not ever have met,  B may go on to infect other people. So this test ,track and isolate strategy in the presence of asymptomatic carriers may take a long time to totally eliminate the disease. It will "miss" some cases which are infectious but not exposed as such.

So  the hint of terror on the faces of our politicians and their medical and scientific advisers at their daily briefings is not just chronic stage fright, they are really worried..

We are dealing with a virus for which we  currently have no cure, and no prevention yet, other than stopping people getting close enough to each other to catch it or pass it on. Its not easy to spot who has it, hence the temperature checks at airports etc. Even these are not totally reliable.

 A study of 78 people who tested positive in Wuhan after visiting the wet market, where the original  outbreak occurred, 42% were asymptomatic. They were predominately female, and younger than the others in the group.

.Other studies suggest that asymptomatic carriers are present in between 25% to 50% of  all people actually infected. I doubt the scientists are confident of quickly containing the virus if up to half of all who get infected are not even aware of their condition. Add to this that around 40% of people  who will become ill  probably pass on the virus before actually becoming ill.  Eliminating the virus may not be easy. For the time being we are going to have to live with it, by hiding from it , while we cannot be exactly sure about who may actually have it.  Hence, avoiding everyone, as we cannot tell who is a carrier?

JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(5):e2010182. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.10182

 Perfectly well looking people who don't realise they have the virus are as likely , or even more likely, to spread it as those who feel sick having similarly contracted the same virus. It is easy to catch from other people and Winter is coming, the time when we usually seek out warm and sheltered places in which to live, work and socialise.

The decisions of what to do are not easy. Since the first cases, we know more about the virus, but not enough to quickly eliminate it. Our doctors and medical staff are becoming more skilled at keeping severely ill people alive. Less people are dying  but too many are still  being killed by the virus.

For our leaders the difficulty is to balance the health issues with the massive hit to the economy we have taken. Enough people have already lost their jobs or had their businesses devastated.Tens of thousands of people have died in the UK and hundreds still die every week.


 The more we restrict social contact the closer we get to eliminating the virus, and saving lives. Test, trace and isolate is not as straightforward as it looks in theory. Its going to take time and we probably will be fire fighting outbreaks until we get good immunity Either from a vaccine or from lots of us catching it, herd immunity will eventually reduce or stop the infection enough to return to "normal life", Neither path is likely to be quick or easy.

However, the more we restrict social contact the more we restrict important areas of the economy, the more jobs we lose, the more debt we incur. The poorer the Country gets.

Will the banks and big businesses dictate  policy yet again?  

How much weight and effort the Governments of Britain put into saving lives and saving the economy are largely political decisions; according to their powers ,ambitions and what they believe their populations will accept. However, the crisis itself  restricts their choices considerably, as so little is predictable, and much unknown. The available options are very limited and none of the strategies are without the danger of failure. It is not a simple choice between degrees of lock down and economic growth. The virus was completely novel and in many respects so is the strategy for manging the situation.

Who will decide the priorities? Probably not us!

 Siân Caiach 

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

A Draft from the Past - the Burn Family still trying to find out why they were victimised.

In my series of blogs on "The Councillors' lost daughter" I have described the torment suffered by the Burn family over ten years ago, Their daughter, Carina, has a rare genetic condition which means she cannot speak and has learning difficulties. She is able to communicate simply using a letter board, with her mother
 Carina was taken into care after allegations were made through her  2 occasional day carers that she was being sexually abused and involved, with her parents, in prostitution. Even though the carers had just been sacked by her mother, Julia, after Carina's spending money went missing without receipts, the story of abuse was naturally taken very seriously. The 2 carers "helped" Carina make detailed statements to the police implicating her parents.This disabled young woman who had always been assessed as having severe learning difficulties was even assessed by a Psychiatrist as a competent adult on the "evidence" of the 2 carers who assisted her in communicating  "like an adult", apparently tatally fooling the doctor! He was later criticised by the GMC.

The police found no evidence of abuse whatsoever, but social services were still suspicious of wrongdoing. Carina was put into residential care and not allowed to see her parents for almost 6 months.,

A scientific examination of Carina with her carers by a specialist communication expert eventually showed that neither woman could communicate with Carina at all .The Council delayed returning the girl to her parents, apparently desperate to find evidence to support their own actions, even inviting Professor Howlin to Carmarthen to explain how there was no evidence against her parents.

 The Professor had shown without doubt that the carers could not communicate with Carina at all, However, Carina could communicate with the professor and spelt out that she wanted to go home. She had the communication skills of a young child.

Even then Council officers appeared unconvinced and there was some evidence that they were  arranging to foster her out of County. The foster parents would have had no means of communicating with Carina and her parents could still have been prevented from contacting her.

  However, as the County Council insisted that Carina was a fully competent adult, her mother was able to invite her daughter to accompany her home at an access visit she was given with Carina.
Carina chose to go home with her mother.

Even though it had been proved that none of the Carers could communicate with Carina, a social worker claimed that Carina insisted she did not want to see her father. When she got home she was clearly delighted to see him.

Carina with her father, Robin Burn.

It is not unusual for public bodies to try to hide mistakes but Julia and Robin have been tortured for years as to why these awful accusations were made.Was it just a plan to get back at the parents for dismissing the carers that got out of hand or was there a deeper, more sinister reason?. Robin Burn was a local, outspoken, town councillor. He had moved from England to Carmarthenshire to give Carina the best quality of life possible and was active in the local community.

 He represented Plaid Cymru on Burry Port Town council but, as often happens, was no longer welcome in his political party after the "scandal" even though nothing was ever proved against him. Was this part of political campaign or a personal vendetta? Why did the 2 carers make such cruel allegations about Carina's loving parents. Did someone "put them up to it"

Julia, Carina;s mother, put up a petition asking  for an  independent safeguarding investigation of the case. She is desperate to find out the truth about why all this happened. The employers of the 2 Carers, Perthyn, have asked Change.corg to take the petition down, Julia has asked to keep the petition active and it still is available.

 Perthyn were employed by Carmarthenshire County Council to provide the 2 carers. Julia and Robin are, as yet, no closer to finding out why their family suffered this awful experience. but are now aware that Perthyn do not wish their case  to be looked at again. Change .org are keeping the petition open on their site. : Justice for Carina 

 Siân Caiach 

Friday, 6 March 2020

Too Big to Care - Taylor Wimpey asks for planning permission for a very dodgy wall,

We often hear the phrase "too big to fail", usually applied to banks and others whose financial organisations who get automatic bail outs from Central Governments.

But there are other huge companies who, sometimes like banks, may manage huge finances including large debts, who are also too big. They get automatic bailouts at a lower level of local and regional government, and their size and power allow them to brake rules and laws with impunity, and act totally selfishly.

Last month [21/02/2020] I called a community meeting in the Stradey and Sandy Area of my Council Ward. The main issue discussed was a local Housing Estate, recently completed, called  Parc Y Strade. As the name suggests, it was built on the site of the old Stradey Park Stadium in Llanelli. At the beginning of this century the rugby club was in major financial difficulties and had accumulated major debt. One of the club's directors had given it a multi million pound loan and he wanted his money back. Together with the Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire Council..Mark James. a plan was apparently hatched to build a new Stadium "out of Town" and sell the old site, practise pitches and adjacent plots of land suddenly acquired, perhaps by those "in the know," for development of a huge residential estate.355 homes have now been built there.

Parc Y  Strade  first phase Photo Sian Caiach

 The original land occupied by the Rugby Club, had been gifted to the People of Llanelli for recreational purposes by the Stradey Estate  The Scarlets plc went to court without informing the original donors, the Stradey Estate, and quite legally established ownership of the land through occupation. Of course this was simply in order to sell it on for profit very soon after.

Problem One was that the land was on an undefended C2 flood plain. According to the Assembly's official policy document, Planning Policy Wales, C2 land is too dangerous for building homes on. Only vital utilities, such as sewage pumping stations should be built on it.  On these grounds, the Assembly "called in" the planning permission and halted the process. Our Assembly Government has frequently been weak and this was no exception. Threatened by multi-million pound lawsuits from the developers Taylor Wimpey, Minster Jane Davidson threw in the towel with the support of local Assembly member Helen Mary Jones.

 Helen told a Llanelli Plaid Cymru meeting that the Assembly could be seriously financially damaged by the legal action and was more important to maintain the new devolved administration than a local issue. The reaction was a stunned silence, as I recall.

 It it did not bode well for "Planning Policy Wales" the book of instructions from the Assembly to Local Authorities, when a wealthy bully could dictate to the Assembly where they could build irrespective of community safety.

the southern boundary of Parc y Strade estate held up by a curtain pile wall - photo Sian Caiach  
To protect the new homes Taylor Wimpey was advised to raise the lowest areas of the site to 7 metres above sea level . This would raise the new homes out of the flood plain but also run the risk of flooding in the surrounding areas. The pile wall did not go well, the piles shattered the foul sewer main which ran in the lane below,

The wall was placed not on Taylor Wimpey's land but around 2 foot  over the boundary in Stradey Estate land, a lane through which the residents of  Sandy Road had legal access to their garages and back gardens. Narrowing the lane has caused access problems and in the retrospective planning permission now underway, Taylor Wimpey's agent  claims that the additional land was "acquired" from the Stradey Estate,There is no evidence that they have.

Patrick Mansel Lewis, the land owner, regards the placing of the wall on his land as theft, Taylor Wimpey declines to  answer his correspondence on the matter.

The pile wall already leaks and residents of the lane have impressive film on their phones showing water leaking through some of the piles' vertical joins as well as coming up underneath them, When Welsh Water dug up the lane to repair the sewer, 2 of the piles shifted and had to be re positioned to stand vertically after all the earth behind then had been removed. There appears to be no formal drainage behind the piles. Taylor Wimpey admits, in the planning documents, that they chose thin piles in order to maximise the land of surrounding their properties.

 By siting the piles on someone else's land Taylor Wimpey may have cleverly moved the piles and possibly liability of maintenance on to the owners of the appropriated/stolen land. I believe  the Stradey Estate has far less money than our National Assembly who capitulated to Taylor Wimpey's threats  before the estate was built. The local Planning Committee who now all know that the land is not Taylor Wimpey's are in a bind. 

The policy of the Council is to build as many homes as possible in Carmarthenshire to attract as many people as possible to move to the County and increase the council tax take.This has been supported by all major party groups including the current Plaid leadership. They normally bend over backwards to accommodate the big building companies. I hope for once, they will not allow this particular retrospective application. 

In the meantime the residents of Sandy Road have a rusting, leaking wall behind their homes which has already, during construction, left some of them without sewerage services for weeks. Some can no longer get their vehicles easily into their garages and parking spaces. The bin lorries now struggle to  reverse down the narrowed,long lane to pick up bin bags, and some are left  behind squashed. If the piles fail and collapse residents of the lane will lose access and amenity.

Although it is technically legal to ask for planning permission on land you do not own, I doubt it is actually legal to build on land you do not own with the objection of the real owner. Add the jeopardy of building a wall holding back tons of soil  and showing signs of leaking already. The residents are fearful of what may happen despite the claims of Taylor Wimpey that the wall will last 100 years.

 Siân Caiach

Having corresponded with Councillor Alun Lenny, Plaid Cymru, and Chair of the County Planning  Committee, he has asked me the following question:

Cllr. Alun Lenny

Sun, Mar 15, 9:33 PM (22 hours ago)
to me

Hello Sian
As this is obviously an inquiry about a legal issue, would you be happy for me to forward your e-mail to the lawyer who usually advises the planning committee at the council’s legal department?

Best wishes,

I have replied that I am happy for him to take legal advice. I have asked for information as to the identity of the Lawyer concerned but have had no reply.

An objection by the land owner Patrick Mansel Lewis, on whose land the pile wall was placed without permission, is available on line as a submission to the planning department among the papers for the retrospective planning permission. As well as the issues discussed above it is claimed that some of the pile sheets are no longer perfectly vertical. 
Mr Mansel Lewis asks for the planning permission to be rejected and the wall to be removed from his land by Taylor Wimpey.

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Adam Price gives up? - Carmarthenshire Council Plaid Group side with Council Officers, not their voters

Still no word on the proposed meeting between Mr Price and Mr Dole to discuss Trisha's case.


In his proposed Representatives (Prohibition of Deception)Bill Adam Price is careful to include MP’s and Assembly Members but excludes County Councillors. This is especially relevant to the local Plaid Cymru position in Carmarthenshire County Council where the Plaid Leader and Plaid Executive board appear to have got well into a habit of accepting lets say, less than the truth.

Adam Price AM Leader of Plaid Cymru


Adam is well aware of this. The Plaid Leader of Council, the Reverend Emlyn Dole, is said to have refused to meet with his Party Leader and explain his behaviour. A Plaid Executive Councillor has explained to Mrs Trishia Breckam , a lady about to lose her home after 16 years of County Council mismanagement, that unfortunately the Council Leader, Emlyn Dole, seems primarily influenced by the Council’s Head of Legal, Linda Rees Jones, and not by his party. Emlyn appears happy to repeat statements now exposed as untrue and still maintains that even talking about Mrs Breckman’s case will lead to the whole council losing its liability insurance. 


Adam’ Price's office has now emailed Trisha, his constituent, declining to help her any further. Clearly he has no power or influence over Emlyn Dole, the man who is supposed to run the Council. It's an honest admission of failure. Adam Price appears totally impotent on the matter.

Emlyn is hardly the first politician to put self interest before Party loyalty. In my previous blog it is obvious that Adam is outraged by Tricia's treatment by the Council, but unable as yet to stop his councillors blocking a settlement for this elderly couple.

Tragically I beleive these Plaid Councillors who are blocking Adam's quest for justice for Tricia are  are just more scared of Council Officers and Emlyn Dole tahn Adam Price, This is a battle in which Councillor Emlyn Dole intends to beat his party leader and so far it looks like he has the upper hand. All if the senior Plaid Councillors seem to be backing Emlyn, and betraying Adam, I suspect through fear rather than any other motive.


Now the County Council in Carmarthenshire may always have been officer lead since its formation in 1999 and my observation when I was a councillor there for 9 years, 2008-17, was that the Chief Executive and senior officers were definitely in charge, rather than elected members. As in many dysfunctional organisations, deceitfully concealing mistakes takes up much time and energy and admissions of failure are not allowed.


Linda Rees Jones, with Emlyn Dole’s support appears to have instructed senior Plaid councillors that giving an ex gratia payment to the Breckman’s would result in the entire Council losing liability cover from Zurich insurance , their insurance provider. Also any discussion of the case by Councillors would also lead to all liability insurance to be withdrawn. Trisha Breckman asked Zurich to check their records. This information given verbally to the councillors was said to be in a legally privileged letter that Linda Rees Jones could not show to anyone, they had to take it on trust. All this to prevent a payment, although planned to be given without admission of fault, which might suggest a council failure. After all, letting a couple lose their home due to Council mismanagement is better than any admission of less than perfect conduct?


Below is confirmation from Zurich that the letter does not exist and that they have not corresponded with the officers of the council on these matters in the terms described by Emlyn Dole and his legal adviser Linda Rees Jones.

Excerpt from letter from Zurich to Trisha dated 12th December from Zurich’s Joanne O’Donnell who checked the entire Breckman case file.

I can also categorically state there is no evidence within the file of papers that we have told anyone within the Council l that we will not allow them to grant an ex gratia payment. There is no evidence that we have told anyone in the Council that they are not allowed to discuss your case with anyone”


So Linda's letter is still a mystery. All Trisha has been able to establish is that there were no threats by the Council’s Insurers, Zurich, as claimed orally by Linda Rees Jones and Emlyn Dole .What was contained in that letter allegedly from Zurich Insurance? 
The council is in no danger of losing insurance cover if Councillors discuss the matter. Neither have the insurers threatened to block an ex gratia payment by withdrawing their cover if one is made. The ex gratia payment comes from the Council’s own funds, so its difficult to see how it effects insurance. In this council some officers are expert in influencing councillors, and as it is Senior Councillors , not Council Officers,who are actually liable for the actions of the Council its a win-win situation for the Officers - no consequences as the executive board councillors or even just the leader told us to do it.
 Apparently Council Chief Executive Wendy Walters is said to have seen "the letter" and said it was "strongly worded." Of course that "letter"  may well not even refer to Trisha's case  and as it is "privileged" she cannot discuss it. Is it a clever forgery,or a letter in vague and general terms only, and even if so, why bully the Plaid Executive Board into silence using it but declining to show what it says?
 Reverend Emlyn Dole, Leader of Carmarthenshire County Council.
Rumour has it that several members of the Plaid Executive Board were not pleased by these events, Neither the failings of the Council  in not protecting Trisha from a violent and disruptive neighbour;s actions nor the reluctance to finally put the matter "to bed" via an ex gratia payment. One reason why they do not displace the Reverend Dole may be that no-one wants the job.The remuneration for the Leader of Council is around £50,000 with expenses, but even that is obviously not  temptation  enough to take this particular job.
Emlyn seems to have ignored some of the 7 Nolan Principles of Public life that all elected councillors  promise to uphold, signing their documents of acceptance of election,. Maybe he should refresh his memory?
they are: honesty,accountability, leadership,transparency, objectivity,openness and selflessness  

If the Plaid Councillors in the County Council are reluctant to change their leader, and if Plaid Cymru the Party of Wales, are unable even to arrange a meeting with him to discuss his actions, Emlyn Dole is likely to remain in post and continue to collect his salary.
 He could certainly follow the orders/advice of the senior council officers and refuse to give an ex gratia payment  to Mrs Breckman. He may well prefer to believe that a letter exists, which he is not allowed to read, specifically forbidding any ex gratia payments to be made, despite  Zurich's denial. He would continue silencing every Plaid Councillor from mentioning Mrs Breckman's case as it could surely lead to the Council's insurance being cancelled completely, despite Zurich's claims to the contrary Who should he believe? A big insurance company or a group of Senior Council Officers who won't even trust him by showing him the letter? Better the devil you know and fear deep enough to abandon the humanity you once had?
There appears to be little compassion in the Plaid Group for Mrs Breckman and her partner who have suffered for the last 16 years because a County Council could not deal with her bullying neighbours. Unable to run the cattery when her access road was blocked by her neighbours and failing to get the Council to move the Lorry containers blocking light coming into her windows, or stop the unlawful haulage and quarrying, her savings are gone and her hopes of a productive life in retirement as well. In fact the Council dealt with the situation in part by blaming the elderly couple who chose to move to Carmarthenshire, even getting Trisha arrested by the police. Its not fair. Its time for someone to step up and stop the circus. 

 Siân Caiach 

Monday, 2 December 2019

Does Plaid Cymru plan to rule Wales like their Councillors rule Carmarthenshire, I hope not ..


Carmarthenshire County Council is infamous for its Chief Executive taking the Blogger Jacqui Thompson to court for libel after she allegedly described their Chief Executive Mark James, as"Pinocchio" After a costly court case in London  where the Council spent a 6 figure sum (our money) in a civil case defending the integrity of not only the Council, but of CEO, Mr Mark James, who also won crippling damages from Mrs Thompson. All approved by senior Councillors keen to stop criticism of the Council. 

 Although he had claimed to the County Council Executive Councillors that he would return any damages to the council, Mr James instead pursued Mrs Thompson himself for the money with the threat of forcing the sale of the family bungalow to pay these damages. She is still paying him instalments and If she misses a payment her home could still be lost to Mr James.. The money she pays him, he promised to the Council, but he is pocketing the lot., Not a murmur from the Plaid Councillors who run the County Council who were clearly happy for him to get extra cash. But the Council had been forced to shelve their policy of paying out public money to defend their senior officers - the Plaid Councillors apparently did not like that! 

Jacqui Thompson

Plaid council Leader Emlyn Dole and his merry band of Plaid Executive board members have subsequently tried to reinstall the policy of funding Council Officers and allow them to take out legal actions against members of the Public using Council funds. The Welsh Audit office has already ruled this as "unlawful" but Mark James, unlike the chief executive of Pembrokeshire Council, Bryn Parry Jones, who similarly misused public funds and was asked to pay them back, Mr Mark James did not have the unlawful monies removed form his generous retirement lump sum.  Emlyin Dole decided to let him keep all the money Mr James had been given, eve though it was ruled unlawful and could have been repaid.He had been given legal fees and a secret pay rise unlawfully. Why Mr James was not asked to return the money by council leader Emlyn Dole is not known.

Far from giving up on subsidising senior Council officers to take court cases against members of the public,the Plaid Executive Councillors earlier this year instructed their chief legal office, Linda Rees Jones, to ask the Auditor General at the Senedd to reconsider and again allow  Carmarthenshire Councillors to fund senior Council officers in personal libel actions against local residents from the public purse. This is not a well publicised Plaid policy but clearly popular with current Plaid councillors.

This is the Auditor General's reply sent to Linda Rees Jones, Head of the Carmarthenshire legal department, on the 10th May 2019:

"Thank you for your letter of 28th March 2019 in which you ask whether I accept that it is open to local authorities to indemnify their officers to bring defamation proceedings.

"I have reviewed all of the material that you presented and, in addition, taken fresh independent legal advice of my own. After careful consideration of this body of material, I find the legal argument previously described by [redacted] the more convincing. I remain of the opinion, therefore, that it is unlawful for a local authority to indemnify their officers to bring defamation proceedings.

"While I will consider any situation on the facts, I am mindful of the power provided to me by section 36 of the Public Audit (Wales) Act 2004 to make a claim for judicial review in respect of decisions that would have an effect on the body's accounts. If the council departs from its previous decision to remove provision for indemnity for defamation proceedings, I request that the Council gives me at least 21 days' notice of any proposal to consider granting an indemnity to a member or officer to bring an action for defamation

Yours sincerely

Adrian Crompton
Auditor General for Wales

My Personal Translation : "I don't think this is legal and if you Councillors are going to try this on again I want at least 21 days notice so I can deal with you thoroughly before you finance a court case unlawfully again".

It is disturbing that Council Leader Emlyn Dole approved that the Council should  reinstate  this libel clause into the council's constitution. Since the whole purpose of taking residents to court in libel actions using the public's own money is to discourage open dissent with the actions of senior officers, all of whom act with the consent and under the instruction of the Executive Councillors. Carmarthenshire has had a Plaid Cymru Administration.

 The policy of bankrupting the critics has had the added bonus, as we've seen, of the officers also winning damages from the original complainant which not only financially cripples the resident but add to the bounty of the senior officer, most of whom have generous 6 figure salaries already. It also discourages criticism of the Councillors themselves.

I personally was a County councillor for nine years in Carmarthenshire, my observation was that many Councillors were easily manipulated and I suspected sometimes deliberately mislead by officers who were used to  "ruling the roost " without much input from the elected members. However, the practice of financing libel cases has not been the only scandalous case. There is one apalling case which stands out in that it is a clear injustice, has caused one couple massive distress and financial ruin and the problems are becoming chronic, needs to be resolved, and not swept under the notoriously lumpy carpets of county Hall!.

THE CASE THAT SHOCKS ADAM PRICE.  {scroll down for updates}

But the Plaid "controlled" County Council does nothing.


ADAM PRICE . LEADER OF PLAID CYMRU , writing in support of his constituent Patrica Breckman and describing  his opinion of her case

Of Course, it is, in theory, the Councillors who run the Council but this case makes a mockery of justice and fair play in Carmarthenshire , The case of Patricia Breckman and her Partner. This case has been described on local TV programs, local newspapers and is one of an elderly couple who retired locally and bought a cottage with the intention of opening a cattery. They soon discovered that their neighbours at Blaenpant Farm were very hostile and that council enforcement officers appeared fearful of actually enforcing planning regulations, presumably due to the hostility of the neighbours.

                                                                  Patricia Breckman 

It is Mrs Brekman who bore the brunt of the consequences of her neighbours actions. The County Council was clearly negligent but  has escaped Scott free. Emlyn Dole, council leader has invited her to take the Council to court if she is still dissatisfied. Like most of us, Tricia does not have the tens of thousands of pounds that the Council has access to, which they will doubtless use to fight any claim she makes. In fact Emlyn Dole knows she is severely impoverished by not being able to set up her cattery and having to deal with an aggressive and  vindictive neighbour running an unlawful business next door without council permission. Her home is close to repossession by her mortgage provider.

More than this, I am told Emlyn Dole has presented to the Plaid Group Councillors an instruction that they cannot even discuss Mrs Breckman's Case, in public or even amongst themselves.. Linda Rees Jones, Head of Legal for the Council, says she has a letter from the County Council's insurers, Zurich, warning her that if any Plaid councillor even discusses the case verbally, the County council will lose all of their liability insurance cover.

This letter has never been seen, apparently, by the Plaid Councillors, and seems a bit harsh, or could it be just a hoax to frighten them into compliance?. Emlyn, if Linda's letter actually exists let us all see it, please!

Council Leader Emlyn Dole seems to have agreed initially, at the suggestion of  the previous Council Chief Executive, Mark James to close the issue with an Ex Gratia payment  without admission of liability, to compensate Mrs Breckman and her Partner for the financial damage cause by the Council's inaction. 

 Now Emlyn Dole himself with the support of the new Chief Executive, Wendy Walters, has decided against this. It seems that even mentioning such an Ex Gratia  payment would also invalidate the council's entire liability Insurance with Zurich. Again, I can't find any actual evidence validating that the insurer has instructed the council to act in this way. Many suspect the Council Civil Servants run the show in Carmarthenshire but it actually seems Zurich Insurance are in charge, and can silence our elected members. Allegedly Zurich are threatening to withdraw all the council's insurance if the County Councillors even mention Tricia and Eddie's predicament!

Cllr Emlyn Dole has also  agreed to meetings with Tricia's local MP Jonathan Edwards and her AM Adam Price only to cancel them. He also has agreed to a review of her case, and then cancelled that.

 I believe that both Adam and Jonathan have probably done their best but are powerless to protect their constituents from falling foul of the supposedly Plaid led County Council as the Plaid Councillors have decided for whatever reason, to act disgracefully against Tricia and her partner Eddie.
.Emlyn is a clergyman and possibly ill equipped to deal with Council Officers who may be economical with the truth. But if your Party run a County Council, and Plaid fought long and hard for years to get "control" of Carmarthenshire County Council, you should act with integrity, decency and compassion and hopefully be better than those who came before. Not this group of Plaid councillors, who seem to have "gone rouge" and have decided to ignore senior figures in their own Party, including its leader.

Throughout the public services there is too much " cover up" and very little in the way of apologies. There is little justice if people are advised to get their own redress for Council failings by self financing civil cases against local authorities who go to great lengths to hide their mistakes. Abandoned by those they voted to represent them!

The excuse that Carmarthenshire County Council is an "Officer led" Council holds no water. I'm told that unlike her predecessor Wendy Walters is careful to ask the Council Leader for specific support for Council Decisions, as she should. Is Emlyn Dole  so used to agreeing with the previous chief executive that he cannot say no? Or too frightened to admit what he has done? I have heard a rumour that the Plaid Councillors actually want Emlyn to step down but none are willing to take over the poison chalice of Council Leader. Stalemate.

In a letter in September 2019 to his Party Leader explaining his failure to commission a review into Tricia's case (his explanation is that any review of the case will also totally invalidate the insurance of the council by Zurich) Emlyn touchingly begs Adam Price to confirm and acknowledge Emlyn's integrity.

Emlyn writes "In your letter of 6th august you kindly assured me that you disassociated yourself from any comments that have been made publicly about my integrity in relation to this matter (Tricia's Case) and I hope that you still acknowledge my integrity despite my having to step down from commissioning the review."

Cllr. Emlyn Dole, Plaid Cymru,, Leader of Carmarthenshire County Council

In these words Councillor Emlyn Dole suggests he has a personal assurance from Adam Price that Adam will not endorse  or verify any criticism of Emlyn related to Tricia Breckman's case.  He asks that  this arrangement continues even though he has failed to commission a review of Tricia's case previously promised to Adam Price, Tricia's Assembly Member and Emlyn's party leader.

In other words, as I see it, Councillor Emlyn Dole expects Adam Price to cover up for him and not support Tricia, his own constituent, if any statement about her case  negatively effects Emlyn's integrity.

May I remind you all of Adam Price' words -


Adam has also stated in correspondence to Carmarthenshire Council  "you are indubitably responsible". 

I believe that Adam Price fully understands what has been going on but is torn because the issue cannot be resolved by his fellow Plaid Cymru Council members who are  actually in charge of the Council, but clearly dancing to a different tune, avoiding, rather than addressing the issue. 

Adam Price, local  Assembly Member and Leader of Plaid Cymru

 Adam Price, you could be our first minister in May 2021. Please show us that  you can persuade your fellow party members in Carmarthenshire County Council to treat this couple decently. They moved here to Wales in good faith to live and work and add to our economy. Because of appalling failings in our local Council of which you are well aware, they have lost their life savings and now face losing their home. They have nothing wrong. They need kindness and justice, not continued persecution facilitated by your own councillors. please act now. 

As First Minister of Wales, you will have tougher nuts to crack than a dysfunctional Plaid Cymru  County Council Executive Board  being bullied into inaction. Show us you mettle and get this sorted.

 Siân Caiach

Extra Information : available on request

There is a full summary by the Breckman's  own County councillor. It was written to byCllr  Cefin Campbell  to Cllr Emlyn Dole and his deputy Cllr Mair Stephens They have decided to ingnore it.. It is very detailed, 4 pages long and summarises the awful experience of this elderly couple who have had their lives blighted by the neglect of duty of those who should have protected them. I'm happy to copy it to anyone who wishes to study the whole story.

Please contact me by email: if you wish a copy forwarded to you.

UPDATE 11.12.19

Patricia Breckman tells me that she has been in contact with Zurich insurance concerning the letter which is said to be privileged,  and was sent from them to Carmarthenshire County Council's Head of Legal Linda Rees Jones. Zurich assures Mrs Breckman that the letter does not refer to her personally or her case and contains only  general advice to the Council itself.
 It seems unlikely therefore, that there is any reason for Mrs Rees Jones to forbid senior councillors to have sight of the letter or indeed to forbid them to discuss the case. If Mrs Breckman or her issues are not even mentioned in  the letter, how an earth does it matter to Zurich that anyone speaks her name or mentions the case? I suspect some deception or misdirection in Mrs Rees Jones' instruction to the councillors here!!

UPDATE 17.12,19`
Correspondence with Carmarthenshire County Council CEO and Reply from "Legal Linda", the long serving Head of Legal Services in County Hall, deeply implicated in this matter as far as I can see and very desperate to not show anyone the letter from Zurich Insurance. Emlyn's current ploy seems to be to "up the value" of the Ex Gratia payment to put off his fellow Councillors.

 Letter from Patricia Breckman to Carmarthenshire Council CEO Wendy Walters

17th December 2019

Dear Ms Walters

It has been brought to my attention again, that officers within this authority, advise members who remind this council of it's moral obligations to us that I have asked for £1,000,000.   The amount appears to increase each time my name is mentioned as it has now been suggested I have asked for £1.5 million!   It is preposterous and another blatant falsehood.

Not only is it illogical, but that anyone should actually believe it insults their own intelligence.  There have been many false accusations against myself over the years, for reasons that are clearly obvious, as it is so easy for the many, behind closed doors, to discredit someone who has no recourse to respond.  Most senior officers and members are aware of our case and these despicable falsehoods should cease.   It is totally unacceptable.   We still pay our council tax to Carmarthen council who have destroyed our lives and rendered our home unsaleable, leaving us with debt, not of our making, which we cannot fund and will be facing repossession in the New Year.   It was always obvious to officers of this council over these sixteen years that their extremely serious wilful failures would render our home unsaleable.

This is the most shocking conduct yet.

I have firm evidence that both Ms Jones and Cllr Dole conspired to lie to members on the 7th. October meeting.   I was hoping along with most Carmarthenshire taxpayers this deceitful reprehensible culture was going to end with the now infamous Mark James retiring.

Ms Jones should be suspended from her post along with Cllr Dole pending investigations.  How much more destruction to our lives is going to be accepted/ignored before any action is taken.   It could well be a police matter.

As a humanity issue alone, this council should be talking with us with a view to resolving our dire situation which we played no part in.   Without a doubt, we deserve recompense for the damage to our entire retirement years with open and honest discussion.  When damage is caused it must be addressed.

There is no more denying this council has destroyed us, our retirement years, and all peaceful enjoyment of our home.

Please can we now hear no more of Mrs Breckman demanding over 1 million pounds?  Our debt, which is of this council's making is roughly £80.000 + legal fees which we would never have been embroiled in had it not been for this councils neglect of duty.

Yours sincerely

Mrs Breckman

Followed by a rapid reply from Carms County Council Head of Legal, Linda Rees Jones, demanding that Mrs Breckman names the “snitch” who has clearly attended Plaid Cymru councillor meetings and told a local resident what went on….

Interesting that there is no denial of the apparent inflation of the proposed ex gratia payment in information to the Councillors. The letter which Ms Jones claims shows that Zurich will withdraw all liability insurance from the Council if they make a self-funded ex gratia payment with no acceptance of liability and usual legal agreements agreeing final settlement, is still to remain secret, even though the alleged content is disputed by Zurich


Dear Mrs. Breckman,
First of all, I have not attempted to “intervene” in your matter at all; I merely attended a meeting of the Plaid Group which I was asked to attend.
It would appear that someone who was present at that meeting is intent on attributing statements to me in relation to Zurich which I did not make – who told you this please ?
In so far as the Insurer’s letter is concerned, it is privileged.
Yours faithfully,
Linda Rees-Jones
Pennaeth Gweinyddiaeth a’r Gyfraith / Head of Administration & Law
& Swyddog Monitro                                     & Monitoring Officer
Cyngor Sir Gaerfyrddin                               Carmarthenshire County Council