Sunday 8 November 2020

The Wellness Project becomes the Breezy Village but new flood warnings may drown development

The Llanelli "Wellness Project" was a scheme to build housing for the elderly, a leisure centre, and a Health Sciences based business park.It was part of a well funded City Deal sponsored by UK Goverment and led by Carmarthenshire County Council and their Council's Chief Executive Mark James. There were said to be links with Swansea University, various drug companies, and a Kuwaiti Private Hospital and Medical School. The project needed £200 million pounds of private matched funding. Mysteriously the firm allegedly chosen to front up this money, Sterling Health, appeared to be a registered Company with no large assets and considerable debt. The planning application was delayed by NRW as the site of the development, a former dock area used as a refuse dump yeaars before, had not been properly asseessed and tested for contamination. The UK Goverment seems to have noticed the lack of the £200 milllion matched funding required for the grant aid to go ahead. The project was shelved. Image below is of the proposed "Wellness and Life Science Village" as it should have looked on completeion
Mr Mark James resigned after NRW delayed the development, in order for the County council to properly evaluate the site. Undeterred, the Council's Executive Board led by Plaid Cymru councillor, Emlyn Dole, rebranded the project as "Pentre Awel", Breezy Village, and clearly intended to build some residential units and other features on the site. The site area is adjacent to the shore of the Loughor estuary, the lake's lock gates have been neglected and left in an open position, allowing the waters to become tidal. Sea levels are rising and the flooding risks have increaased acording to NRW. Surely a safer site will now be found, as the original plan for housing was for the elderly? As you see in the photos below, the site is still undeveloped. There has been some fly tipping but it could be a beautiful site for leasure and wildlife if it was cleaned up and landscaped. Mr Mark James has remarked that the choice of site was due to the fact the 40 qcres of land was already owned by the council. Where else could he find land so cheap?
Wales' environmental organisation, Natural Resources Wales issues new guidance regularly on the likelihood of development site flooding and flood risks across the whole of Wales. This shows the large lake in the site as a likely flood risk and surely makes the development far less attractive to the housing and scientific buildings planned. The best use for the land, which may have been contaminated by the landfil process, is surely parkland and recreational activities. A great deal of money has likely been spent on the promotion of this site, which has failed to materialise due to lack of local funding, and probably an over ambitious plan to build a science park reliant on outside funding and foriegn private medical financial support which in the end did not materialise either from Kuwait or the Uk based Sterling Health. It turned out that the Kuwaiti firm had not yet built their private hospital and medical school and threatened to sue Swansea University, who had offered to host the Kuwaiti students in the UK, for damages, as their construction project in the Gulf was also stalled by the delay.
County and Borough Councils are often the recipients of grants for economic development and other projects, but this case shows that they can fail when the projects are not properly researched and "partners" are recommended who are unknown to the Councillors, and turn out to be unreliable. There was no detailed plan shown to councillors on the costs and opportunities. Why should Kuwaiti students come to Llanelli to study? Why did drug companies wish to hire the units the council would build? Why site a new leisure centre and retirment home for Llanelli so far out of town? This project has attracted the interest of Tarian, the welsh police fraud squad, who are investigating the County Council's involvement and Swansea University have taken disciplinary action against accademic staff involved. The process of police investigation of this strange project and its participants is not completed but hopefully there will be answers one day !

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