The Plaid Cymru Llanelli team have been campaigning across the constituency and over the last few weeks some residents have raised concerns with me about the possibility of the land next to our Crematorium being developed and built on. I share that concern, I have looked into the matter in some depth, and have meet virtually with Council Leader Emlyn Dole to discuss.
Like many of us, I have attended a number of ceremonies at the Crematorium to say goodbye to dearly loved friends. For many of us this is the last resting place of loved ones, and the tranquil atmosphere provides an important, peaceful space to reflect and remember. I absolutely agree that this peaceful atmosphere must be preserved, and it would be my preference that no development takes place.
However, it may not be that simple. The land between the Crematorium and the main road was designated in 2014 as a 'proposed employment area', in the Local Development Plan (LDP) put in place by the then Labour-led Carmarthenshire County Council - in other words, an area suitable for development that creates jobs.
The designation of pieces of land in the LDP has a legal standing. Therefore the current Plaid-led County Council cannot overturn the LDP, and if the current Council refuses the development application the landowner can appeal to the Welsh Government, and that appeal is likely to be successful.
So in this case, if the landowner makes an application for planning permission and the Council turns it down, any proposed development could go ahead anyway, and the Council would have little influence on the exact nature of the development. So, it isn't as straightforward as saying the Council should turn any application down.
As things stand there is no application for planning permission in, but the Council are aware that the landowner is considering making an application and they are in discussions with the landowner about this, which is as seems right and proper.
If elected as the Senedd Member for Llanelli next week, there are a number of things I will do immediately on this issue. I would use the research facilities of the Senedd to explore grounds on which an unsuitable application could be refused, and to find out how, if at all, a designation in the Local Development Plan could be changed. I would meet the landowner to find out more about what he is proposing, to explore whether there are ways in which any proposals he may put forward can be changed in such a way as to protect the peace of the Crematorium. I will also work with the Local Authority to explore other options; could they purchase the land in order to protect it? Could they help the landowner find a different site for the proposed development? Could they put conditions on the development to protect the Crematorium?
All of these actions are worth exploring. I would do everything I could to make sure that nothing is done to disturb the peace of this very special place that means so much to so many.
Finally, I have to say that I have been very disappointed to see stories circulating on social media about this very sensitive issue that are not true and seem to be politically motivated. I have seen stories that imply that the Plaid Cymru-led Council has already agreed to a development, or that they are pushing hard for it to take place. This is just not the case. Of course, any responsible Council wants to support developments that create jobs, especially at a time like this. And of course, senior Councillors regularly meet with businesses on job creation proposals. As I would expect they are discussing the future of the land near the Crematorium with the landowner.
However, nothing has been decided and if an application is made, the decision to accept or reject it will be made by a cross-party committee of councillors, not by Plaid Cymru. The Plaid leadership on the Council have given me their commitment that they will not support any development on that land that does not protect the peace of the Crematorium. I rarely comment on my political opponents. But I am saddened that they have chosen to share untruths and misinformation about such an important, emotionally-charged issue, and, in doing so have unnecessarily upset so many people.
If you have friends who have been upset by this, please consider sharing this post with them, as I hope it will offer some reassurance.