TURF will be cut to mark the start of a long-awaited healthcare, leisure and research development in Llanelli on March 6.
The £200 million Pentre Awel scheme at Delta Lakes will feature a new Llanelli Leisure Centre and include housing, a hotel, and education and business space.
It was one of several projects singled out by Cllr Alun Lenny, Plaid Cymru’s cabinet member for resources, before councillors voted to approve a £151.1 million capital budget for 2023-24.
Pentre Awel will comprise five buildings, and will be funded by the council, the Welsh and UK Governments, and other public and private sector partners.
The council has allocated £43.4 million to the project in the coming financial year – £16.5 million of its own money and £26.9 million from elsewhere.
Cllr Lenny confirmed the contract for zone one of Pentre Awel, worth £86 million, had been signed.
“This is a project which will transform the landscape and economy of south Llanelli, Carmarthenshire and a greater part of west Wales,” he said.
Cllr Terry Davies, who represents Tyisha in Llanelli, described Pentre Awel as “a shaft of light in a dark cloud”.
Meanwhile, £10.3 million is being allocated to the Carmarthen Hub project at the town’s vacant Debenhams building. It will house the county’s art collection, the council’s customer service hub, and retail units. The majority of the money – £8.4 million – is coming via the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund.
“It will act as a catalyst for wider regeneration in the town centre,” said Cllr Lenny.
The council is earmarking £17.8 million to another long-awaited project – the Towy Valley cycle path between Carmarthen and Llandeilo – in the coming financial year. Just over £6 million of this is from the authority; the rest from the UK Government.
There will also be a £1.9 million investment in a new Amman Valley Leisure Centre 3G pitch, £4.1 million towards the new Ysgol Penbre, Pembrey, and £1.7 million on an upgrade of Oriel Myrddin, Carmarthen.
Labour’s shadow cabinet for resources, Cllr Kevin Madge, said he welcomed the proposed expenditure but warned that overspends on big projects could “blow the whole capital programme to bits”.
He said he wanted to see quicker progress on a new school for Ammanford, and more investment generally in the Amman Valley and Gwendraeth Valley.
Cllr Martyn Palfreman said he felt improvements to the congested Sandy Road, Llanelli, should be a priority as it was making life a misery for residents and would get worse if planned housing developments in the town and nearby Burry Port went ahead. Cllr Lenny said options were being considered.
Cllr Colin Evans said the existing pitches and running track at Amman Valley Leisure Centre were tired and past their sell-by date, while Cllr Neil Lewis said residents were desperate for progress on the Towy Valley cycle path. “I think it will be transformative, he said.
The capital expenditure for the coming year also includes £10 million to draw up plans for and design eight new schools. Cllr Glynog Davies, cabinet member for education and Welsh language, said land had been acquired for a much-anticipated new school in Ammanford and that options for financing it were being considered. A new school was, he said, a priority.
Cllr Davies urged cross-party cooperation for a new Ysgol Dewi Sant, Llanelli, which was built in 1947. He said it was “heart-breaking” that a new one hadn’t been built. It followed a campaign by objectors to a proposed new school on Llanerch field and an intervention by the Welsh Government, which prevented planning permission being granted.
Cllr Aled Vaughan Owen, cabinet member for climate change, decarbonisation and sustainability, cited capital funding for the roll-out of the new kerbside collection service and introduction in due course of some electric refuse lorries.
Referring to new schools, council leader Darren Price said all councillors could feed into an ongoing review of schools across Carmarthenshire and that it was vital that council officers were given a “clear direction of travel” before Welsh Government funding bids were made.
References were made in the debate to negative social media comments about some of the projects.
Cllr Lenny said as someone who had previously had guns waved at him when working abroad as a journalist, “keyboard warriors trouble me not one bit”.
Capital schemes totalling £151.1m approved by Carmarthenshire Council for 2023-24 include:
Pentre Awel healthcare and leisure development – £43.4m
Towy Valley cycle path – £17.8m
Carmarthen Hub – £10.3m
Design work for eight new schools – £10m
Refuse vehicles and roll-out of new kerbside collection service – £4.7m
The new Ysgol Penbre – £4.1m
Commerical property development fund – £2.5m
Highways, including drainage, lighting and bridges – £2.2m
Amman Valley Leisure Centre 3G pitch – £1.9m
County Hall – £1.6m
Ten Towns growth plan – £1m
Flood mitigation and management – £700,000