CONTROVERSIAL plans to relocate a drug and alcohol support service from Llanelli town centre to North Dock have been turned down by councillors amid fractious scenes.
One of the objectors present at County Hall repeatedly said, “Shame on you,” to the four councillors who voted in favour of the application. Nine councillors voted to refuse planning permission.
The application by Hwyel Dda University Health Board was to locate six health and well-being services in an empty office building on Traeth Ffordd, on the eastern side of North Dock. These included a psychological team to help young people who’d experienced traumatic events, and another to help people improve their diet and physical activity and reduce their alcohol intake. The element which generated significant opposition was the planned relocation of the Dyfed Drug and Alcohol Service (DDAS) from Vaughan Street, Llanelli.
A report before the planning committee said the health board was required to provide the six “essential services” to meet relevant health and care guidelines. Dyfed-Powys Police supported the application, saying North Dock didn’t have underlying anti-social behaviour and crime issues and that it didn’t anticipate policing demand would increase if it the proposal was approved.
There were scores of objection letters, including from Llanelli Town Council, with concerns including the centre’s potential impact on both North Dock businesses and the area’s appeal for tourists, kayakers and swimmers. Objectors also raised anti-social behaviour fears, and water safety risks for drug users being helped by the DDAS.
Addressing the committee, ward councillors Louvain Roberts and Sean Rees said the proposal was in the wrong location and asked who would be responsible if a water-related fatality occurred. Cllr Rees added: “We have a popular coastline in Llanelli and we want it to stay that way.”
He also said a public spaces protection order in Llanelli had been extended earlier this year to include North Dock, suggesting that anti-social behaviour and crime was already an issue in the vicinity.
Several committee members then spoke against the application, including Cllr Edward Skinner, who cited the 2007 Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act, 1689 Bill of Rights and 1215 Magna Carta in rapid succession. “There is a danger there will be a fatality,” he said.
Cllr Terry Davies said in his view that the DDAS had not reduced anti-social behaviour and crime in Llanelli and that its clients “deal openly” at its current entrance. “There must be a better location in the Carmarthenshire and Llanelli area which would suit the service and benefit all,” he said.
Proposing that the committee turn the application down, Cllr Davies said: “It has the potential of drawing groups of addicts and dealers to this area.”
Planning development manager John Thomas said the application complied with planning policies and that alternative locations had been looked at by the applicants. He added that councillors would have to provide evidence to substantiate any reason for refusal, that the applicants were likely to appeal a refusal, and that Cllrs Davies and Michelle Donoghue, as proposer and seconder, would be the ones defending the decision if it went to appeal. Mr Thomas’s comments prompted interjections from the public gallery.
Eventually Cllr Davies arrived at a reason for refusal by citing a planning policy which said applications will be permitted if they didn’t have a significant impact on adjacent land uses, properties, residents or the community.
Before the vote, Cllr Ken Howell said there seemed to be a problem connected to the DDAS at its current Vaughan Street base. “Are we not merely moving that problem to this location?” he said.
The DDAS is substance misuse service for adults in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire. According to its website, it offers assessments, interventions such as needle exchange, specialist treatment and an aftercare and recovery service.