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Council accused of ‘poor planning’ of £17 million cycle route

21 Jun 2023 4 minute read
The Tywi Cycle Path will pass through one of the most scenic areas of Wales

Emily Price

A Welsh council has been accused of “poor planning” after concerns were raised regarding the pace in which land is being purchased for a multi-million pound cycle route funded by the UK Government.

£16.7m of Levelling-up funding was secured for the Tywi Cycle Path Scheme to create a 16 mile cycle route that will link Carmarthen and Llandeilo through one of the most scenic areas of Wales.

However, funding for the project is set to expire if is is not spent by March 2024 and so far Carmarthenshire County Council has been met with with “significant objection” from residents and landowners.

A Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO), which will allow the local authority to acquire around 100 parcels of land and attendant rights, will be used as a “last resort” by the council to secure the land needed for the scheme.

The council has given landowners the option of entering into an agreement of voluntary sale, but so far only five parcels of land have been secured in this way, with agreements reached via negotiation on a further six parcels.

Llanllawddog Community Councillor, Havard Hughes, has warned that if urgent steps are not taken by the council to acquire all the lands and rights needed for the project, the deadline for the Levelling-up grant will not be met.

Deadline

During a council meeting on Monday (June 19), Property Design and Maintenance Manager at Carmarthenshire County Council, Mr Jason Jones said that there were “no guarantees” the Levelling-up funding would be spent on time.

Havard Hughes asked: “Are you confident in meeting the deadline of March next year by which the Levelling-up funding for the Cycle Path must be spent?

“Given that there is large scale and significant objection by landowners to compulsory purchase, do you think a public inquiry is likely and therefore the funds are at risk of being lost?”

Responding to the question, Mr Jason Jones said: “We are as confident as we can be. Yes. We’re in constant dialogue with UK Government around the Levelling-up funding.

“But there is a process to follow. As per the question, the response: there are no guarantees in that regard but we do remain confident”

Councillor Edward Thomas warned that if Carmarthenshire County Council waits for negotiations to purchase land to break down before starting the compulsory purchase process then “valuable time will be lost”.

He said that formal purchase proceedings should “run in tandem” alongside continued negotiations with landowners in order to protect the funding.

Cllr Havard Hughes said: “The Tywi Valley Cycle Path is a prestigious project and it has been previously confirmed that the successful bid for nearly £17 million in funds for this scheme has barred Carmarthenshire from bidding for other Levelling-up funds.

“The Council therefore owes it to residents to ensure that this multi-million-pound funding does not go to waste. Given that Welsh Government has had to hand back some £155m of funding assigned by UK Government because it failed to spend it in time, it is deeply troubling that Carmarthenshire County Council has confirmed that there are ‘no guarantees’ that the funding for the cycle path might not be lost.

“While the £17 million funding for the Tywi Valley Cycle Path has a firm deadline, it seems that there has been poor planning by Carmarthenshire County Council. They seem to have failed to scope out cycle path adequately and then have been surprised by large scale and significant opposition to the cycle path from local landowners.

“Worse still, it has emerged that Natural Resources Wales had also raised concerns on flooding which apparently took Carmarthenshire by surprise.

“Flooding, as Tywi Valley residents attest, is a common issue along the river. Time and tides in the Tywi Valley clearly wait for no councillor nor indeed a £17 million cycle path scheme.”

Measures

A UK Government Spokesperson said: “We are working closely with all applicants, including Carmarthenshire County Council, to help ensure projects can be delivered successfully.

“We have put in place a number of measures to assist particular projects where necessary, including flexibilities to make reasonable adjustments where local councils may be seeking to extend the deadline for money to be spent.

“Due to commercial sensitivities on the land purchase, it would not be appropriate to comment further.”

Carmarthenshire County Council was invited to comment.


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Frank
Frank
9 months ago

Complete waste of money. Rarely does one see a cyclist on the expensive paths we already have. Ask a cyclist why they don’t use them and they will tell you they don’t like riding on them. But CCC will still go ahead without consulting any cyclists for their opinions. I think the council approve these paths because a few of their employees are keen cyclists and we, the mugs, have to pay for their occasional pleasure!!

hdavies15
hdavies15
9 months ago
Reply to  Frank

Levelling up ? If that’s what they really have in mind then start by encouraging local business activity – real products, real services, all sorts of stuff that could be done locally rather shipped 100’s sometimes 1000’s of miles. Then with a more buoyant local economy you can start affording the “nice stuff” like cycle paths, even sports pitches that don’t sit under water a few weeks every year.

Alan Jones
Alan Jones
9 months ago
Reply to  hdavies15

I’ve posted on something similar before regarding levelling up funding in Pont-y-pwl where they’ve decided to spend £9.3 million to convert the toilet block by the gates into a cafe/restaurant. (Just opposite the council offices). This was after a crazy idea to tart up a multi story car park around the back of the council offices, (do you detect a theme here?) The general consensus around here is what a waste of money, there are cafes already in town where the seats can remain empty all thru the day. What is really required is for the money to be spent… Read more »

Frank
Frank
9 months ago
Reply to  Alan Jones

£9.3m to convert a toilet into a cafe!!!!? A house building contractor could build a whole estate for that amount. The people of Pont-y-Pŵl need to look into that and ask questions. There must be more to it than just a cafe. Sounds like a huge rip-off. I can only draw a conclusion from what you have written in your comment.

Alan Jones
Alan Jones
9 months ago
Reply to  Frank

Happy to oblige Frank, there is now an added PROPOSAL to renovate the derelict St. James church opposite the present toilet block into a multi use facility, this includes a function room which could accommodate a pop up cinema as well as ( get this ) another cafe/ bar area. Again, some feel that this could be incorporated into the under utilized Pont-y-pwl market or improvement to other premises in the town centre to rejuvenate this area as it has a tumble weed aura about the place at times. The financial input from the levelling up funding apparently is £7.6… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
9 months ago

Due Diligence…council taken by surprise by NRW’s mention of flooding…same old story!

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
9 months ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

The tyranny of the cyclist, take a ‘walk’ along the ‘Mawddach Trail’ to see what I mean…

Frank
Frank
9 months ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Please tell us more, seriously. What goes on on the Mawddach Trail?

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
9 months ago
Reply to  Frank

When you hear (if you are lucky) that bell ring you had better jump, because they ain’t stopping…out of my way pedestrian, I’m a cyclist!

The 8 mile old railway trail along the south side of the estuary is one of the loveliest experiences going and should be savoured…

Last edited 9 months ago by Mab Meirion
Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
9 months ago

We may as well spend the money on better public transport.
A rail network (possibly high speed) that links Cardiff/Swansea/Carmarthen with Wrexham/Llandudno/Bangor without leaving the country.

Would we be better having our own tax revenue to spend as we all decide rather than sending it to the Westminster regime to make us as a nation to jump through hoops to meet their conditions ?

james pollard
james pollard
9 months ago

That’ll cost billions, even outside of Westminster it’s something Wales simply couldn’t afford. What should be upgraded is everything West of Cardiff including removing the Swansea dog leg, upgrading line speeds to over 100Mph and creation of intermediate stations along the M4. A rail link to Cardiff airport would also increase competition with Bristol. A dedicated freight line from freeports is also a good shout,

Frank
Frank
9 months ago

£17,000,000 for a cycle path that will rarely be used, £0 to repair our crumbling roads. This is an example of the brains and common sense that exists in County Hall.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
9 months ago
Reply to  Frank

It is not a condition of being elected…

Geraint
Geraint
9 months ago
Reply to  Frank

The terms and conditions of the grant determined by the Westminster government indicate that any transport scheme has to support the governments net zero policy. Any spend just on fixing potholes would have fallen at the first hurdle.

james pollard
james pollard
9 months ago

Flooding is a known major issue in this area. From Oct/Nov this year the whole area will be underwater periodically and unworkable until April/May ’24. As such and without extension it’s already a dead duck. It’s also inconceivable that anybody in the council didn’t realise it’s a major flood plain. It’ll take a desktop armchair amateur 5 seconds to figure this one out.

Last edited 9 months ago by james pollard

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