Present Mayors, Mayors elect, past Mayors, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, town councillors.
I would like to thank Mr Chris Olchawski for his kind words.
Well, here we are again! When I stood here last year, I said how very proud I was to have been asked to serve as Mayor of Llandovery, and I am equally proud to have been asked to serve a second year. Over the past 12 months, I have worked hard to serve and promote the Town and I will continue to do so to the best of my ability. My thanks as ever, to my partner Paul and our children for enabling me to take on this role and for their forbearance when I neglect the domestic chores and the family social life.
As a Town we continue to face significant challenges. Although we have seen new businesses open up in Llandovery in recent months, there are still too many empty properties and too few opportunities for employment. Regeneration of the Town must remain our highest priority and we must continue to press Carmarthenshire County Council to deliver the investment we need to make a real difference to our community. The Council has made much in recent times of its commitment to supporting the development of rural communities, well it’s time we saw some of that commitment being displayed in Llandovery.
The Town Council will also actively pursue other funding options for specific projects within the regeneration scheme. We will do all that we can to encourage investment in the Town and to promote local businesses.
During the last year I arranged a site visit to the car park with officers of the County Council and members of the Town Council, to see what could be done to improve the car park, which I believe is no longer fit for purpose and does not meet the needs of the varied users. I learnt that Llandovery car park is the only one in Carmarthenshire that has a bus stop in it; it has loading bays backing onto it; it is a thoroughfare to the mart; children access the playground and playing fields from it; two banks operate from it; and lorries park in it overnight. The paving slabs are uneven and loose, creating trip hazards. The Council has agreed to undertake a re-design of the car park so that it can better meet these varying needs.
We have lost the bus service between Llandovery and Brecon, cutting off a vital life-line for many of our elder and younger residents who may not have access to private transport. I attended a public meeting in Trecastle last month, as did several other councillors and Llandovery residents, to discuss options for restoring a bus service which would link our communities. I will do all I can to work with Carmarthenshire and Powys County Council’s to restore a bus service.
Back in March, the recycling centre at Llangadog closed its doors for the last time, depriving Llandovery and indeed the whole of the north of the County, of a vital public service. There have been many claims and counter claims as to the reason for the closure, but wherever the truth may lie, the fact remains that our communities are left with no comprehensive recycling facility in this part of the County. I will do everything I can, as I know will the Town Council as a whole, to commit the County Council to make alternative provision in the north of the County, for full recycling facilities. The last thing we want to see is an increase in fly tipping in our beautiful countryside.
The Town Council has been instrumental in retaining the Ysgol Pantycelyn Hall for the use of the community and thanks must go to the committee responsible for this work. The Hall is being used on a regular basis by a variety of groups. The loss of secondary education in Llandovery was a blow to the Town, however the new Ysgol Bro Dinefwr is thriving and recently celebrated a successful Estyn inspection. There are now plans to bring education back to the Pantycelyn site, with the proposed relocation of Ysgol Rhys Prichard, and the Town Council is committed to working with all parties involved to make this venture a success.
We will work with other organisations and endeavour to involve all members of our community in the improvement of our Town. I mentioned in the Town Hall the Community Sports Association that was set up to manage and develop the facilities at Castle Fields as a result of the County’s asset transfer programme. The Association has already proved to be a great success, maintaining the playing fields to a high standard and has already started work on repairing and restoring buildings, some of which were in a dilapidated state.
We need to continue to engage with people and promote the work being done by the Town Council and not appear remote from the community. We have improved the way in which we engage with people, with the creation of a Facebook page – yes, the Town Council has been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st Century – and we have seen an increasing number of likes and post engagements.
In October last year I chaired a public meeting in the Rhys Prichard Memorial Hall on the future of Maesglas Park and the playgrounds at the Castle and Green Lodge. It was a very well attended meeting which demonstrated that people care passionately about our Town and about protecting our facilities. The meeting considered the ultimatum we had been given by the County Council, that is, either take on the playgrounds ourselves or lose them. Unsurprisingly, there was overwhelming support for taking over responsibility for them and the Town Council is in the process of negotiating the asset transfer. Once this is completed, we will be looking to establish a community group to manage and develop the park and playgrounds, raising funds to safeguard them for our children now and in the future.
This year will see a number of events within the Town. Later this month we look forward to the ever popular Llandovery Carnival and hopefully the sun will shine on us as it did last year and we will witness another successful event.
The Town Crier festival will take place on Saturday 1st July and we look forward to listening to the entertaining shouts and the spectacle of the town criers in their finery.
The second Llandovery Motorbike weekend will be held in July and from what I have seen of the plans so far, it promises to be every bit as good, if not better, than last year. Another first for Llandovery last year was the Festival of the Celts in August and we hope to welcome them back again this year.
Later in September we will see the return of the now well established and ever more successful Sheep Festival.
The turning on of the Town’s Christmas Lights will take place on Friday 24th November.
Whilst we still face challenging times, there is much to be positive about. The growing list of initiatives and events demonstrates the enthusiasm of local people to make our Town successful. A cursory glance at Facebook will show that the people of Llandovery care passionately about their Town. I think it is the role of the Town Council to engage with people and to harness the energy and enthusiasm that is clearly there, to create activists for our Town.
I look forward to working with you all over the coming year to ensure that the Town of Llandovery continues to grow from strength to strength.