Councillor Annabel Graham Paul was inaugurated as Mayor of Llandovery on 17 May. This is the speech she gave setting out the objectives of the Town Council over the coming year:
“Chair of Carmarthenshire County Council, Present Mayors, Mayors elect, past Mayors, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, town councillors.
I would like to thank first my predecessor, Cllr David Long, for his advice and his example. His two years as Mayor have resulted in much progress and I am fortunate to be taking over with the benefit of strong foundations which have been laid during his leadership. Secondly, my Deputy Mayor, Cllr Louise Wride, for all her assistance and humour so far, and I very much look forward to our working together over the coming months. I would also like to thank our Town Clerk, Stephen Carter, for his ever-efficient assistance with preparations for this event. And last but not least, my husband and consort, Matthew, or the “lady mayoress who has to wear a dress”, as our children have said, for his constant support and encouragement.
We all know that as a town we face significant economic challenges and we are not alone in that. And wounds from the not so distant past such as the closure of Pantycelyn are still keenly felt. However, I strongly believe there is every reason for optimism for the future of Llandovery. As a town we have huge strengths: strength of character, resilience, outstanding sporting facilities, extremely low crime, beautiful surroundings and impressive history, culture and architecture. And above all, a hugely enthusiastic community spirit and fellowship.
My aim is for the Town Council to help people to do things for themselves and for the town. We should be creating opportunities to harness that community spirit and invigorate every resident of Llandovery with the responsibility and commitment to regenerate the town and achieve progress. Llandovery isnot, but must never become, a complacent or apathetic place.
I would like us to take responsibility for as many of our assets as possible. The Town Council’s most significant work at present is to implement the community management of our four parks – Maesglas, Green Lodge, the Castle, and the skate park – following the transfer of them to us from the County Council in March of this year. As many of you will know, the County Council took the decision to discontinue the maintenance of the parks and our only option as a Town Council was to take them over ourselves in order to preserve the facilities.
We have no ongoing additional funding however for this and we do not want to have to increase the precept. So, following the lead of the Llandovery Community Sports Association, we will be setting up a Community Group to run the parks who – unlike the Town Council – will be able to access grant and other sources of funding. Although we were placed in this position out of necessity, it in fact represents a fantastic opportunity to make the parks far better than Carmarthenshire County Council ever would. And I really hope that we can seize this opportunity and enjoy it.
We have already had keen local interest from residents volunteering to get stuck in with mowing, litter picking and other maintenance activities and are extremely grateful for the time and effort that has been given. There will be a public meeting on 11 June at 7pm in the Rhys Pritchard Memorial Hall to set up the Community Group and I would encourage everyone here who has an interest in the future of our parks to attend.
We are also in the process of signing over a lease of the heritage centre to the recently restructured Llandovery Heritage Charitable Incorporated Organisation and will do all we can to support them in making the long wished-for museum in Llandovery a reality.
Where we do not have direct control, we will continue to lobby the County Council for the much-needed investment in our facilities. We are very pleased that the repainting of the Craft Centre has been completed, but urgent work is needed elsewhere, including on our swimming pool, and the car park, not to mention the Town Hall and the area under the arches.
I would like to see a greater flexibility in the way Carmarthenshire County Council responds to local needs. One good example is the car park which is frequently woefully underused and where we have repeatedly been met with an impasse regarding outdated parking charges. Thousands of tourists drive through Llandovery every summer on their way to other places, such as Pembrokeshire. Why can they not be encouraged to stop by, say, an invitation to two hours free parking? We would love the County Council be more creative with this.
The impending move of Ysgol Rhys Pritchard to the Pantycelyn site provides an exciting opportunity to create a school with outstanding facilities and I hope to work constructively with the County Council to ensure that the new primary school provides the very best for pupils. We are delighted to welcome the new headteacher, Mr Edward Davies, who is here tonight. In the meantime, the Town Council has been working to keep Pantycelyn in active community use and we are in the process of taking over a lease of the building from the County Council.
We have a number of projects which we are working on to improve the character and appearance of Llandovery and make it as attractive place it can be to live, work and visit. These include introducing new floodlighting to the Castle, a ‘Blue plaque project’ spearheaded by our County Councillor, Handel Davies, to recognise important historic buildings, and the development of a mobile phone ‘walking app’ to guide tourists around the town. We support all businesses and property owners who wish to renovate or otherwise improve our streetscape and I am particularly pleased to see the bringing back into use of the former HSBC building as a new post office.
A number of streetscape projects that we would wish to bring forward are hampered by the restrictions imposed by the South Wales Truck Road Agency on development around the A40 and A483. I wish to continue the best dialogue we can have with SWTRA to make our primary roads attractive, safe and good for local businesses and residents. This is particularly important with regard SWTRA’s proposed changes to traffic management. Some of you may also be aware that there is the potential for major disruption to Llandovery on the horizon to enable essential repair and maintenance work to take place on the culvert opposite the Nisa, and we will do our very best to work closely with SWTRA to mitigate the impact. We know from the recent ‘sinkhole’ horror that things can get done quickly when the pressure is on. And that pressure will be on.
It is a vital part of the Town Council’s role to lobby, and work with, external organisations to achieve the best for the town, for example with the mobile banking facilities and ensuring the provision of a temporary mobile post office facility while we await our new post office. We are also playing an active part in consultations on the proposed restructuring of health services in Carmarthenshire and pay a keen interest in achieving a first-rate outcome for Llandovery Hospital.
Meanwhile, the thriving annual series of events goes on. There is always so much happening – and so much going on behind the scenes, much of which goes unacknowledged – that it is impossible to mention everything. But some dates for your diaries are the Carnival next Sunday the 27th, Armed Forces Day on Saturday 30thJune, the 150thanniversary celebration of the railway on Sunday 1stJuly, Llandovery Motorbike weekend on 7-8 July, the Festival of the Celts at the end of July, the Sheep Festival in September, Fireworks in October and the turning on of the Christmas Lights at the end of November.
I am really excited about the year ahead. It leaves me simply to say, thank you for coming tonight, thank you for your support and I look forward to working with you all.”