It is with great regret that I have to report the following saga of misguided officialdom.
Pembrey Saltmarsh and Burrows
After persistent rumours circulating during the autumn of 1932, a blanket planning application was made on 28th November by Llanelli Borough Council for, “recreation use of land adjacent to Pembrey harbour and the Saltings”.
Part of the land involved is saltmarsh, and a very fine example of this type of habitat, due to the fact that it is ungrazed and displays wide floral zonation. It supports several rare plant species including large areas of Rock Sea Lavender (Limoniuro binervosum), Sea Wormwood (Artemisia maritima), Grass-leaved Orache (Atriplex littorale), Spear-leaved Willowherb (Epilobium lanceolatum) and Golden Samphire (Inula crithmoides), the three latter species being confined to only two or three stations throughout Carmarthenshire.
The remainder of the land is a dry dune ridge which supports many of the expected, highly specialized plants of this habitat together with less common species such as Fragrant Evening Primrose (Oenothera stricta), Striated Catchfly (Silene conica) and numerous orchids including Green-winged Orchid (Orthis morio) and Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis).
Scarce bird species observed last autumn at the site include Peregrine Falcon, Short-eared Owl and hen Harrier.
It is only in recent years that the Pembrey saltmarsh has been recognised as being of such unique botanical interest, in a local context, due principally to lack of detailed survey in the past, a result of its relative remoteness. It is this fact alone that was the cause of the exclusion of the area from the adjacent Tywyn-Gwendraeth and Cefn Sidan Sands and Burry Inlet Sites of Special Scientific Interest. This is now our stumbling-block and has led the Borough Planning Department to believe that the site is of no ecological value and for them to ear-mark it for development.
After due consideration a letter was sent on behalf of the society to the Borough Planning Officer strongly objecting to the proposal pending further detail being made available. I subsequently received notification that the application had been granted.
Sometime in January, as far as is known, council workmen bulldozed an opening in the dunes immediately west of Pembrey harbour, creating a way through from the existing road level down to the beach. In addition, lorry-loads of hard-core started to appear, ready to be made into road-foundations?
On 1st February another planning application was made by the Borough Council detailing the route of a proposed road, comprising a second access to the Country Park, across the saltmarsh and dunes, confirming previous suspicions.
A letter stating our Society’s strong objection to the proposed development as sent to the Borough Planning Officer citing the same reasons as for the previous blanket application and additionally pointing out that the area in question is at present the only stretch of coast in Llanelli Borough’s control which is completely unspoilt by human influence, this being largely a function of the fact that the dune ridge and enclosed saltmarsh have only formed since the last war. I also used the opportunity to put forward an alternative scheme involving the creation of a statutory Local Nature Reserve with sympathetic development of car parking, board walks, a nature-trail and bird hide. I suggested that the access road start west of the harbour, run adjacent to the links and join the existing right of way running along the eastern boundary of the Country Park, and tie-in with road developments within the Park near the Coastguard lookout. A map showing these proposals was also submitted.
By 9th February a way had been dozed through the dunes within the Country Park near the Coastguard lookout and the line of the road pegged eastwards into the dunes outside the Park. By 15th February works had extended outside the Park and the right of way had been breached.
A meeting between Clive Davies, the Borough Planning Officer and the Borough Council Development Committee was called to discuss the issue, on site, on 16th February. The Chairman of this committee, Mr. E.T. Morgan, J.P., very courteously invited members of the Pembrey Citizens Action Group and the Llanelli Naturalists to be present to put their case. Frank Webb and myself, representing the Naturalists, arrived at the appointed time and place and waited, with the Action Group’s leader, for the Development Committee to arrive. We waited nearly three hours and no member of the Borough Council turned up. Later it transpired that we “militants” had been “planted” in the one place that the Development Committee was to avoid. Could this have been an accident or does the Local Authority have something to hide, bearing in mind that it appears its Planning Officer didn’t want the councillors to hear our side of the debate?? By any standard, this is a very shabby way of treating one’s masters, because after all is said and done, the council is only the public’s servant.
Later, back in the Town Hall, the Development Committee granted permission for the construction of the road, having not had the opportunity to fully hear the objections of the conservationist lobby.
This decision was illegal. By granting the application on the 16th, the full 21 days statutory period required by law for consultation and the receipt of objections was not fulfilled. This surely represents maladministration by the Borough Council. It is known that at least one other significant objector, Dyfed County Council had not replied to the application before the date of decision, but did so within 21 days. It appears that the Borough Council is pushing this mis-guided plan through, come hell or high water.
The following day road construction was continuing across the dunes towards Pembrey. Bulldozing and the laying of hardcore is currently (28th February) complete for between a half and three quarters of a mile east of the Country Park
The society considered taking out an injunction to require the cessation of the development, but our legal advisor thought the cost too high to be borne by a small society.
I fear that this battle has been lost, the Borough Council reigns supreme again, riding roughshod over the interests of local people. (There were 2000 signatures collected by the Action Group against this development).
But why does the Borough want a road in this position when one running along the inland dunes, adjacent to the links would be just as functional? It is very inviting to surmise that their choice of route would permit the dunes and saltings themselves to be easily developed, the area having been made accessible by the road. In other words this current road-scheme is the thin end of the wedge. It must not be forgotten that in 1975 the Naturalists supported the Borough Council at a public enquiry convened to look into a holiday-camp type development proposed by a private developer in which is now the Country Park. Surely, should such a development now be undertaken, the local authority is operating double standards: one for the private sector and one for the public.
The Llanelli Naturalists has been invited to submit observations on the Tourism Discussion Report published by the Llanelli Borough Council.. The Pembrey Saltings development pre-empts this document. What is the use of publishing such report if relevant fundamental planning decisions have already been made before full discussion has taken place? From the events of the last couple of weeks what is the point of going to the trouble of committing observations to paper when one knows that when the time comes our views are likely to be ignored. Our written comments on the development of the Country Park requested by the Planning Department over the years, have been all but ignored.
I feel very disappointed that the powers-that-be are completely unsympathetic to their wildlife heritage and do their utmost to destroy it despite reasonable alternative proposals. I am afraid that I am in despair at the legacy that we ordinary people are forced to hand on to our descendants.
The manner in which the 16th February decision was made was referred subsequently to the local ombudsman but he found no grounds for declaring the decision void for maladministration reasons.