Sunday 20 October 2013

Lighting up Carmarthenshire

Hermon Chapel
Before the lamp posts

Update 21/10/13

Other locals have noted the hugely costly and very long-winded developments in Hermon in disbelief. The subject came up at a meeting last week of Newcastle Emlyn Town Council which has been begging Carmarthenshire County Council for a pavement in Aberarad to safeguard children walking to school.  Without success.

Apparently questions are also being asked in County Hall about the background to this unusual splurge of generosity by the council. No VIPs have yet turned up in Hermon, so suspicious minds are now starting to wonder whether we are looking at someone with family connections on Jail Hill.


The B4333 from Newcastle Emlyn climbs steadily from the valley for several miles until it reaches Moelfre, nearly 1,000 feet above sea level. From there it makes its way across country, through the small village of Hermon, before dropping down to Cynwyl Elfed.

On a clear day you can catch glimpses of the Carmarthen Fans, the western outliers of the Brecon Beacons, and there is a stark kind of beauty up there on those sheep pastures, interspersed with patches of woodland.

The village of Hermon numbers at a rough guess little more than 100 inhabitants, and almost all of the houses are modern. The ruins of a few traditional stone cottages can be seen by the roadside, but the only building of note is the chapel which stands more or less in the centre of the village.

There is no school, village shop or post office, and no pub. Just the chapel and a scattering of houses.

If you google "Hermon Carmarthenshire" the second entry asks "What is it really like to live in Hermon? See the anti-social behaviour hotspots from current police data." The closest you are likely to get to anti-social behaviour in Hermon is Mam-gu downing a swift, surreptitious glass of purely medicinal sherry before heading off to the Cwrdd on the Sabbath.

For well over a year now, and probably getting on for two, the village has been the scene of what must be some of the most leisurely and slow-paced road works in Western Europe, as the firm of GD Harries and Sons, contracting for Carmarthenshire County Council, has gone about putting in pavements either side of the quiet road and a stunning row of lamp posts.

For months at a time parts of the road have been reduced to a single lane with traffic lights. A couple of weeks ago work on the pavements and lamp posts finally appeared to come to an end, and the firm, which is based in Narberth, Pembrokeshire, has started resurfacing stretches of the road itself.

If progress is anything like the time taken to put in the footpaths and lamp posts, they may be finished some time in mid-2014.

True enough, the road is in desperate need of resurfacing, but it is hard to imagine that the smart new pavements will get much use because, let's face it, apart from the chapel, there is nowhere to go and hardly anyone to use them. Besides which most of the chapel's congregation drive there and park on the large tarmac'd area to the left of the picture.

Even more amazing is the line of new lamp posts. While waiting for the traffic lights to change one day, Cneifiwr decided to count them. There are 27, and along one stretch there is one approximately every 50 feet. And they are not just any old lamp posts, but extra high ones. In fact they look as though they should be lighting up some top secret and ultra secure military installation.

As yet they have not actually been fitted with lamps, and so that could add a further six months to the project.

When the whole thing is finally finished, you will probably be able to see Hermon from the moon, lit up on its lonely hill top.

One of the pleasures of living in this part of the world is the general lack of light pollution, but star gazing in Hermon will soon be a thing of the past. And with a county council which makes a lot of claims about its green credentials, you have to wonder which aspect of this project is environmentally friendly.

The cost of all this work which may very occasionally benefit one or two old ladies walking to chapel of an evening must be huge, at a time when many much busier roads in the county are falling to pieces. And the people of Hermon are in any case tough old nuts who have spent all their lives in howling winds, rain and snow.

The other remaining mystery is why this work was undertaken in the first place. Is there some hitherto unknown VIP living in Hermon?

If anyone has any information, get in touch.

And finally....

Speaking of VIPs, news reaches Cneifiwr that the kerb outside a house in Abergwili has been lowered so that a resident can park her car off road. The resident is the daughter of a certain senior council officer.

Mr M, who fought the council for years to get a ramp outside his council house so that he could access his home in his wheelchair, may wish to take note that there are easier ways to get things done. Unlike Mr M, the young woman did not need to take her concerns to the Public Services Ombudsman and thereby incur the wrath of the chief executive, who told councillors that he wished the council had left Mr M and his family in emergency bed and breakfast accommodation.


Anonymous said...

who is the councillor for this ward?
Worth asking.

Cneifiwr said...

Its Cllr Irfon Jones, "Independent", who lives quite some distance away in Bronwydd.

Cllr Jones is another one of those silent types.

Anonymous said...

There are 28 properties with nearly half having to drive from their farms, to go to where!! Under the foa would it be possible to find out the cost and also how a local had the contract to do the wall/entrance rebuilding work!!

Anonymous said...

And the Councillor for Abergwili is?

Anonymous said...

It is surprising that G D Harries and son are having all this work considering that the last two Heads of Street Scene department went to work there on receiving early retirement.
Naturally the council has spent millions with this firm since.
I understand that both of them have now left this firm rather suddenly.

Anonymous said...

If your last words in "And finally " are true then shame on the chief executive and more shame on councillors who pay lip service and actively support him.

Cneifiwr said...

Anon@21.34 Mr James made his comments about Mr M and his family when the council was discussing the Ombudsman's report. I think it's fair to say that most observers were gobsmacked.

Anonymous said...

With all the economic cutbacks, you'd have thought the Head of the Highways Department would have conserved his budget for essential maintenance only. I heard from someone at the Kremlin that the latest reduction in payments from the Assembly (you can't call it a government), means they might not now be able to meet their statutory obligations re upkeep of our roads.

Anonymous said...

Scandalous !! - If public money was used to drop the kerb purely because of a personal connection with someone in authority then this is corruption or misconduct in public office surely ?

Anonymous said...

When you and run a household budget we try and save money, so if we can carry money from one financial year to another incase of a 'rainy day.'

With Carmarthenshire County Council the financial gurus chivvy budget holders to spend all their money before the end of the finacial year and no save. They are prevented from carrying over monies from one year to the next.

This invariably means that lots of money is wasted on useless kit or pointless projects.

Anonymous said...

The Hermon Saga, The scheme may have not taken so long had there been a proper public consulation. Slight hold up was the council had neglected to check ownership of land adjoining the highway, which resulted in a change of plan. A site visit by planners had obviously not occured until after construction was under way. I believe there is also a photo knocking around somewhere of a wagon having to mount the pavement to pass a wagon coming the opposite direction, to be able to pass...oh and thats in the section without lights. There is also a rumour that the recently laid tarmac has covered a trench carrying waste from two new properties under the road, dug by a local contractor. As regards FOI maybe we could ascertain who paid for the drop downs and walls at houses which are owned by parish councillors, who allegedly had been made aware of the plans.

Anonymous said...

and yet due to council cut backs the Council has closed the public loos in the bustling town of Newcastle Emlyn. This is the most BASIC provision any council should provide. This has meant that visitors to the town in desperation are forced to degrade themselves by nipping behind any nearby wall, ally-way or bus shelter to relieve themselves. Which in turn has made the town highly unhygienic and unpleasant for residents.
Living in Carmarthenshire is like living under rule of the Marcos family. We HAVE to pay our rates by law but they take our money, spend it on their own selfish extravagances then say there's no money left to put back in to benefit our community.
It's bullshit it really is, and I can't understand why our County Councillor and Town Council just lye down and take it, why they don't stand up, bellow the walls down and fight every inch of these cutbacks when they must see as we do that there IS money in the pot.