Friday 17 January 2014


The sudden closure of Garnant Golf Club, and the failure of the County Council's bid to secure funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to save Parc Howard in Llanelli are a reminder in their different ways of how badly served many people in Carmarthenshire are when it comes to reporting of local news by the two largest local newspapers and the council itself, which maintains a large and very costly press and PR operation to ensure, it says, that there is fair and balanced reporting of council news.

The two failures also throw the council's decision making processes into the spotlight once again.

Garnant Golf Club went into receivership two days ago and closed its doors. So far there has not been a word about it on the council's website, although the collapse has been reported by the South Wales Guardian and the BBC, and there have been calls from opposition councillors for an investigation into the deal the council did with the operators in 2011.

Yesterday Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM was interviewed on both Post Cyntaf (Radio Cymru) and Good Morning Wales. He made the point that significant amounts of public money had been sunk into the venture, and that Plaid Cymru had expressed concerns when the deal was struck back in 2011. Why had the council not been aware of the company's financial difficulties?

The council was as usual unable to put up a spokesperson, but sent instead a brief statement saying that it was too soon to say what had gone wrong, and it was trying to contact the company. It went on to blame the general economic climate.

The Carmarthen Journal, whose patch includes Garnant, has also been silent on the debacle, presumably as it waits for guidance from County Hall about what to say. The only news you will find about Garnant there is that council leader Kevin Madge held a surgery in Garnant Club last week.


The Journal finally got round to reporting on the closure of the golf club on 18 January, presumably having had to wait for guidance from County Hall on what to say. The South Wales Guardian broke the news on 14 January. The Guardian today carries an interview with Kevin Madge who defends the decision to lease the club out to Clay's Golf and promises that he will do everything in his power to keep the club going.

It looks like curtains for Garnant Golf Club, then.


In the case of Parc Howard in Llanelli, the council has issued a press release on the rejection by the Heritage Lottery Fund of the funding bid. The council pins the blame for this on what it terms a "small group of opponents" to the scheme who apparently objected to proposed car parking arrangements, and the Llanelli Star has reprinted the council's statement.

There is a story here, however. If the council's statement is true, opponents of the council's proposals turn out to have played a very important part in what has happened, but nowhere in the archives will you find any explanation of who the objectors were or what they did not like about the council's bid. The closest we get to a hint that everything was not well is in a Llanelli Star article from June 2013 (here).

What emerges from that report was that members of Llanelli Town Council felt the county council had not consulted widely enough with the public on the future of the park and its house, only to have their concerns dismissed by Meryl Gravell.

The truth appears to be that Carmarthenshire County Council tried to bulldoze through its vision for the park and failed to take on board the views of local people, with the result that the rescue plan came unstuck when it reached the Heritage Lottery Fund.

When Plaid councillors criticised the Garnant deal in 2011, Kevin Madge dismissed their concerns as "clueless electioneering".

In the light of the closure of the golf club and the very uncertain future which awaits Parc Howard, who looks clueless now?


Anonymous said...

Thete is often a very cosy relationship between local newspapers and councils. The locals rely heavily on regular council advertising - planning notices, road closures etc - which means they are careful to keep their imcome-generating customers happy.

Anonymous said...

Parc Howard has served the people of Llanelli well since its opening in 1912. Generations of young and old have enjoyed its wonderful facilities. Any thought of its closure is a blot on Carmarthenshire County Council and their contempt for the people of its largest town. What kind of democracy is this? How can we get rid of these feckless people and their CEO?

Anonymous said...

The CJ is pathetic.

This weeks letters page is laughable. One letter outlining a very personal attack on PHG about earnings and expenses etc. Also mentioning the salary of a Police Detective Inspector ? seems bazaar.

Another letter purports to be from "name and address supplied" which is an obvious advert for Carmarthen Leisure Centre. Its amazing and to be honest I only buy it now out of habit and for the dog to shit on after I have "read" it !!

Anonymous said...

Regional newspapers, rather than local, seem to take up issues - because rhey are not dependent on a cosy relationship with councils.