The eyes of the world were on Carmarthenshire in September and our County sealed its reputation as a world-class host of major sporting events when we welcomed the Tour of Britain – one of the largest cycling races in the world.
The event saw 120 of the world’s best cyclists, including Tour de France winners Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome.
The event, which raced through our county – taking in Kidwelly, Carmarthen, Abergwili, Ffairfach, Bethlehem, Llangadog and Llandovery along the way, saw thousands of spectators out on the streets, and has no doubt left a lasting legacy inspiring many people to take up cycling and using Carmarthenshire’s fantastic cycling routes and trails.
We launched our Cycling Hub of Wales destination guide showcasing the county’s new routes and incredible cycling terrain, including tracks, trails, circuits and traffic free paths. It allowed the county to showcase its stunning landscape and scenery to cycling fans across the world.
The guide showcases two fantastic off-road cycling circuits launched during 2018 – the new National Closed Road Circuit at Pembrey Country Park and the newly renovated historic Carmarthen Velodrome; challenging mountain biking trails through the Brechfa and Crychan forests; and traffic free paths through Llanelli, Amman and Tywi.
In education, we’ve seen more new schools opening, including Ysgol Pen Rhos in Llanelli and Parc y Tywyn in Burry Port, and there are plans to deliver a further £129million through our Modernising Education Programme investment with more new schools all around the county in 2019.
Also, making best use of our school facilities to support community activities and engage with more young people.
In social care and housing, we have already surpassed the halfway target on our commitment to deliver 1,000 more affordable homes, bringing empty homes and buildings back into use and passing plans to build new homes across the county; we have transferred a contract we held with Allied Healthcare in-house, taking on all staff and care packages, when the company got into trouble financially.
We have also maintained a vibrant and ambitious Capital Programme. Our Five Year Plan plan seeks to drive economic, environmental, social and cultural well-being in Carmarthenshire and by doing this we will ensure that our residents, communities, organisations and businesses are supported and enabled to develop and thrive for the benefit of our county.
This year we have embarked on a number of very exciting developments, including the new £2.5m County Archive Building in Carmarthen which is due to be completed next autumn; the £1/2m Closed Road Cycle Circuit in Pembrey Country Park which has officially opened, as well as the completion of Yr Egin at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David in Carmarthen.
As an authority we have been a key partner in Canolfan S4C Yr Egin, which has already created a significant boost in the county in terms of employment – with 10 companies taking residency in the building, in addition to S4C who moved their headquarters to Carmarthen in September.
Connecting towns and villages across Carmarthenshire has also been a priority, and we have pushed ahead with three major transport schemes – Carmarthen West, Cross Hands East and the £6m Towy Valley Path.
We completed the contract for The Marine Group to take over Burry Port Harbour. They and we will invest £millions in a new dredger, improved pontoons and opening up the whole harbour for mooring. A new lifeboat station, cafe, restaurant and other leisure developments are planned around the Harbour.
And in Carmarthen we have successfully worked with a private developer on the Guildhall who has signed a lease to bring a new restaurant to the ground floor, whilst maintaining access to the first floor courtroom. In Ammanford, we have just opened our new customer service Hwb in the town, modelled on the successful service in Llanelli which helps bring more footfall in to the town centre and supports neighbouring traders.
Other exciting ventures include our new Housing company Cartrefi Croeso, which builds new homes for rent and affordable purchase, and Llesiant Delta Wellbeing Ltd, which replaced the Careline service, safeguarding jobs and creating additional employment for 10 people in Llanelli, as well as giving thousands more vulnerable people greater access to technology-based support when they need it.
Our library services were highlighted in the IFLA World Library and Information Congress in Kuala Lumpur in August. The event, which brings together over 3,500 participants from more than 120 countries, highlighted Ammanford Library’s Makerspace project which successfully launched earlier this year.
The social library is the driving idea behind the project, also known as Stordy Creadigiol – where people of all ages will find a flexible, inclusive space in which to read, create, discuss and have new experiences.
It is the first of its kind in Welsh Libraries that offers library users an opportunity to create intellectual and physical materials using resources such as computers, 3D printers, audio and video capture and editing tools, and traditional arts and crafts methods, to name just a few.
In October, we saw unprecedented flooding hit Carmarthenshire, affecting over 200 homes and businesses and tragically claiming the life of a young man in a landslide at Cwmduad.
Our teams pulled together, to respond to the emergency and then helped the county recover, both physically and financially. Much of this work is still underway, and we continue to work with specialists to assess and repair our highway network.