Five parcels of land secured for new Carmarthenshire cycle path
Five parcels of land have been secured by Carmarthenshire Council for a new cycle path linking Llandeilo with Carmarthen, and agreement has been reached for a further six.
The authority has nurtured plans for the 16-mile leisure and commuting path for years but its construction has been hampered by a lack of funding and the Covid pandemic.
Things appear to be back on track, however, following the award of a £16.7 million Levelling Up Fund grant a year-and-a-half ago, and the council’s planning application for a 12-mile stretch between White Mill and Ffairfach, near Llandeilo, is due to be determined this week.
But land needs to be acquired and negotiations with landowners – some of whom may not wish to sell – have been taking place for some time.
The council has initiated compulsory purchase order (CPO) procedures – a means whereby land can be acquired without the consent of the owner – in tandem with negotiations.
Cllr Edward Thomas told a cabinet meeting that the authority was complying with CPO guidelines, and that initiating the CPO process seemed the sensible approach because it couldn’t wait for negotiations to break down before doing so. “Valuable time will be lost,” he said.
He was responding to a question from a member of the public, Havard Hughes, who said CPO proceedings appeared to have been initiated along all of the 12-mile section, whereas they were meant to be “the option of last resort”.
Cllr Thomas, cabinet member for transport, waste and infrastructure, said the council’s approach demonstrated its commitment to the project, while stressing that discussions had been held with landowners, and third parties whose rights might be affected, for a while.
“The council is therefore confident that attempts have been made to acquire the land by agreement wherever possible,” he said. “However, not all the land will be acquired in this manner – therefore there is no realistic alternative to the use of compulsory purchase powers.”
Cllr Thomas confirmed that five parcels of land had been secured and that agreement hd been reached for another six.
Mr Hughes asked if he was confident that the council would meet the deadline of spending the UK Levelling Up Fund grant by the end of next March, and whether a Towy Valley Path public inquiry might take place – potentially delaying the scheme.
Cllr Thomas referred Mr Hughes to Jason Jones, head of regeneration, who said the council was “as confident as we can be” of meeting the deadline. Mr Jones said the council was “in constant dialogue” with the UK Government around the Levelling Up Fund money.
“There is a process to follow,” he said. “There are no guarantees in that regard, but we do remain confident.”
An 82-page document listing individual plots of land along the Whitemill to Ffairfach stretch has been published by the council. It includes details of people or organisations whose rights may be affected.
A smallholder from Whitemill, Robert Moore, has previously spoken of his concerns about CPO proceedings regarding his riverside fields and of his wish to be left alone.
Cllr Thomas said public consultations about the Towy Valley Path, parts of which could be flooded from time to time, had “demonstrated overwhelming public support” for it.
By BBC LDRS
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