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Council expects to spend £86.9m on new schools and regeneration projects

Oriel Myrddin, King Street, Carmarthen, which is to be restored (Pic: Alun Lenny)

TENS of millions of pounds for new schools and projects like the new wellness and life sciences complex in Llanelli are being allocated by council chiefs in Carmarthenshire.

In total the council’s capital budget for 2024-25 is £86.9 million. Nearly a third of it – £28.1 million – is earmarked for new school builds, although individual school projects haven’t been approved as yet.

The first phase – or zone one, as it is known – of Llanelli’s Pentre Awel wellness and life sciences project will get £13.9 million. Long-awaited work finally got under way more than a year ago on zone one, which will consist of a new Llanelli Leisure Centre, clinical units such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy run by Hywel Dda University Health Board, plus education, clinical research and business innovation space.

It’s expected to open in autumn this year and will be followed by three further zones, including hundreds of assisted living units and beds, business space, housing and a hotel, in a development by Delta Lakes costing a total of some £200 million.

The capital budget has also earmarked £9 million of UK Government money for town centre regeneration in Llanelli next year, although no plans on how it will be spent have been published as yet, while £2.5 million is earmarked for the new Carmarthen Hwb development at the town’s former Debenhams store.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting on February 19, Cllr Alun Lenny, who has the finance portfolio, said the capital programme focused on high-quality facilities and was “comprehensive and wide-ranging”. The council will fund just over £50 million of the £86.9 million cost through borrowing, reserves, grants and sales of council land and buildings, with the remainder coming from external sources.

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Other capital schemes to be funded include:

  • £5.5 million for new vehicles such as refuse lorries, road gritters, and minibuses for use by social services
  • £5 million to arms’-length waste operator Cwm Environmental (via a loan) to develop its waste recycling site at Nantycaws, near Carmarthen
  • £2.3 million to upgrade homes for people with disabilities
  • £2 million for road repairs
  • £1.4 million for the redevelopment of the grade two-listed Oriel Myrddin gallery, Carmarthen, where preparatory work is under way
  • £850,000 for new bus bays and other traffic works at four schools
  • £472,000 for new washing facilties and upgraded electric hook-ups at Pembrey Country Park
  • £300,000 for slurry infrastructure upgrades at council-owned farms.

Many capital projects roll over into future years, and the council reckons that total expenditure in the five years from 2024-25 to 2028-29 will be just under £193 million. It will mean more borrowing, and the council’s external debt stood at £411 million at the end of March last year.

The capital budget proposals contained a lot of good news, according to cabinet member for education and the Welsh language, Cllr Glynog Davies. He said more could be done with extra funding. “There isn’t enough money to do everything,” he said. The budget will be set by full council at a meeting on February 28.