Residents in Bynea, Llanelli have been trying to get Carmarthenshire County Council to close what they call a ‘problem car park’ where the residents claim people are driving to in order to use the coastal path for walking and cycling.
The residents claim the car park is a magnet attracting high volumes of people who are breaking lockdown rules.
Other Councils have taken action to close troublesome car parks however Carmarthenshire County Council have refused to close The Millennium Coastal Car Park at Bynea.
The residents who did not wish to be named said:
“We are merely trying our best to support the NHS and overstretched local Police Service by deterring those which are making unnecessary journeys against Covid Regulations.”
“We have been been trying to convince Carmarthenshire County Council to close the car park situated at the start of the Millennium Coastal Path at Bynea, Llanelli.
“ This car park is solely used to service the coastal path as no shops, surgeries or other public amenities are close by. It is in a very poor state of repair and not compatible for users with mobility issues.
“During the first lockdown (March to July 2020) it was closed to deter people from making unnecessary journeys and to stay at home in line with UK and Welsh Government restrictions.
“Since the current Welsh Tier 4 restrictions were quite rightly initiated on the 20th December 2020, the car park has been left open. It attracts scores of visitors every day who are blatantly ignoring and flouting the law on essential journeys only as outlined within Alert Level 4 Welsh Government Covid restrictions.
“We have communicated with Carmarthenshire County Council asking if they would close the car park as they did before. They have refused to do so even though we have furnished them with conclusive evidence to show that people are unlawfully travelling there from some considerable distance. They do not appear in any way shape or form to be suffering from mobility issues, many are running or cycling along the coastal path. This will become relevant further on in this email.
“We understand that several other complaints have been made by local people asking this car park be closed, we have secured the support of local Bynea Ward Councillors who agree that it should be closed.
“This current wave of the Pandemic is far worse than the initial outbreak and we constantly hear and see the pleas of NHS Staff for us all to comply with the rules. Welsh Government First Minister Mr Drakeford, and his staff are repeating this message on the daily media briefings in order to protect the NHS. We have just exceeded 100,000 deaths in this country due to Covid 19. Why do the Council not take this into account and react accordingly?”
We saw a response from Mr Ian Jones (Head of Leisure Departments Communities, Carmarthenshire County Council) dated 25th January which states that it is for the police to take enforcement action not them and they are merely complying with Welsh Government Guidance.
Mr Jones refers to the Council Corporate message as being:
With Wales at alert level 4, you can only leave home if you have a “reasonable excuse”.Welsh Government Guidance currently states that, a reasonable excuse includes, ‘to exercise, alone or with members of your household or support bubble. This must be done locally unless there is a reason, such as a specific health condition or mobility issue, that would require driving to the nearest convenient, accessible location’.
We contacted Carmarthenshire County Council to put the concerns of the residents to them.
Ian Jones, Head of Leisure, said: “Our primary aim is always to protect the health and safety of our residents and visitors. As such, we have to balance the aims of Welsh Government’s current Level 4 lockdown regulations to minimise the movement of people, with the need for people to undertake essential day to day tasks, including their right and need to exercise to maintain physical and mental well-being. We have taken the view that we will keep our car parks open, but continue to work closely with our colleagues in Dyfed-Powys Police to try and manage this position. Whilst their resources are stretched, they are taking a more pro-active stance on this issue and are increasing their visibility and messaging at key car park locations where people may feel tempted to unnecessarily travel to exercise. As per Welsh Government legislation, we continue to highlight that whilst Wales is at alert level four, you can only leave home if you have a reasonable excuse. A reasonable excuse includes, ‘to exercise, alone or with members of your household or support bubble. This must be done locally unless there is a reason, such as a specific health condition or mobility issue, that would require driving to the nearest convenient, accessible location’.”