Llandeilo bypass delay blamed on the Welsh Government and Adolf Hitler
But ministers remain committed to the £51m scheme for Llandeilo, says Carmarthenshire's Labour leaderby Richard Youle
Adolf Hitler was blamed for the first delay of a long-awaited bypass in Carmarthenshire, which now won't get built for another five years at least.
Councillors clashed over more recent hold-ups to the £51 million Llandeilo project during a full council debate.
Last month it emerged the bypass for the A483, which runs through the centre of the town, will not begin until 2025 at the earliest. It was meant to get under way in 2019.
Plaid Cymru councillors accused the Welsh Labour Government of reneging on the scheme and letting Llandeilo residents down again.
Labour councillors said the party remained committed to the bypass, and was offering short and medium-term solutions to alleviate traffic congestion and air pollution in the town.
The lively exchanges followed a notice of motion by Independent Llandeilo councillor Edward Thomas, which criticised the 2025 delay and "failure to produce evidence to support this decision".
Cllr Thomas said the bypass proposal had been "on the go" since 1938.
"Unfortunately Mr Hitler decided to divert us from that task," he said.
Cllr Thomas said the bypass proposal was now in its fourth or fifth incarnation.
Referring to a Welsh Government letter last month saying the project would be delayed to 2025, he said: "It struck me and many constituents that have to live with the traffic and the pollution that this was a way for the Welsh Government to renege on the deal."
He said proposed short and medium-term solutions included traffic lights, road diversions, extra parking spaces and couriers delivering to a central location.
But he said extra parking spaces weren't available, temporary traffic lights installed recently had caused "traffic mayhem", and that road diversions would impact on neighbouring wards.
"The only plan which would work for Llandeilo is a bypass," he said.
He also suggested that £1 million had been spent on consultations, and wondered how much the remaining £50 million would be worth in five years' time.
Cllr Emlyn Dole, Leader of the Plaid-Independent administration, said: "What an absolutely deplorable state of affairs. A promise made, an agreement supposedly delivered, and a financial sum supposedly set aside."
So many people, he said, would lose out.
Opposition Labour leader Cllr Rob James said the Welsh Government remained committed to the project.
"The Covid pandemic has an impact on capital projects across Wales, and unfortunately the Llandeilo bypass is not immune from the current climate," he said.
Cllr James said it was "extremely disappointing" that Plaid was "seeking to play party politics with this very important issue".
He said Cllr Dole's comments were a "direct attack" on the Welsh Government's pandemic response.
He added that an exhibition about proposals to reduce congestion and air pollution in Llandeilo was scheduled to take place this month and that the project team was also trying to contact stakeholders remotely.
Labour councillor Kevin Madge said he sympathised with Llandeilo residents, but added: "We are not in normal times."
And he asked the administration if its own capital programme was safe given financial pressures coming down the line.
Plaid councillor Carl Harris said a pledge had been made in 2013 by former Labour minister Edwina Hart to start the Llandeilo bypass in 2016.
Cllr Harris said the subsequent agreement reached between Plaid and Labour at a national level to deliver the bypass "was the exact opposite of party politics".
Residents, he said, were fed up with being let down.
The motion was approved, and will now be referred to the Welsh Government.
Before the vote was taken, Cllr Thomas said he had no criticism of ministers' response to Covid-19.
"This is not party politics," he said. "I'm an Independent and I'm only looking after my ward and the citizens of Llandeilo."