AMID dramatic scenes at County Hall, county planners have thrown out a plan to replace a tennis court in Ammanford Park after a senior councillor tore into a report compiled by officers.
Following a highly-charged debate, members of Carmarthenshire county council's planning committee voted 9-7 to overturn officers' recommendations that the plan put forward by Ammanford Cricket Club be accepted.
The controversial proposal had attracted a 400-name petition from local residents opposed to the loss of one of the four courts donated to the park by Ammanford Miners Welfare in 1947.
Yesterday's vote was a bitter blow to the cricketers who had maintained such practice facilities were essential to their development.
It followed angry claims by Cllr Anthony Jones that his colleagues had not been given "the full picture" by the local authority's officers.
Speaking in his capacity as secretary and trustee of Ammanford Miners Welfare, Cllr Jones said: "Some things have been left out of this report – and that's something we have to take issue with.
"Why did the town council not see fit to forward that petition on to members of the planning committee?
"And why did planning officers not pick up on the fact the town council had objected to this?
"This report before us is inaccurate and factually incomplete – and it saddens me to say it."
Cllr Jones – who had stepped aside as chairman of the committee having declared an interest – then left the chamber during the ensuing debate.
Council officers had argued that the planned move did not constitute a loss of recreational space as one sporting facility would be replaced with another.
But Cllr Jones insisted that the park's tennis courts were used more than its cricket facilities – and all year round. While the location, rather than the proposal itself was the main point of concern, he felt that the 400-name petition – which had not originated from the Welfare – was evidence of the community's wishes.
"Do we expect youngsters to have to walk all the way up to the comprehensive school through the park and across a busy road to play tennis?" he asked.
"This is a big development so how on earth can we say it will not be harmful to the environment?
"We contend that the officers have got it wrong. In these days of austerity how can we justify removing such a facility?"
Richard Evans, treasurer of Ammanford Cricket Club, said members had witnessed the decline in the use of the tennis courts over the past decade.
"We're talking about taking over 25 per cent of a four-court facility which is under-used," he added. "The cricket nets will be extremely well-used."
He added that the £30,000 project would be funded by the England and Wales Cricket Board with 25 per cent coming from the club themselves.
"It will not cost the county council a penny." he said. "In fact it will save the local authority money as we will be responsible for that fixed area."
Mr Evans said that the petition against the move was misleading as it implied all four courts would be replaced.
"If I'd have seen that petition and not known anything about this matter I'd have signed it myself," he said.
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Deian Harries said the committee had "wasted" an opportunity to bring a prime sporting facility to Ammanford.
"The fact of the matter is that there are 14 tennis courts in the area," he said. "There are no cricket nets."