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Page last updated January 2nd 2017
The Caernarfonshire Branch covers the districts of Arfon and Dwyfor in the North and West of Gwynedd.
We liaise closely with the Meirionnydd Branch regarding developments in the South of Gwynedd, with the Anglesey Branch particularly regarding the Menai shores, and with the Snowdonia Society in matters relating to the National Park.
The Branch holds formal committee meetings 4-5 times a year and meets regularly for social events. Our active Planning sub-group continuously monitors planning applications with particular reference to Dwyfor.
Branch Events 2017
We are working on a new programme of events for the summer of 2017 with possible days out planned in Bangor, Rhiw, Wylfa, Abergwyngregyn and Brondanw. Watch this space for details. See below for a review of 2016 events. This year we hope to make these events an occasion for gathering money for CPRW itself, as well as giving you an opportunity to contribute to some other worthwhile charities. Consequently, though we are not making a formal charge, we would like members who attend to be prepared to donate generously. We will be using this money to support the work of the central office of CPRW.
Current Branch Interests and Concerns
Joint Local Development Plan
The Branch has been closely following stages in the preparation of the JLDP, covering plans and policies for both Gwynedd and Anglesey until 2026.We made substantial submissions on both the original draft in March 2015
and the ‘focussed changes’ stage in early 2016. In September 2016 we attended a
number of the public hearings in the Inspection Phase. We have focussed on 11 areas of particular concern to Arfon and Dwyfor, including policies for sustainable development, protected landscapes, renewable energy, especially wind and solar, caravan sites, agricultural buildings, affordable housing and second homes, and comments on selected housing sites and development boundaries. We thought the draft JLDP compared unfavorably with the current Gwynedd Plan (GUDP): the number of policies has been more than halved, omitting some and making others much less explicit. Many policies are now subsumed under a catchall ‘Sustainable Development’ strategy, reflecting the Welsh Government’s current unswerving legislative focus. There is much less mention of the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, but an important new emphasis on Special Landscape Areas (SLAs) which in most cases form buffers around the AONBs or Snowdonia National Park.
We now await the Inspectors’ Report due in March 2017 with formal adoption of the Plan to follow in mid-2017, although this timetable could be delayed by a need for a further public consultation on proposed new policies, mainly on renewable energy, announced only during the inspection hearings.
We feel we have been able to influence the framing of some policies at least on the margins, but the general structure and emphasis of the Plan has been driven very much by the Welsh Government. Although formulation of the Plan is in principle a democratic process, the practical scope for influencing policy formulation appears in reality quite small. Many suggested changes in policy are dismissed on the bald grounds of ‘lack of evidence’. The Inspection hearings are essentially a dialogue between the Inspectors, the Welsh Government and the local Planning Policy Unit, while individuals and lobbying organisations find it difficult to get a word in edgeways unless they have the influence, resources and experience of professional organisations or commercial companies, such as Horizon/ Wylfa B.
The Branch supports the development of renewable energy schemes of appropriate scale and technology at sites that minimise impacts on the landscape, including most small scale solar arrays and hydro schemes
We have generally opposed the development of single wind turbines which we think cause significant landscape damage in return for relatively small contributions to renewable energy supplies. We are particularly supportive of the "community" model of development for the "Ynni Anafon" Energy Cyf. hydro scheme in Abergwyngregyn (Conwy) in contrats to the divisive community approach proposed for the refused single wind turbine at Llanaelhaearn. We also look for an acceleration in effective harnessing of the large potential for marine sources of renewable energy around our shores.
Our interest in these themes has been underpinned by a series of day schools on various renewable and energy conservation issues we have held in recent years. See the report of our most recent Day School here
After 5 years of battling against single wind turbines in the Branch area, it is welcome news that there have been no new applications for wind turbines in Gwynedd in the last 12 months. The last one was approved in April 2016. Of some 91 applications, the majority in Dwyfor, 35 have been approved, the rest refused, withdrawn or not taken beyond screening. We were particularly pleased that the appeal for a 200ft turbine at Llanaelhaearn, near the AONB and Tre’r Ceiri, was dismissed. It is now almost 3 years since a 200ft+ turbine was approved on appeal at Bodfel in central Llŷn with no sign of this being built, but the consent lasts till the end of 2018. The proposal for 3x125m turbines at Llechwedd, Blaenau (Meirionnydd) now looks unlikely to go ahead.
It is too soon to say the war has been won, but there are a number of positive changes in policy and attitude which have contributed: the reduction in feed-in tariffs and subsidies has been a major factor, but the planners have also taken a more robust attitude to applications, bolstered in part by landscape sensitivity studies as well as by public hostility and campaigns including, we believe, our own persistent objections, comments and contributions. Further studies for the JLDP have formally confirmed for the whole of Gwynedd: ‘In relation to wind farm development it has been concluded that due to landscape sensitivity and capacity issues no potential opportunity areas should be allocated as areas of search’ , i.e no suitability for clusters or wind farms. In contrast, earlier studies (Arup 2012) had identified 9 potential areas mainly on technical criteria alone.
JLDP policy for wind turbines is generally more restrictive than that under the present GUDP and at last adopts explicit height criteria. A 15m height limit tied to the locally designated Special Landscape Areas (SLAs) would apply in Western Llŷn, but elsewhere it is a more alarming 50m. There is also a lurking worry that the Inspectors may weaken the planned linkage of height limitation to SLAs. Also, on the downside, 15m high turbines would be permitted within the Llŷn AONB for the first time. A rearguard action from the AONB Committee to continue to exclude wind turbines altogether from the AONB and to limit those within its setting to 11m is likely to fall on deaf ears.
Solar PV has taken over from wind as the main focus of renewable energy development locally. However, the flurry of applications for solar farms in 2015 has abated, again mainly because of the sharp reduction in tariff subsidies. There have been 15-20 proposals for medium to large solar farms in Gwynedd mainly in the range of 3-5MW capacity (25-30 acres), many of them in Eifionydd in eastern Llŷn. Of these 9 have gone to full planning application of which 8 have been approved; 5 of these have been completed. These have aroused local public anxiety, but on the whole we have been supportive as most of the sites proposed are naturally well screened in relatively flat terrain and sparsely populated rural areas of generally low farming value, and not readily visible from public roads or high ground.
The Branch contrbuted to the recently released CPRW national guidelines on solar farm issues. We are also pleased to see that there is now to be an explicit solar policy in the JLDP, which we argued for. The JLDP also adopts a more restrictive approach based on new studies of potential areas for solar development which suggests that most further development of solar PV in Gwynedd will be confined to micro-scale schemes (<0.5MW) and commercial roofs, with larger schemes confined to a few areas only where they can be absorbed by the capacity of both the landscape and the local power grid.
The Branch opposes proposals for new overhead high voltage transmission lines affecting the Menai and Snowdonia National Park and its hinterland. We continue to advocate a direct sub-sea link to mainland England to serve Wylfa B and offshore wind farms as a reasonably cost-effective alternative, although National Grid is now ruling this out. Our focus has now turned to how the visual damage of existing and planned overhead lines can be best mitigated through undergrounding of the most sensitive sections, such as under the Menai. Here we welcome firm proposals to place cables in a 4km tunnel under the Strait.
We also support the Glyn Rhonwy pumped storage project above Llanberis. While we understand various local concerns, especially in the construction phase, evidence from the much larger Dinorwic scheme does not suggest a risk of significant lasting landscape impact, especially as there is a commitment to place cables connecting to the grid underground.
We recognise the vital importance of caravans to the visitor economy of Gwynedd, particularly in the Llŷn. Our principal interest is to minimise and reduce their impact on the landscape by avoiding exposed sites, ensuring they are well screened and adopting appropriate conservation colours wherever practicable. We try to monitor most caravan site developments in Dwyfor, including lawful use cases, and make regular representations, especially where proposed extensions provide an opportunity to introduce more effective screening and landscaping.
The number of applications in Gwynedd to do with caravans has been running at about one a week in 2016. The moratorium on new static caravan sites has held up well under the GUDP, but we oppose the loosening of this policy outside designated landscape areas which is proposed in the JLDP. We have supported the 10% limit on extending existing static sites in return for environmental improvements, but again we are worried that the JLDP Inspector seemed to want to weaken this.
We have also been unsuccessful in getting much movement in touring caravan policy. These are now becoming more of a worry and are exerting a greater impact on the landscape, in our view, because of their cumulative impact and the fact that many old sites and not all new sites are well located and screened. Tourers are increasingly becoming de facto seasonal statics, so that their serried ranks of white obtrude for a full 8 months a year. Planners seem to be in denial in repsect of flagrant flouting of rules that require removal of tourers when not in use and a 28 day siting limit. Recently we have been concerned that certified Club sites are becoming larger and turning into fully licensed sites, sometimes retroactively. The JLDP includes new provisions which try to limit the permanent infrastructure such as hook-ups and hardstandings, but we are sceptical whether these can be enforced.
We do not agree with the principle of extending permitted use of static sites to 12 months a year on the grounds that it would be difficult in practice to monitor or enforce genuine holiday use as the planning policy now requires. However, we no longer oppose appropriate individual applications for site use extension, given the now established precedent of many such approvals.
We campaign regularly on visual impact grounds against the proliferation of single static caravans in exposed rural locations and have initiated a number of enforcement cases where legitimate grounds for siting appear to be absent under the presently vague national policy.
The Branch aims to review proposals for most major housing schemes in rural areas and small towns primarily on such criteria as the setting and visual impact of sites, design and appearance of units, extent of local need, provision of an effective affordable housing component, transport and access, and flood risk. We have been systematically reviewing many of the candidate sites proposed for housing in the JLDP, though few have been adopted as more (we think too much) weight is being placed on unspecified windfall and infill sites within existing settlement boundaries .
JLDP hearings brought to the fore the basic quandary affecting local coastal communities where tourism dominates, exemplified by Abersoch, how to balance the increasing dominance of second homes with the need to retain local families though the provision of effectively affordable housing. This is vital to maintain healthy balanced communities. Is it better to confine development within the existing settlement boundaries, depending on infill/windfall sites and local residency provisions or to allow mixed developments on new sites on the edge of existing villages, thus expanding the overally size of the settlement? There is scepticism as to whether sufficient windfall sites can be found, given that most seem to have been already committed, for example in Abersoch, through redevelopment of hotel sites as high value open market apartments and houses. On the other hand, there is no evidence that commercial housing schemes can provide effective affordable solutions without leading to large increases in second home numbers. We doubt whether present proposed measures to limit second homes will be effective (i.e. using local residency section 106 conditions, limiting the physical size permitted for new houses, and a 50% increase in council tax on second homes). Meanwhile, existing second homes are being rebuilt in growing numbers, often on a pretentious scale and rarely in keeping with the character of what is left of the village.
The Branch appreciates the importance of the farm sector in managing the countryside and maintaining vibrant rural communities. We also keep a watchful eye on farm developments which could have an adverse impact on the rural landscape, particularly in respect of:
- The siting and appearance of new barns and other farm buildings
- New farm access tracks
- Removal of hedgerows and wall
We have concerns about a now approved proposal for a 135m long poultry unit in a relatively exposed area of western Llŷn and we have pressed here for effective colouring and sensitive landscaping.
We monitor developments in the county’s small towns which are vital in servicing the rural and visitor economy. We are particularly supportive of recent developments in Pwllheli which are helping to reverse a long period of apparent urban decline, including the Plas Heli sailing and events centre,
conversion of the Old Bon Marché department store to a popular Wetherspoons and
successful conversion of an ugly waterfront building into a widely acclaimed
dance venue. We are concerned that approved proposals to build a much needed hotel in Pwllheli and retirement
homes in both Pwllheli and Cricieth all appear to be at risk.
We are privileged in Caernarfonshire to enjoy a unique and wonderful coastline around both the Llŷn peninsula and the shores of the Menai Straits. We monitor developments which would have an impact on this asset through both planning submissions and branch representation on the Joint Advisory Committee of the Llŷn Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Arfon and Dwyfor Local Access Forum
We are strong supporters of the developing Wales Coastal Path as an incomparable leisure, health and economic amenity for residents and visitors alike. We are very concerned that Gwynedd Council is applying further draconian cuts to the Right of Way section which would mean that the rest of the local footpath network would be virtually abandoned, a bewilderingly short-sighted policy given its vital contribution to health, welbeing and the visitor economy.
Review of 2016 Programme
Every summer the Caernarfonshire Branch organises a monthly series of visits or events which aim to help members to appreciate some of the issues around landscape and building conservation, sustainability or environmental services. Our visits also aim to be enjoyable occasions at which members can get to know each other and to see interesting development in the county.
The season opened this year with a visit to the Moel y Ci Environmental Centre at Tregarth near Bangor. This community farm was started in 2003 when a Penrhyn farm with a long history of traditional management came up for sale. For many years it was run by a local committee but the loss of some important green waste management contracts threatened its viability and it is now run by Cwm Harry, a group from Mid Wales, with greater emphasis on more cost effective farming, but retaining the ethos of community involvement. We met with Adam Kennerley of Cwm Harry who showed us around the central part of the farm, describing his plans for the future and his philosophy of care for the environment. After a very good lunch, much of it grown on the farm, the party went to explore other areas of the farm, including the ruins of the 16th century farmhouse and some round huts from an even earlier period of occupation of this mountain land.
On Friday June 17th Caernarfon members joined 60 other CPRW members at a lunch organised by Conwy Branch to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday. This was held at Llandrillo College and displayed the skills of the students from the Catering Department and also provided welcome funds for CPRW.
In July members visited the newly refurbished Nefyn Maritime Museum where Meinir Pierce Jones described the successful HLF funded project to completely re-design the museum displays and to develop it as a small tourist hub, part of a network of other attractions around the peninsula, ensuring that visitors were aware of how much there was to see in the area. She and her volunteer helpers also organise guided walks and other events through the summer for locals as well as visitors. After lunch at the Nanhoron Arms, members followed the Nefyn Trail around the historic core of this mediaeval Welsh town.
In September there was a visit to the new Dŵr Cymru Water Treatment Plant at Dolbenmaen. This was an impressively protected establishment because of course our water needs to be guarded from any natural contaminants and from any possibility of human sabotage. The carefully screened building complex was of particular interest to members because of its low-level design and green cladding, echoing modern farm barns and successfully blending into the landscape. The process of cleaning, monitoring and distribution was explained in a short lecture and then the party was taken round to see the impressive state-of-the-art facilities in action in each stage of the process. This visit, too, involved a convivial lunch in the Y Sgwar restaurant in Tremadog, after which the party visited the late 18th century Penuel chapel to discuss the future of this historic building with the architect in charge of the HLF bid. It is hoped to bring the building back into public use for meetings and entertainment. CPRW had visited Tremadog several years ago when Frances Voelcker had just completed a restoration and refurbishment project at the parish church and its famous Coad Stone gateway. We visited again to see how that building had fared in its office use by a social enterprise charity. It was clear that the re-organisation had worked well but, sadly, pressure on local finances would mean that the charity would have to give up their lease next year and new tenants would have to be found.
The 2016 Branch AGM was held on October 8th at Plas Heli, the Welsh National Sailing Academy and Events Centre in Pwllheli. This gave members an opportunity to see at first hand this impressive, if controversial, new building and its excellent amenities set on a fine site overlooking Cardigan Bay. Following a well-attended and interesting meeting and a good buffet lunch, Alison Palmer Hargrave, the Gwynedd Officer of the Penllyn a’r Sarnau Special Area of Conservation, gave a most informative talk on marine conservation issues.
In November, the Branch held another of its popular annual Day Schools on renewable energy issues at Electric Mountain, Llanberis. This one, entitled ‘Water Power to the People’, focussed on two local hydroelectric schemes and the ways in which they will benefit their respective communities whilst contributing to the diminution of carbon emissions.
Grants and Awards
In recent years the Branch has given small bursaries to support Bangor University students in Conservation and Land Management complete MSc theses with topics relevant to CPRW interests. In 2014-15 we maintained our link with the University and with Treborth Botanical Gardens by donating a grant for the expenses of external speakers in the new Applied Plant Conservation MSc course.
In August we made a presentation of our 2016 Rural Wales Award to Dylan’s Restaurant in Cricieth (where we held our AGM in 2015). This award to David Evans and Roger Hodgson was in recognition of their restoration of the beach cafe, Morannedd, designed by Clough Williams Ellis in 1952, and of their care for the ecology of the beach on which the building stands, as well as their establishment of a flourishing business bringing life and vibrancy back to this part of Cricieth.
The full citation for this award reads .......
RURAL WALES AWARD 2016 : DYLAN’S RESTAURANT, CRICCIETH
The Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales is delighted to nominate Dylan’s Restaurant Ltd and its directors (David Evans and Robin Hodgson) for the 2016 Rural Wales Award for Caernarfonshire. This is in recognition of the inspired rescue and restoration of Morannedd Café, Y Prom/The Esplanade, Criccieth and the surrounding land and seashore during the last two years. Further, the building is now the base of a most successful local business of considerable economic benefit to the area.
Morannedd is a most interesting building sited at the eastern end of the Criccieth foreshore. It was designed by Clough Williams Ellis in the early 1950s. Its Grade II listing in 1994 describes it as “a rare essay in the international modern style by one of the leading Welsh architects of the C20th.” Its most unusual butterfly shape and large sea-facing windows faithfully reflect the original plan, though other compromises were made to see the building completed. In particular a planned observation tower was not built and the planned grand entrance was simplified.
Morannedd went through a mixed career during the following decades, including ownership by the Lloyd George family and a period as a tea dance venue for those staying at Sir Billy Butlins camp along the shore at PenyChain. From that it slowly declined.
However, in 2014 Dylan’s Restaurant Ltd applied for permission to restore the building in a way sympathetic both to the original plans and to its important shore location on the line of what is now the Wales Coast Path. In particular, the plan included improving the entrance in a way that moved towards Clough’s original plans and work on the seashore and pathway. Given that the building is sited between the main rail line from Pwllheli and a shoreline that is regularly eroded by storms, this was indeed a challenge. It has been met impressively. Those who visit may not be fully aware of the extent to which this work has included sensitive stabilisation of the local path and foreshore, one of the elements that CPRW notes in particular in making this nomination.
Having rescued the building and site, Dylan’s Restaurant Ltd drew on its successful development of its restaurant in Menai Bridge to open the building as a restaurant and café with a bar and with an events wing. This has proved popular and successful since it opened last year both with locals and with visitors. The result is therefore not only an economic success but also an architectural and environmental achievement and, in combination, an outstanding example of the combination of preservation and progress.
In 2015 the Branch gave a Rural Wales Award to Welsh Slate Ltd for their work on restoration of native vegetation on the slate tips of the Penrhyn Quarry at Bethesda (see report in Events).
In 2014 the Branch gave its Rural wales Award to Richard and Iola Wyn Huws for their work in establishing the Pant Du Vineyard in the Nantlle Valley near Penygroes.
In 2013 the Award went to the local arts and cultural centre of Plas Glyn y Weddw in Llanbedrog in recognition of the excellent Winllan development, comprising an open air amphitheatre and the restoration of woodland and paths which have been adopted for the Coastal Path route.
We would like to welcome new members. Please contact the Secretary if you would like more details about Branch activities or the Membership Secretary if you would like to join us in helping to protect local rural landscapes and communities.
We are looking for members for our Branch Committee and for those interested in reviewing planning applications on a regular basis, particularly in