Snowdonia Society Campaigns
(JCBs busy on the lower slopes of Cwm Glas, October 2014)
Over the years we have run many campaigns on different aspects of the National Park. Trustees of the Society spend time examining significant planning applications in the National Park and the Society also contributes to policy consultations in a wide range of public policy areas.
We have been involved in transport issues, on the undergrounding of power cables and wildlife issues such as the future of the ponies on the Carneddau.
If there are issues you feel strongly about, or if you are aware of planning applications on which you think the Society should be campaigning, please contact the Snowdonia Society office on 01286 685498 or firstname.lastname@example.org
An eagle-eyed member spotted a planning notice for a hydro-power application on the Nant Gwryd, near Pen y Gwryd. He phoned the Society and alerted us just in time to read the documents, evaluate the impacts, and submit a robust letter of objection. The scheme would cause considerable damage to an unspoilt place at the foot of the Glyderau. It would also impact on wetland habitats and a rare plant - Marsh Clubmoss - at one of its last known sites in Wales. The application has now been withdrawn but may be resubmitted soon.
The JCBs are busy on the lower slopes of Cwm Glas, the most dramatic mountain landscape south the Scottish Highlands. A hydro-electric scheme is under construction and the pipeline is laid out ready for the diggers. The Snowdonia Society is concerned by the sheer numbers of applications for such schemes; there have been about 80 in the last couple of years, compared with half a dozen in the Peak District for example. At this rate we may end up without a single upland river or substantial stream naturally left to flow naturally. We need renewable energy, but not at any price.
Snowdonia Society has just hosted a meeting with local people campaigning for better bus services in the Llanberis area. A petition has highlighted the impact of bus service cuts on school children, college students, employees and small businesses. The petition and support from local politicians has recently led to some services being reinstated. The Society is getting involved to broaden the campaign. We want to see services connect the National Park’s major destinations through the valleys and villages to the railheads and centres of population. So many families, walkers, visitors and the small businesses who serve them would benefit from joined up services.
Summer 2014 - National Parks Matter
The Society is one of the founding members of the new Alliance for National Parks Cymru. The Alliance’s mission is to:
- conserve, protect, enhance & celebrate the three National Parks and other Protected Landscapes of Wales
- ensure that the National parks and other Protected Landscapes can be enjoyed by all, both now and in the future, whether they be living in them, working in them or just visiting
The Alliance has produced a document which is being used as part of high-level advocacy work to ensure that decision makers grasp the importance of these precious landscapes:
The campaign will continue to grow and to raise awareness at all levels of the challenges our Welsh National Parks face from changes to legislation and the restructuring of public service delivery.
See National Parks Matter for latest updates.
Large scale developments and industrial windfarm proposals
We continue to keep a watchful eye on large scale developments and are concerned about the number of major windfarm proposals on the edges of the Park, some as close as three miles away. These applications could become blots on the landscape for many years to come and along with other organisations we continue to voice our objections. Whilst we are supportive of renewable energy we do not believe industrial scale developments should take place in or close to the Park. One particular proposal we are keeping an eye on is for a windfarm with maybe 15 x 120m high turbines above Blaenau Ffestiniog; it is the most central point of Snowdonia.
Wyddfa Lân: Snowdon Tidy
Litter on Snowdon is a perennial problem and we have teamed up with some like-minded parties to form an initiative called Wyddfa Lân: Snowdon Tidy. The ambition is to create a change in behaviour to reduce the litter being dropped as opposed to always having to pick it up. During the summer and autumn we have conducted three litter picks to quantify the problem, identify hotspots and the most common items of litter. We have also conducted four days of surveys in which 160 walkers have been interviewed. Based on the results we will be recommending actions for the future. On a positive note we have been told by people doing the 3 Peaks Challenge that Snowdon is the tidiest despite having three times the traffic of Ben Nevis.
Reversing the decline of our native honeybees
Our bees in the hives at Tŷ Hyll produced a modest amount of honey over the summer but our major success has been the successful mating of a virgin queen. A virgin is delivered from the National Beekeeping Centre for Wales in a mini hive with a cup full of nurse bees and some food. The hope is that she will fly up and mate with our drones and in September we found eggs and larvae proving that she had successfully mated. She will be used to re-queen an existing colony. Next year we hope to produce about fifty mated queens and bearing in mind that a mated queen goes on to produce about a million bees that will go some way towards reversing the decline of our native honeybees.
CAMPAIGNS April 2013
Members views taken on board
Following feedback in the last magazine and at the AGM, we would like our members to feel that they can contact us about policy issues and their views will be taken on board, and also to feel that they can ask for advice in responding to planning applications and consultations themselves. It is not practical for us to poll members with regard to every response we make; not least due to the prohibitive cost of mail outs (we do not have email addresses for many of our nearly 1600 members). However, we do encourage people to let us know about planning applications or issues they support or object to and these views will always be taken into account when the Trustees on the policy sub-committee come to a decision. The Society's criteria for responding to consultations and applications remains whether or not the outcome could have an adverse impact on the special qualities of the National Park, or if it would set an important precedent for the future.
Glyn Rhonwy Pump Storage Scheme
We are aware that the planning process is not always transparent and that it can be difficult for members of the public to find all the relevant information. For this reason, following an application in late 2012 for a pump storage power generation scheme at Glyn Rhonwy, near Llanberis, on the edge of Snowdonia, we sent out an e-newsletter summarising the relevant facts, pointing out where people could find out more and encouraging them to submit their own response. The Society's stand was that while we did not object to the principles behind the scheme, in particular because of the potential for employment, we felt that more information was required from the applicant with regard to mitigation measures to be taken to protect Llyn Padarn SSSI and the character of the landscape as viewed from Snowdon and other key vantage points. Importantly, we highlighted the need to take into account the power transmission options when deciding whether to award planning consent, as it would be a disaster for pylons to blight the iconic view of Snowdon from Llyn Padarn.
New power lines
A further late 2012 consultation related to the National Grid's North Wales Connection, the power transmission routes for the future from the new Wylfa power station and from large wind farms off the coast of Anglesey. While we were pleased that the National Grid's preferred options did not include any new pylons inside the Park and that the crossing of the Glaslyn estuary would remain underground, we were dismayed that other areas of the route impacting on Snowdonia would not be underground, including the Dwyryd estuary. We have supported local individuals and other organisations in calling for the whole route from Wylfa to north west England to be under the sea, obviating the need for any more pylons. (Unfortunately, this did not feature as one of the Grid’s preferred options).
Harlech Castle visitor centre and litter on Snowdon
In early 2013 we expect an application for a new visitor centre at Harlech Castle submitted by Cadw which will improve the interpretation of the area's cultural heritage. Given its sensitive design and potential to bring more visitors and employment to the town, we hope to be able to support this. We will also be working further with the National Park Authority and Snowdon Mountain Railway on a campaign to reduce the amount of litter on Snowdon and to encourage a 'leave no trace' mentality. This work was initiated by our Conservation Snowdonia project staff following our 2012 Snowdon litter pick.
On a national level, the three Welsh National Park societies are now better placed to respond to the challenges facing the environmental sector and protected landscapes in Wales, thanks to the establishment of CNP Cymru. This is a branch of the Campaign for National Parks[Note for translator: Ymgyrch y Parciau Cenedlaethol], a longstanding UK umbrella group representing all those with an interest in the sector. The three Wales Park Societies have formed a closer alliance and intend to meet regularly and submit joint responses to relevant issues.
If you would like to become more involved in our policy and campaigns work as a trustee or as a volunteer, please contact Snowdonia Society Chair, David Archer, via the office.
CAMPAIGNS October 2012
The Snowdonia Society continues to campaign for appropriate development in the National Park. Since 2009 we have raised concerns about proposals for the former military airfield at Llanbedr, and in 2012 objected to a planning application for the site on the basis that there had been no environmental impact assessment of the controversial proposal for the site to become a recycling facility for large aeroplanes, and insufficient information had been provided about various issues including the number of aircraft movements and the potential for employment opportunities for local residents. Unfortunately planning permission has since been granted and we must now await further developments.
Applications for renewable energy schemes and associated infrastructure also continue to present challenges to the planning authorities. While we have objected to certain inappropriate windfarm developments on the fringes of the National Park, we are supportive of a new exemplar hydropower scheme under development at Plas Tan y Bwlch and the work that the National Trust is carrying out to develop community renewable energy schemes around the Park. We hope that in future our communities will become more sustainable and energy efficient, while also preserving the aesthetic and heritage that it so important to the region.
A big achievement for the Society in summer 2012 has been the successful piloting of a new programme of volunteering work at our unique property Ty Hyll right in the centre of the National Park. For the last three months we have run a series of volunteer conservation work days focusing on opportunities for disadvantaged and unemployed volunteers, including those seeking experience to take into employment, young people on community payback schemes with the probation service and individuals recovering from addiction. We have been delighted by the enthusiasm and commitment shown by the volunteers, who in turn have relished the opportunity to spend time in such a lovely location developing skills which will benefit them into the future.
More so than ever before, as a small charity with limited resources we continue to rely on the support and involvement of our committed members and volunteers to ensure we can continue to protect and enhance the National Park long into the future.
Despite the multitude of activities occupying staff and Trustees, including conservation volunteering, a wide variety of events within the Park and exciting developments at Tŷ Hyll, the Society has not forgotten its core values and continues to campaign to protect the National Park while supporting appropriate development.
We are pleased to note that, as we had advocated, Snowdonia National Park Authority has produced a draft Recreation Strategy structured around various themes: protecting special qualities and tranquility; climate change; sense of place; access for all; appropriate infrastructure; health and well being; delivering economic benefit; partnership working; and integration and quality. While the principles behind the strategy are welcome, the Society is concerned that the current draft may not be sufficient to encourage development of outdoor activities and recreation in ways that will boost the local economy without damaging the special qualities of Eryri. Following the consultation period (due to begin shortly), a great deal of work will be required to ensure this is an effective long-term strategy for the Park.
Also welcome is the Park Authority's intention to produce supplementary planning guidance on renewable energy to help future decision making. While the Society supports the development of small-scale renewable energy schemes, we must remain vigilant about landscape and environmental impacts.
Supplementary planning guidance on ‘-Landscapes of Eryri' to support the Eryri Local Development Plan has been drafted and published for consultation. The Society has identified serious shortcomings in this and suggested ways of remedying them. We look forward to seeing the final document, which has the potential to protect and enhance the landscapes of Snowdonia now and in the future.
The Society has long taken an interest in proposals for the former Llanbedr airfield. A certificate of lawful use was granted by Snowdonia National Park Authority in July 2011 for use of the site for research and development into unmanned aerial vehicles. In a recent development the Welsh Government has signified its intention to proceed with leasing the site to Kemble Air Services, as originally proposed. However, Kemble have still failed to give any information about their plans for the site (including the number of jobs that will be created for local people), nor at the time of writing have they taken any steps to make the buildings on the site available for local businesses.
St David's Hotel, Harlech
Also in the Ardudwy area, the Society regrets that there has been no progress towards construction of the new St David's Hotel in Harlech, which we expect to be a considerable boost to the local economy. The current building is derelict and a major eyesore.
Loss of ancient oak woodland
Finally, despite the Society's considerable efforts, the Minister has refused to consider an alternative line for part of the A470 road improvement between Cross Foxes and Gelligemlyn south of Dolgellau. This would have significantly reduced the loss of ancient oak woodland. In January 2012 we received notice that the scheme was to proceed despite objections from the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales, Campaign for National Parks, North Wales Wildlife Trust, the Woodland Trust and Plantlife, as well as the Society and a number of individuals.
Monitoring future proposals
The Policy Sub-Committee will continue to monitor proposals from the National Park Authority and Welsh Government, especially planning policy reviews taking place at national level and consultation on a new National Parks Policy Statement expected later this year. We await consultation on the options for power transmission from the proposed new nuclear power station at Wylfa on Anglesey. Members can be assured that we will do all we can to promote options which will not impact on the spectacular landscapes of the National Park.
April 2012 update
PROPOSED TRAWSFYNYDD LOCAL ENTERPRISE ZONE
Snowdonia National Park contains the most inspiring and exciting landscape in Wales. The attraction this provides for 6 million visitors a year brings an estimated £60 million annually to Wales, and there is the potential to increase that amount considerably. At the moment, however, that is not sufficient to prevent Meirionnydd, which includes the greater part of the National Park, having the lowest average earnings in the UK. There is also the prospect of a major loss of employment and income when the first phase of decommissioning Trawsfynydd Nuclear Power Station is completed in 2016.
Cymdeithas Eryri Snowdonia Society therefore welcomes the interest the government is now taking in measures to increase economic activity in Meirionnydd, in particular by examining the possibility of designating the Trawsfynydd site as a local enterprise zone. If this makes available enhanced capital allowances and relief from business rates it could, in combination with the site’s inherent advantages, give a considerable boost to the local economy. We welcome the emphasis that has been placed on attracting firms in the digital, data, renewable energy and low carbon industries. We also welcome the suggestion that the disused railway line from Blaenau Ffestiniog should be reopened, not only as facilitating industrial development but as a significant step towards creating a sustainable transport system in Snowdonia.
One exciting initiative has already been taken by setting up the Snowdonia Data Park website. It is clear from this, and from other publicity already given to the proposed enterprise zone, that one of the major attractions for companies considering setting up operations at Trawsfynydd will be its location in the Snowdonia National Park. It will be vital, therefore, that future development of the site proceeds in a way which does not damage the special qualities that have led to designation of the area as a National Park or threaten its continued international recognition as a protected landscape, or threaten the tourism which is the area’s major industry.
The proposal put to the Welsh Government in December by Gwynedd County Council on behalf of the Trawsfynydd Transition Oversight Board did not incorporate a Local Development Order or equivalent to remove planning controls at the site. It acknowledged the important role of the local planning authority (the Snowdonia National Park Authority), and proposed a flexible and appropriate procedure in the form of preparation of a planning brief. Cymdeithas Eryri Snowdonia Society has sought confirmation from the Welsh Government that it supports that approach and recognises how important it will be, in view of the particular sensitivity of this site, that there should be public consultation about the contents of the planning brief.