Gwynedd Council has now registered a planning application for a bypass round Llanbedr with the Snowdonia National Park Authority (SNPA). The application does not call it a bypass, although that is obviously what it is, but clings to the illusion that it is merely improved access to the airfield.
Some people may have received the usual type of planning notification letter dated 27th July 2017 telling them that they have 21 days within which to ‘make representations’ to the SNPA. Others may have seen an announcement in the Cambrian News on 3rd August saying that they have 21 days for representations from that date too.
Many people may wonder why notification of a planning application for a major infrastructure project like this, which will transform Llanbedr, was not sent to everyone household and business in the community.
There may be others who are under the impression that they have already objected to the bypass. If you submitted a comment when you saw posters in the village during May (it was not called a bypass then either of course) that was not part of the planning process. It was a pre-planning consultation that the developers had a statutory obligation to carry out. The public’s representations were subsequently discarded and will not be seen by the planning authority. No one was told this so far as Protect Llanbedr can find out.
The SNPA’s planning website shows that Gwynedd Council’s application comprises no fewer than 136 documents, some of them running to scores — or in one case hundreds — of pages. Much of the content, particularly that dealing with road safety, economic impact, environmental impact, and flood risk is complex and highly technical.
At least two requests have been made to the SNPA for a substantial extension of the consultation period, one by a watchdog organisation that is well equipped to asses the application and the other by a councillor. Both have now been told that representations must be submitted by 1st September. This is clearly unacceptable for the following reasons:
- This is a major infrastructure project that will have a transformative impact on the community of Llanbedr and on its surroundings. People’s homes and the livelihoods of those who own or work in established businesses in the village will inevitably be affected, not only by traffic being diverted away from a thriving village community, that still has pubs and shops, but by the prospect of increased traffic noise, increased risk of serious road traffic accidents, environmental impact, and flood risk.
- Even reading the full planning application will be a major and daunting task for those who will be affected, which is likely to require any layperson to either seek professional advice or ask questions of the planning authority and the developers. Such a process cannot, and should not, be undertaken without due time being allowed.
- This is the height of the tourist season when business people in this area are least likely to be able devote sufficient time and attention to the task. It is also the height of the holiday season when many people are likely to be away from home and not even be aware of what is going on until the there is insufficient time to put together adequate representations.
- The obstacle that this situation presents for those who wish to get expert guidance or representation before submitting comments to the SNPA is considerable and quite unjustifiable
If local democracy is to have any real meaning in this case, surely due time must be available for people who will be affected by the proposed bypass to assess the planning documents and, where necessary, access the information and advice that will allow them to present appropriate representations to the planing committee when the time comes for a decision. Even if, in due course, the SNPA considers that the predicted benefits of a bypass outweigh the downside that such a development will undoubtedly have, surely those who live and work in the village, and think otherwise, are entitled to a fair opportunity to have their objections heard, and sufficient time to make their case.
A deadline of the end of October should be set so that the period when comments will be accepted does not entirely coincide with the time of year when people have least time to devote to the matter. A bypass at Llanbedr has been under discussion since the early 1950s. Why this indecent need for haste?