If you have been watching the Llanbedr Bypass planning application page on the Snowdonia National Park Authority (SNPA) web site very carefully, you just might have noticed that the 136 documents listed there when Gwynedd Council’s application was registered a couple of weeks ago has now swollen to one-hundred-and -forty. Among the new arrivals is Llanbedr Community Council’s comments on the bypass, which are of course, likely to influence the final decision. Community council comments can be pretty important on these occasions.
Now one might have expected that our council would have posted a copy of this rather important document on their web site. After all they do have a page misleadingly called ‘New Road’ when everyone knows that what they are really talking about is actually a bypass that will change Llanbedr forever, but they dare not say so. If they had done that, everyone would be able to see what is being said on their behalf without rummaging through 140 documents on an obscure website.
A community council is required to represent all shades of opinion in the area they cover. So many people might be rather surprised that such a document has been drawn up and submitted to the planners without a series of public meetings to establish what people think. That would also have been a useful exercise because the council would have been able to benefit from the varied views, experience, and expertise in the community which extends beyond that of the elected members. Or perhaps it might have been a good idea to publish the comment on the website in draft form before it was sent to the planners, just to see what people thought of it and whether it could be improved.
In fact a request for a public meeting before the council’s comments were sent to the planners was made by a householder who is concerned about the bypass. This was refused: something else that people might find very, very strange.
So it is rather sad that, as Llanbedr Community Council is too shy to publish its own submission on this very important matter, Protect Llanbedr will be the first to make it easily available to anyone who is interested:
(The council’s English translation is available at the end of the document)
Undoubtedly a lot of the issues that the council have chosen to bring to the attention of the planners are well chosen and important for the continuing safety and well-being of the community, but unfortunately the document they have submitted has two fatal flaws.
Firstly, although it is good to see that the community council has recognised the very real road safety problems that a new bypass will cause, and has set them out in their comments at some length, it has not made their support for the scheme conditional on the developers addressing these issues before any work starts. Therefor it is very unlikely that what they say will have any influence at all.
Secondly, there is no real recognition by the community council of the impact that the inevitable loss of passing trade if traffic bypasses Llanbedr will have on the two pubs, the shop, the café/deli, the bicycle hire, the hairdressers and any other businesses that rely on people passing through the village. Nor is there any recognition that it is these businesses that give the place a focal point and make it a proper community rather than a dormitory village. The council has quite rightly expressed a desire to ‘safeguard’ businesses and have a ‘lively lived in Village, prosperous, [and] an area for growth and an area to invest in,’ but it is not clear from the submission what a bypass will do to help achieve this.
All over the country rural businesses are struggling, and in most places local councils are striving to assist them in order to retain healthy communities. They are the main places where residents meet each other and interact to be bound into a community. Why is Llanbedr different?
According to the guidelines that are intended to regulate the way in which local government representatives behave, community councils have one overriding purpose: to make sure that all strands of opinion are represented in local government decision making. Council’s are not supposed to be gatherings of wise men and women who think they are uniquely qualified to decide what is best for their community. They are not in charge of anything. They are supposed to be the servants of the community who consult widely on important and controversial matters and then make sure that all strands of opinion are represented in any decision, even if it is not always possible to satisfy everyone.
So the most astonishing thing about this document is the absence of any reference to public opinion in the village, either for or against the bypass. But of course the council has made no effort at all to find out what people think other than one meeting in July 2015 when the vast majority of those present were heavily against a bypass, but by then of course it was already too late to change the plans that Gwynedd Council had finalised.