Decision Time for Bypass?

The Sun Sets on Llanbedr

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 Continue reading “Decision Time for Bypass?”

Bypass Planning Application

 

The Snowdonia National Park Authority has now sent out letters notifying interested parties that Gwynedd Council has applied for planning permission to build a bypass at Llanbedr. There is a deadline of 21 days from 27th July 2017 to submit objections. The full application documents are available for inspection at their Penrhyndeudraeth offices during normal working hours, and also on-line at authority’s website at: www.snowdonia-npa.gov.uk

During the nearly four years during which this scheme has been in preparation,  neither Gwynedd Council or Llanbedr Community Council have dared refer to it as a bypass, nor have either of these supposedly democratic bodies taken any steps to ensure that the community is generally aware of the downside of such a development as well as any benefits it may possibly offer. That is the reason why Protect Llanbedr exists.

If you would like to consider Gwynedd Council’s proposals in a more detail than the politicians Continue reading “Bypass Planning Application”

An Alternative to the Bypass

Introduction

Most of the businesses in the Llanbedr village say they rely for most of their income on tourists and much of that from either passing trade or from those who see what the village has to offer as they pass through and return later – if only we had some decent parking for them! You only have to see how quiet it is in the Winter to realise this. Quite understandably most of the businesses do not wish to speak out as they believe that they would receive a lot of ill-will from some in the community.

What about us having pavements on the road and traffic calming so we can all walk to the village feeling safer but still allowing the businesses to survive?

There is an alternative to a Llanbedr bypass.

  • These proposals will cost a small fraction of the £14.3 million bypass.
  • They will achieve all of Gwynedd Council’s stated transport objectives (see below)
  • They score highly against the Welsh Government’s Impact Area criteria (see below)
  • They will be less damaging to the environment.
  • They will not damage the views from the village.
  • They will not increase the background noise in the village.
  • They will not increase the flood risk in the village.
  • They do not compromise the Shoreline Management Plan.
  • They will support the businesses on the main road that depend on passing trade for their survival.
  • They will ensure that pedestrians feel safe on the road.
  • They will protect existing footpaths.
  • They will not harm the setting of the Meini Hirion standing stones.
  • They will ensure that we do not suffer from the sort of junctions that made the Dolgellau bypass a death trap.
  • They will curtail speeding and make it safer for vehicles to join the main road.
  • They will provide proper parking for visitors who wish to enjoy the village and its hinterland.
  • They will improve the traffic flow especially at the Mochras Road junction.
  • They will provide improved access to the airfield should development occur there.

No-one is suggesting that these proposals will be easy to achieve, but the end result has to be worth the effort. If necessary, they can be introduced in stages to spread the cost.

If there had been proper consultation from the outset these proposals could have been independently assessed and the taxpayer could have saved the £1 million already spent. Continue reading “An Alternative to the Bypass”

The shape of things to come?

Here is a nice photo of Llanbedr on a fine summer day. It graces the front page of Gwynedd Council’s Environmental Statement, which it has prepared to support it’s plans to build a bypass round the village. This wonderful document is all about what a jolly good care your council is taking of your surroundings. It runs to over 500 pages.

The photograph is taken from the middle of the field to the west of Maes Artro, looking north across Mochras Road, the bend in the river beside the riverside car park and picnic area, and along the line of the proposed bypass to the houses beside the main road at the north end of the village. It shows the attractive and tranquil countryside that Llanbedr is set in.

And now here is a graphic taken from Gwynedd Council’s ‘Fly Through’ video simulation of what their lovely new bypass will look like if they get to build it. This shows exactly the same location as it will be if a bypass is built, with the bend in the river and the car park, but from a slightly different angle,.

Although the video attempts to disguise the new bridge as much as possible by using some convenient placed trees to screen it, just look at the height of the bridge as represented in the ‘Fly Through’ image and then the size of the car that is approaching it. Clearly the height of the bridge where it crosses Mochras Road is not represented accurately in the video. No commercial vehicle could possibly pass under it, and even a car might be in danger of scraping its roof.

With that in mind, it’s worth taking another look at the first picture. Bear in mind what the bridge looks like, and then consider the environmental impact on the village, and the whole area around it, if a new road very similar to the Porthmadog Bypass is constructed on embankments at Llanbedr.

Bypass Cost Escalating

Data obtained from the Welsh Government under the Freedom of Information Act seems to show that the cost of a bypass has escalated rapidly even before the scheme has got off the drawing board.

A spend profile dated September 2016 estimates total expenditure to complete the project by quarter 2 of 2020 as £10,190,000.00.

Just four months later, another spend profile dated January 2017 shows expenditure to completion in quarter 2 of 2021 as £14,390,000.00.

That is an increase of £4,200,000.00, or over 40%.

The spend profiles can be found here, and it is worth noting that neither of them appear to include the half million pounds of funding allocated by the Welsh Government to kick-start the scheme prior to April 2016.

Among correspondence that was disclosed by Cardiff at the same time is this rather cryptic suggestion:

“Gc’s other option if WEFO doesn’t stack up is to include this scheme etc within the North Wales Growth deal bid to UK Gov.”

Translated, this apparently means that in order to obtain funding, Gwynedd Council is advised to apply to the UK Government if even the Welsh European Funding Office is reluctant to waste money on this inappropriate and unnecessary project. But wouldn’t it to be fascinating to know what ‘etc’ stands for in this context.

 

 

 

Development? What development

An eagle-eyed reader of Protect Llanbedr noticed this on page 107 of the Environmental Statement Gwynedd Council has made available as part of their so-called consultation about the Llanbedr bypass scheme.

5.3.27

The Economic impact assessment undertaken on this development suggests that the main impacts would be in the development of RPAS [Remotely Piloted Air System – aka drones] activities at the airfield. At the same time, improved road access is also considered to consolidate the employment in the airfield rather than induce huge increases. MRO [maintenance repair and overhaul] activity identified would be reliant in part on the development of the RPAS activities. Further development of the Business park is thought to be likely, although not a significant area of immediate growth.

 

5.3.28

In line with this, no specific physical development ofthe airfield site is currently planned or anticipated on a significant scale in the near future, with the economic model being based on the growth in industry primarily utilising existing infrastructure.

A 4 9 6 L l a n b e d r A c c e s s I m p r o v e m e n t: VOLUME 1: ENVIRONMENTAL STATEMENT

 

Now at the moment, ‘economic activity’ at the airfield seems only to be employing about 7 people full time (see here and here) in face of claims from the operators, Continue reading “Development? What development”

From Community Council Minutes 1

Isn’t the custom of publishing minutes of meetings a really wonderful thing? It means that if you didn’t happen to be at a meeting, or can’t remember much about it, or think that someone else’s version of events might be a bit highly flavoured, you can grab the minutes and find out exactly what went on.

 

Of course minutes don’t have to describe everything that happens at a meeting. Do we really need to know at what point in a particularly impassioned appeal for peace, universal love, and harmony the chairman choked on his dentures, or why an elderly council member left so suddenly when the name of a certain young lady was mentioned by his aunt’s second cousin’s nephew (once removed) in connection with a controversial planning application for a new erection at Menhir Fawr? But of course proper minutes will aways describe the business under discussion in an accessible way, and keep those who were not fortunate enough to be present fully informed.

This is particularly important where a community council is concerned. After all Welsh Government guidelines require that councillors take steps to acquaint themselves with all shades of option in the community they represent, even those they may disagree with. They are also supposed to ensure that everyone’s views get a fair hearing, and obviously everyone should be able to find out if they are doing that. Continue reading “From Community Council Minutes 1”

Bypass consultation NOT!

As previously mentioned here, Gwynedd Council claims that they are carrying out a public consultation about their plans for a bypass. This is a statutory requirement prior to making a planning application for a major project and for the first time all the relevant documents are available for inspection, but only on the internet.


The question is whether this is a consultation at all. To begin with, Gwynedd Council refer to their project as the ‘A496 Llanbedr Access Improvement Scheme’, which does not describe the proposal accurately. The plan is, and always has been, to build a bypass. Far from improving access to Llanbedr with all that it has to offer, this will divert traffic away from the village. It cannot possibly be described as improving access to Llanbedr, and how can you claim that you are undertaking a consultation when you don’t even describe what you are doing properly?

But that’s not all. Surely for a consultation to be anything more than a sham, you have to make sure that the people who will be affected by the proposed scheme know that there is a consultation taking place, so that they can make any representations they wish? In this case that would be every one who lives in the Llanbedr Community Council area as a bare minimum. Continue reading “Bypass consultation NOT!”

Bypass FAQs

(This is quite a long read, but if you are willing to consider a well written and researched case against building a bypass,  then you will find it worthwhile. The author refutes many of the partisan claims made by  Gwynedd Council and also by Llanbedr Community Council, a body intended to represent all shades of opinion in the community fairly.)

Q1:           Isn’t a bypass necessary for development at the airfield?

A1:               Absolutely not.

The Economic Impact Report commissioned by Gwynedd Council from Wavehill Consultants of Aberaeron gives three scenarios for development at the airfield.

  1. Development to continue as it has done for the last 5 years since the enterprise zone was established.
  2. Research and development into unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) for which planning permission already exists
  3. Development of a spaceport.

The Report concludesthis study has found that the direct economic impact of proposed roadworks in and around Llanbedr to improve access to the nearby airfield as a stand-alone intervention is limited.” It also concludes that a spaceport would not be viable without road access improvements but other developments at the airfield could happen without the improvements.

However even a spaceport does not require a bypass. A simple access road from the A496 between Llanbedr and Dyffryn Ardudwy will provide a more secure and safer access to the airfield which would avoid heavy vehicles having to turn into Mochras Road.

Together with improvements to parking in the village, the provision of a footbridge and walkways and other traffic measures this would solve allof the named issues. However despite looking at a total of 23 of their own “options”, this option was not even considered by Gwynedd Council despite it being pointed out to them on many occasions. Continue reading “Bypass FAQs”

New bypass “consultation”?

Gwynedd Council consultants YCG have announced that they need to consult local residents about what they refer to as the ‘Llanbedr Access Improvement Scheme’.

Never mind that YGC just cannot bear to use the term ‘bypass’.

Never mind that everyone knows that it is a bypass, and was always going to be a bypass.

Never mind that the plans have long since been finalised and it’s a bit late for consultation.

Never mind that the time to ask people if they want a bypass is when the scheme was being planned, not after it’s been finalised.

Never mind that at the planning stage YGC didn’t tell anyone that it was going to be a bypass.

Never mind that a bypass cannot accurately be described as the ‘Llanbedr Access Improvement Scheme’, because a bypass will take people away from Llanbedr, not improve access to the community and its businesses.

Anyway, a bit late in the day perhaps, YGC say that they want your views before a planning application is made to the Snowdonia National Park Authority (SNPA). Continue reading “New bypass “consultation”?”

Pennies from Cardiff

According to a BBC news story, the Wales Audit Office has rapped the Welsh Government’s knuckles for being just a bit too casual about public funds made available to the company behind the proposed Circuit of Wales motorcycle race track project at Ebbw Vale.

As much as £9.3m seems to have vanished like snow in August without much by way of due diligence on the part of Ken Skates’ Economy and Infrastructure ministry. He’s the cheerful chappy who echoed his predecessor Edwina Hart’s refusal to confirm that Gwynedd Council had complied with Welsh Government guidelines on consultation while planning the Llanbedr bypass.

Given that according to the Beeb, the Welsh Government’s only response to what appears to be a very detailed and utterly damning report by the Auditor is to say that it is “disappointed”,  one might wonder what hope there is for proper oversight of developments at Llanbedr.

Read all about it here:

Circuit of Wales: ‘Flawed’ decisions on public funding

Afterthought: The Auditor may be on the case this time, but two letters to his office asking if he can legitimately sign off government expenditure on the Llanbedr bypass when Gwynedd Council’s consultants have failed to comply with Ken Skates own departments guidelines on public consultation have been ignored. And those guidelines are supposed to apply to  all transport projects promoted or funded by WAG.

Maybe the auditor prefers to wait until money has been misspent before he acts.

Shhh! Don’t mention the ‘b’ word!

Our county councillor Mrs Annwen Hughes —who actually lives in Talsarnau  not Llanbedr although she is quick to point out that she was born and bred at Crafnant Farm, in Cwm Bychan — posted her manifesto for the local government elections on the village noticeboard, but she seems to have been too modest to mention a certain little word beginning with ‘b’.

 

Although we learn that she will work tirelessly our behalf to ‘ensure educational success and experiences’ at the school, to see that investment at the air field benefits local people and businesses, and  promote the ‘economical benefit’ of tourism — whatever that might be —in this beautiful  area,  there is no mention of her enthusiasm for the Llanbedr bypass and, presumably, the UK Spaceport project that it is window dressing for.

Now some people may wonder quite how a bypass which will deprive local businesses of vital passing trade and help touists to speed through ‘this beautiful area’ without stopping will help with these issues. In fact it’s all rather strange  in view of some of the things that she has said and done in the past. Continue reading “Shhh! Don’t mention the ‘b’ word!”