Council set to oppose plans for new national park in north-east Wales
Elgan Hearn, local democracy reporter
Plans to create a new national park in north-east Wales faces opposition from one of the local authorities which would fall within its boundaries.
The Welsh Government has asked Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to investigate setting up a national park based around the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Parts of Denbighshire, Flintshire, and Wrexham council’s as well as Powys would be in the park.
However, councillors in Powys have backed a Plaid Cymru motion opposing the creation of the new national park.
An “engagement” exercise took place in October and November which included public meetings held in in Llanfyllin, Ruthin and Llangollen and a number of online sessions, with the process currently in the “gathering evidence” stage.
In 2024 it is expected that the proposals and boundary would be firmed up ahead of possible implementation by 2026.
Plaid Cymru group leader, Cllr Elwyn Vaughan says that creating another authority would put further pressure on dwindling public finances.
He also drew from his own experience of living in Penrhyndeudraeth which is in the Eryri (Snowdonia) National Park, at the meeting to discuss the motion last week.
Cllr Vaughan said: “The existence of a national park status makes no difference to biodiversity.
“Some think it would be an opportunity to stop pylons – yet when I lived in Penrhyndeudraeth I could see nine pylons from the front of the house coming from the direction of Trawsfynydd nuclear power station.
“Some think It can help sort out transport problems. Well, try telling that to the residents of Llanbedr, Llanberis, Beddgelert and Nant Ffrancon.
“What it will do is cost about £4 million a year at a time when Powys needs to save £40 million over the next three year.”
He claimed house prices would rise by 25 per cent and make things “even worse” for young people looking to get on the property ladder.
Cllr Vaughan added: “Setting up a new authority is not sustainable when we are likely to see other authorities go into the wall.”
Plaid Cymru’s Cllr Bryn Davies, who seconded the motion, said that there was a feeling amongst residents that the national park is being imposed on them and is “not for the people of this area.”
Liberal Democrat cabinet member for learning, Cllr Pete Roberts asked: “Do we really want to abdicate our planning to a committee of members nominated by (Welsh Government) minister or represent an area miles away?”
The town of Llanfyllin could become the “southern gateway” to the new national park.
Conservative Cllr Pete Lewis who represents the market town said: “It could be beneficial; every business needs more footfall, so the businesses are very supportive in Llanfyllin although I’m very concerned about the rural area.
“We have to look at both sides.”
Liberal Democrat Cllr Gareth Ratcliffe, who served as chairman of Bannau Brycheiniog National Park, said that the authority had seen a 37 per cent real term cut in funding since 2010.
“Our levy and grant was £5.8 million then, it’s under £5.2 million now,” he said.
“I’m in favour of the principle but first of all the Welsh Government needs to support the national parks that are already here.
“We are struggling and the work to deliver services is becoming more and more stretched.
“Extra tourism does impact on the area. This is not a cheap process to set up operate and run.”
Liberal Democrat cabinet member for a safer Powys, Cllr Richard Church had attended a couple of the online meetings organised by Natural Resources Wales.
Cllr Church said: “There was a complete failure to explain to people what the benefits of the creation national park are and that is a major problem.”
A vote was held, and 34 councillors voted in favour of the motion, four were against and 16 abstained.
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