Planners knock back sea defence plan over impact on Welsh beach scattered with Ice Age clues
Gareth Williams, local democracy reporter
Plans that would result in heavy plant machinery travelling along a historic beach known for its Ice Age features have been knocked back by councillors on Anglesey.
Meeting on Wednesday, Planning Committee members rejected the locally contested plans to shore up sea defences along part of the Menai Strait which protects a private property near Penmon, on the eastern tip of Môn.
According to the owner of Cerrig, the work is necessary in order to replace the existing sea defence which was said to be in “poor” condition.
But aspects of the proposals had ruffled feathers locally, with all three local county councillors raising objections over plans to use a public car park as the works compound which would mean heavy machinery would need to travel back and forth along Traeth Lleiniog.
The beach has long been known as an area of interest for geologists, archaeologists and historians due to the presence of glacial-age rocks and boulders said to offer vital information on how glaciers behaved.
Anglesey Council was criticised after some of the boulders were said to have been moved during flood relief work in 2018, with locals claiming that post-glacial peat beds were ruined by the bulldozers.
But determined to stop any such scenes being repeated at the designated area of Special Scientific Interest, committee members went against the advice of planning officers and rejected the plans.
“If this work were to be permitted, people would be left in amazement how it was ever given planning permission,” said Cllr Carwyn Jones, one of the members representing the Seiriol ward.
Fellow ward member, Cllr Gary Pritchard, added that the issue had resulted in the most correspondence he had received since being elected.
“Allowing such heavy plant to be dragged along such a significantly historical beach would create real concern locally,” he went on to say.
“How do you restore boulders resulting from a process dating back 15,000 years? This is one of the most historically significant sites of its kind in Europe.
“I don’t feel that what’s being proposed is acceptable at all, barely three years on from what happened in 2018 and I urge you to refuse today.”
According to professional planning officers, on balance it was felt that the proposals were acceptable with Natural Resources Wales offering no opposition when approached as part of the consultation process.
With the existing plinth at the base of the sea wall currently protected by “rock armour” at a low level located on its seaward side, the work to protect the 2018-rebuilt property is proposed to involve removing this during the construction works to allow repair of the concrete plinth, then replacing it in a similar position once completed.
The officers report stated it was not possible to locate the compound within the curtilage of Cerrig due to the difference in levels between the property and the foreshore.
Forcing such action, they said, would be “logistically difficult and dangerous to the health and safety of workers and members the public.”
The applicant’s supporting statement added that damage to the existing defences was reported following storms in 2018 and that it was recommended that the wall is underpinned and repaired or else erosion of the foundation will result in eventual collapse.
But Cllr Alun Roberts, who also spoke against, noted it would not to possible to reverse any damage caused during the process.
With some members deciding to abstain due to the lack of information provided, the decision to go against the advice of officers will mean that the proposals will be presented once again during October’s planning committee meeting following a month’s ‘cooling off’ period.
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Good call by the three local councillors, the stretch of foreshore at that location is of high geological signifigance and also from a historical and Archaeological importance to Welsh history,
Given that modern thinking on ‘sea defense’ is mainly ‘managed retreat’ it was an unfortunate choice to rebuild a property where erosion was inevitable.
Whenever the existing sea defence was put in place it would appear it “nicked” part of the beach resulting in it being more exposed to damage and additional rock armour being required. Bad decision making compounded by further bad decision making by building a new house without renewing the sea defence first and putting the house close to the seaward side of the plot. With sea levels guaranteed to rise this century it will only delay the inevitable.