Planning committee refuses application for £70m holiday park outside Caernarfon
Gareth Williams, local democracy reporter
A bid to build a £70 million holiday park on the site of a derelict factory have been turned down by councillors.
Maybrook Investments had proposed to transform the former Ferodo site on the outskirts of Caernarfon into a holiday village and 3,000 square metre waterpark including restaurants, ten pin bowling, spa and on-site shops.
Following the statutory consultation there were several concerns raised over the application, among them being the visual impact on the local Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Welsh language, claiming that developers had not presented enough information to disprove such fears.
The former car parts factory has lain empty since 2008 despite once employing over 1,500 workers and being known as one of the longest-running industrial disputes in Wales.
But despite sympathising with the need to develop the long derelict site and agreeing with the need for new jobs, Monday’s Gwynedd Council planning committee meeting saw councillors side with officers who had recommended refusal on the basis of 13 separate planning concerns.
As well as 173 holiday lodges and another 51 new build holiday flats, the application also included the restoration of neighbouring Plas Brereton into four holiday units with another 18 holiday lodges built nearby, saving the historic mansion after falling into disrepair.
One councillor urged planning committee members to consider the employment benefits, however, with developers promising 80 holiday park jobs as well as three companies already expressing interest in the proposed commercial units, which would generate another 200.
Noting that people in the Caernarfon area were “desperate for work” and describing a lack of opportunities, Cllr Dilwyn Lloyd went on to say, “If we refuse applications like this we’re doing the people a disservice and the council should be ashamed.”
Adding “there was nothing uglier than the Ferodo building as it stands,” he also pointed out that the developers were planning to spend £5m alone on removing the asbestos and clearing the site of contamination.
The authority’s own economic unit had welcomed aspects of the application, but many others stated reservations and outright opposition, with a consistent thread being a lack of detail in the plans provided.
But while accepting the economic benefits Cllr Huw Wyn Jones agreed with local councillors Ioan Thomas and Gareth Griffith that the application was “deficient in every way,” stating that 13 separate planning reasons to refuse was “very telling.”
Cllr Steve Churchman stressed a need to “send a clear message” that Gwynedd wasn’t opposed to development, but that this “flawed application was not the right proposal in its current form.”
Members were told that refusing the application would allow the applicants to submit another application down the line – after Cllr Edgar Wyn Owen said the developers should “spend more time talking to planning officers than the newspapers.”
Earlier in the meeting, agent Rhys Davies of Cadnant Planning said: “MP Hywel Williams said that the fact that Ferodo was still empty since 2008 was an insult to those workers that led a long and heroic battle for their working rights, with the site rotting and going to waste.
“Such an opportunity, as is being presented by Maybrook, doesn’t come along often and offers a chance to clean up and develop the site without costing the taxpayer a penny.”
He pointed out that the same applicant had developed the former Gelert site in Porthmadog into a home for companies such as Babi Pur, creating 100 jobs.
‘Lack of jobs’
Cllr Louise Hughes said she would “love” a £70m investment in the Tywyn area, noting that the biggest impact on the Welsh language was a lack of jobs.
“Maybe the application needs tweaking but we need to send out a positive message,” she added.
But a bid by Cllr Owain Williams to delay a decision to allow further talks with the developers, fearing “the closing of the door on such a significant investment,” was tied at six votes apiece before falling on the casting vote of the committee’s chair, Cllr Eric Merfyn Jones.
The follow-up vote to go with the recommendation of the officers and refuse the application was backed by eight votes to three with one abstention.
Councillors in favour of application: Cllr Louise Hughes, Cllr Dilwyn Lloyd, Cllr Owain Williams.
Councillors against application: Cllr Steve Churchman, Cllr Elwyn Edwards, Cllr Eric Merfyn Jones, Cllr Gareth Morris Jones, Cllr Huw Wyn Jones, Cllr Edgar Wyn Owen, Cllr Gareth Anthony Roberts, Cllr Eirwyn Williams.
Abstentions: Cllr Anne Lloyd Jones.
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