QC calls controversial £20m Llandudno Pier Pavilion plan ‘unlawful’
Jez Hemming, local democracy reporter
A QC has called amendments passed by councillors to the controversial £20m Llandudno Pier Pavilion site “unlawful” in a tense planning meeting.
Mr Gregory Jones QC, who is being instructed by Llandudno Pier Ltd, made the comments after councillors approved changes to the scheme at Conwy county council’s planning committee on Tuesday.
Applicant Alan Waldron had come back to members to amend the original scheme, approved in 2018.
He wanted to add four more apartments, change access and layout to the building at the Grade-II* listed site on North Parade, amend internal vehicle access and change the “restaurant arrangement”.
The committee heard a noise assessment, looking to see how residents would be affected by sounds from the Pier, had been carried out before Easter, during restrictions on movement, when most of the town was locked down.
An environmental officer said there had only been one complaint about noise from the Pier in the past five years.
Mr Jones QC said committee members had “misunderstood” the complaints about noise.
He said there couldn’t be any complaints because “you haven’t been introducing retirees paying half a million to a million for a flat”.
He asked rhetorically if residents of the new apartments would want to keep their windows closed. “No,” he said, before asking if they were going to “be unhappy”. “Yes,” he said.
The committee voted by 6-0, with four abstentions and three members unable to vote because they arrived late, to approve the amended plans.
Speaking before listed building consent was discussed, Mr Jones QC said: “I’m afraid you have made a legally erroneous decision and you do have the chance to correct it now.
“You, in my respectful view, have made an unlawful decision just now.”
The developer is locked in a dispute over the development with Llandudno Pier Ltd, owned by businessman Adam Williams, who says the new scheme could “force us to move or close kiosks and reduce opening hours” because of noise complaints about his business.
Mr Jones QC said legal advice received by the council on the matter should be made public.
He claimed the applicant had also instructed legal counsel but had only “disclosed conclusions”.
He said: “You members are entitled to ask what is there to hide? If there’s no doubts about the lawfulness of the approach you should be told about it now – and so should the public.
“Members should demand any advice should be made public – that is a real problem.
“Problems are not going to go away for the council if this is granted. It’s quite clear that consented scheme cannot be implemented.
“It’s also clear it’s far beyond what is a minor amendment. It includes significant changes to the consented scheme.
“One of them is an entirely different access, partial demolition of part of a Grade II listed building and your officers are not even clear if that building is part of the Pier, as we say, or part of the Pavilion.”
Officers said this related to a wall at the site which was covered by the original planning permissions and was not deemed significant.
Mr Jones QC said the original scheme had even been objected to by the council’s own tourism and leisure department.
Edward Hiller, managing director of Mostyn Estates, has previously called the apartment building plans “a low grade design that falls so far below what is expected in Llandudno” and a “crass scar on the landscape”.
Mr Waldron, who developed the Deganwy Quay marina, houses and hotel complex, said the scheme will be something Llandudno can be proud of and says it will create 100 permanent jobs and hundreds of construction roles.
The amendment came before committee because there were more than five letters of objection to the proposals.
Objections ranged from the noise which would be generated from the Pier for new residents at the complex, access problems caused along North Parade by the works and the influx of cars from those who will be living in the apartments, a lack of parking for staff at the new site and its restaurant – and changes to the listed wall.
Officers accepted there was a “difficulty” with staff parking and also admitted 12 of the 75 parking spaces planned for the building did not meet space criteria – with the number specified to satisfy demand put at 70 spaces.
Also the council had been informed the landowner of a nearby council car park had decided to terminate the lease to the authority next year, further causing parking problems for staff and customers using the proposed restaurant at the development.
Mr Waldron agreed to pay £20,000 towards the provision of off-site parking and a further £70,000 towards affordable housing provision, as there would be no affordable housing on the site.
The amended plans increased the number of apartments from 50 to 54 and the affordable housing was only being calculated on the extra four dwellings, as the original planning decision made no demand for affordable homes.
Members were advised by the authority’s legal counsel, Freddie Humphreys, officer recommendations to approve the amendments and listed building consent were “legally sound”.