Yurts popping up in area of outstanding natural beauty without planning permission, conservation group claims
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
Yurts and shepherd’s huts are springing up in Gower without planning permission, it has been claimed.
Gordon Howe said conservation group the Gower Society, which he represents, could only pick up a “smattering” of them when it conducted fly-overs of the area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) twice a year.
He said the growth of yurts and the like had accelerated since the coronavirus pandemic, when foreign travel has been limited.
“I must confess there is a lot of new developments below the radar, and the radar is planning,” Mr Howe told a meeting of the Swansea Council-led Gower AONB Partnership Steering Group.
“There is an awful lot of yurts, shepherd’s huts and extensions going on off the radar until you look at Google Earth and then, all of a sudden, it pops up.”
Mr Howe said people could click on some of these developments on Google Earth and details of the business came up.
He claimed such businesses were earning money but not contributing financially.
The council is undertaking a review of Gower’s capacity for camping and caravan sites, which will consider the rise of new types of visitor accommodation.
‘Potential planning breaches’
Council officer Ruth Henderson said people needed to make the authority aware of potential planning breaches so it could investigate, although she said there was a “huge backlog” in enforcement currently.
Mr Howe said the Gower Society wasn’t complaining about all of the developments he referred to.
“We are not having a downer on tourism, in that sense, we just think it’s wrong that people should be able to do what they like and just ignore the system that many of us respect,” he said.
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) officer Hamish Osborn said there was a problem in many places in Gower with the way developments disposed of sewage.
He said this needed to be factored into the planning process.
Ms Henderson said she understood that NRW was a consultee on planning applications.
“We are not consulted on everything,” said Mr Osborn. “Sometimes not all of the comments filter through. I think there is a planning policy that is not always adhered to as strictly as it might be.”
He said there was a drainage concern currently involving a group of cottages and cabins.
The steering group also considered the cumulative impact of mass participation events in the AONB.
Members said more prior notification and a central system of logging such events would be a good idea.
Paul Thornton, of the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, said he only became aware of one such event when he came across a pony munching on one of its wayfaring flags.
Mr Howe said it was a difficult balance as nobody wanted to be accused of denying people the chance to take part in them.
But he added: “There’s far more going on than we realise.”
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If there are real Mongolian nomads living in them leave well alone. However if they are just a bunch of goodlifers who think they can ignore any rules applying to developments of this kind the best option is to move them on and burn the structures.
Cymru is seen as soft.
This should be easy to police if the official will to do so is there, just as it should be easy to legally enforce their removal and to introduce penalties for these unauthorised structures. While they’re at it, they could take a close look at One Planet Development buildings as well.
Temporary structures enjoy pretty broad immunity under planning law, though this varies in national parks, AONBs and conservation zones. So there may be breaches of planning law here or there again there may not be. It is not simple. Enforcement can be very difficult, because first the local planning authority’s enforcement officers have to go through all the procedures, which gives an unscrupulous owner lots of opportunities to muddy the waters, then the local authority’s solicitors have to find time in their timetable to take the case on, which they will only do if they are pretty sure of winning.… Read more »