Opinion

We should tackle over-tourism rather than get angry about cancelled new roads

04 Nov 2021 5 minutes Read
Traffic in rural north-west Wales.

Huw Prys Jones

For any government who may wish to cancel a spending commitment on environmental grounds, it’s clear that COP26 offers an ideal opportunity to do so.

One does not have to be unduly cynical to see the timing of the announcement to scrap the Llanbedr bypass project in Gwynedd in that light.

This, however, does not mean that the Welsh Government’s decision was wrong. They were right to put the brake on new road projects, and it is difficult to see how Llanbedr, which after all is not on a key transport artery, deserved to be treated differently.

The predictable reaction from local politicians has been one of anger and disappointment – and this is understandable to an extent. They obviously wish to absolve themselves from any blame for failure to deliver such a project. And they would be entirely justified to demand that any money saved must be spent on sustainable travel in rural Gwynedd, rather than Cardiff, for example.

However, before they throw accusations of ‘betrayal’ on the Welsh Government, they really need to be taking a closer look at decisions that are taken much closer to home.

Massive expansion

Not far, as the crow flies, from Llanbedr is Hafan y Môr holiday park on the southern coast of the Llŷn peninsula, where permission was granted this week for a massive expansion. It will bring the total number of caravans there, in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and one of vital significance to the future of the Welsh language, to 1,300.

Whilst there is wailing and gnashing of teeth at summer gridlock problems in Llanbedr, no-one seems to bat an eyelid when the seeds of future traffic jams are sown a little further afield.

It is high time that we take a more holistic and sustainable approach to traffic problems in rural areas. And look beyond the condition of our roads as the only cause of the gridlock.

Over the past few months, much of rural Wales has experienced a summer of hell, with local communities blighted by so-called ‘staycations’. (It remains a mystery to me how can any self-respecting Welsh person tolerate the term ‘staycation’ in the context of tourists from England holidaying in Wales – but that is another question.)

As it happens, the Meirionnydd coast is a stark example of the damage such excessive development can do to the fabric of our local communities, and of course, to the quality of life of those who live there.

If we want to restore peace and calm to our rural villages, we really must be looking at the root of the problem instead of seeking quick fixes through ever wider roads.

Excessive tourism

Any objective observer will have to admit that excessive tourism was a major problem this year in many parts of Wales, including some of our most cherished and precious areas such as Eryri and Llŷn.

Sooner or later, we will have to grasp the nettle and face up to the fact that the volume of tourists coming here is a direct threat to our environment, our heritage and our communities.

What we need is a sustainable tourist industry that serves our communities instead of one that controls and dominates them – and that must inevitably involve fewer tourists.

For that to happen, that there must be a presumption against any increase in accommodation, or any additional attractions, in sensitive areas if we wish to safeguard their character and distinctiveness for future generations.

Councillors will undoubtedly argue, as they did at Hafan y Môr, that their hands are tied by national policy in many planning decisions. This may be true, but when it came to the issue of Llanbedr bypass, local political leaders did not hold back in their criticism of the Welsh Government.

It would surely be far better if they channelled their energies into challenging the outdated national planning and housing policies that are failing our rural areas so miserably.

Global responsibilities

The COP26 in Glasgow should surely be an inspiration to us all to widen our vision beyond parish pump politics and rise above petty point-scoring between political parties.

It is time to think big – and from a new perspective. It is imperative that we look to long-term solutions rather that politically expedient quick fixes. We must ask ourselves what needs to be done to protect our precious environment, landscape and heritage for future generations – and act accordingly.

This must include urgent and decisive action against excessive tourism – especially in our AONBs, National Parks and any other areas of significance to our heritage.

Responsible global citizenship demands a new approach and new solutions for our rural communities. Anything less would be failing in our duties to future generations – which would be the worst betrayal of all.

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Grayham Jones
1 month ago

No more second homes in wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 take all second homes of incomers and give them to young welsh people who can’t get on the housing market because of incomers and no incomers to vote in wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 stop being little Englanders and be proud to be welsh it’s time for a new wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

Pob lwc
Pob lwc
1 month ago
Reply to  Grayham Jones

Same copy-and-paste nonsense from Grayham as usual.

Alan Whittaker
Alan Whittaker
1 month ago
Reply to  Grayham Jones

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha !!!!!!

Caroline L Royle
Caroline L Royle
29 days ago
Reply to  Grayham Jones

Maybe tell the Welsh to stop buying second houses to rent out … and don’t say they don’t because I know loads people on Anglesey who have them …… little englanders how old are you

Edward Evans
Edward Evans
1 month ago

An excellent article by Huw Prys Jones. I could not agree more. When will we wake up to the harm that continued expansion of the tourist industry is doing to some of the most beautiful areas of Wales, not to speak of its effect on the language..

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
1 month ago
Reply to  Edward Evans

The problem is the cars. Too many of them on the roads.

Wilson Adam
Wilson Adam
1 month ago

Jobs are what’s needed. Unfortunately money talks. If areas are not going to create tourist jobs then they need to be supported in creating other, well paid jobs! The brain drain in Wales is horrendous due to the Welsh governments continual failure to encourage any decent employers setting up anywhere in Wales other than Cardiff! Minimum wage call centre jobs or factory work are not why kids go to University! That will bring about the change and until then locals will continue to get priced out by wealthier tourists!

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
1 month ago

Wales, Scotland and England had just as many visitors in the 1960s and 70s as they do today. The problem is too many of the tourists are now bringing their cars. We need many more tourist buses and better public transport in general to end this congestion caused by too many cars on the road and not enough space for them to which we can never provide and still keep Wales attractive to the tourist. We need to ban the ownership of 2nd homes by people who are live outside Wales, so that young people will be able to secure… Read more »

j humphrys
j humphrys
1 month ago

Dear reader, have a look at how Jersey manages this housing issue.

Alun
Alun
1 month ago

Fully agree with most of your comments. However I’m not sure second homes owned by Welsh people are any better in terms of their effects on the housing market.

j humphrys
j humphrys
1 month ago
Reply to  Alun

If Welsh people could afford them? The aim should be that, when we achieve a desirable level of wealth, the threat to language and culture will recede. The “housing market” is only in crisis because anyone can come to Cymru and buy what they wish. An independent Cymru can put a stop to this on week one.

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
29 days ago
Reply to  j humphrys

JH, is there any reason why the Welsh Government couldn’t start enacting legislation to control the housing market for the benefit of local people, starting tomorrow morning, without waiting for a Yes vote in a future independence referendum? By the time independence comes, it’ll be too late.

HappyHolidays
HappyHolidays
1 month ago

Tourism is not going away. It might be more beneficial to plan for tourism that is sustainable for the environment and the language. 68% of visitors surveyed wanted a distinctively Welsh experience. Over three quarters (78%) of UK day visitors to Wales in 2019 came from Wales. 82% of those used their private transport – who can blame them when the alternative doesn’t really work for them
Of course you may feel it “over-tourism” for the people of Wales to appreciate Wales.

HappyHolidays
HappyHolidays
1 month ago
Reply to  HappyHolidays

Even if I lived in the centre of Denbighit would take 3hrs 51minutes of public transport to get to Yr Ysgwrn – I can get to London quicker.

j humphrys
j humphrys
1 month ago
Reply to  HappyHolidays

But, once you are there, how quick can you get to where you wish to go?

Grayham Jones
1 month ago

No more second homes in wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 take all second homes of them and give them to young welsh people who can’t get on the housing market because of incomers it’s time for a new wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 stop being little Englanders and be proud to be welsh kick all English party’s out of wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

Rhosddu
Rhosddu
29 days ago
Reply to  Grayham Jones

No more second homes, of course, Grayham, but taking people’s holiday homes off them would make locals no better than them. It requires Welsh legislation to put locals first and put a stop to the housing free-for-all that disadvantages them and destroys Welsh culture and language.

I don’t understand why the WG are so lackadaisical about this, unless they all have holiday homes themselves.

Felicity M
Felicity M
24 days ago

It is the economic dependency on tourism in rural Wales that needs to be addressed. Funding new start-ups and technical education could be the way.

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