Future of World Heritage site ‘buffer zone’ called into question over Llangollen Eisteddfod housing development plan
Residents in Llangollen have voiced opposition to plans by organisers of the town’s international Eisteddfod to build houses next to a World Heritage Site.
Llangollen International Music Eisteddfod wants to build seven homes on a car park it owns off Abbey Road, next to its International Eisteddfod site, with space for 21 cars.
The plans, lodged last December and validated by Denbighshire council planners on July 3 this year, would see seven, three-storey houses built land owned by the trustees and used as a disabled car park according to local residents.
The site lies within the designated Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal World Heritage Site buffer zone, in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and opponents claim the exit from the site onto Abbey Road is fraught with traffic risks.
The scheme sits outside the Local Development Plan (LDP) boundary and wasn’t proposed as a candidate site for the upcoming LDP.
It has a 1-in-1000 year (0.1%) annual probability of flooding according to the NRW’s “Flood Map for Planning”.
Chairman of Llangollen’s Civic Society, Mel Lawrence, explained how many residents supported the Eisteddfod but felt this was an inappropriate development.
He said: “When the World Heritage site came into existence we were told development in the buffer zone would be controlled and restricted.
“You cannot get closer to the World Heritage site which is within metres.
“The people who own the land had plenty of notice to put it into the LDP.
“Also exiting onto Abbey Road is difficult. When cars were coming out of the car park they had someone checking it was safe.”
Mr Lawrence claimed if Denbighshire council passed the proposal it could open the floodgates to other developers.
He said: “It they allow this it would have set a precedent and they wouldn’t be able to to use the argument it comes within a buffer zone for the World Heritage site.
“It’s the size of the development , of these three-storey houses, that is the bone of contention with most people.
“I think most people who live close by support the Eisteddfod but this development is totally against what we think of in Llangollen.
“Why didn’t they notify all the community members they intended to develop this land?”
Llangollen Town Council has said it has no objections to the scheme and 14 local residents had opposed the scheme by July 29.
However Natural Resources Wales has “significant concerns with the proposed development as submitted”.
It said the layout of the scheme should be revised because it does not adhere to Denbighshire’s LDP policies of “sustainable development and good standard design or conserving the character of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”.
NRW’s response adds: “We consider the current scheme, if built as proposed, would become a prominent feature of the street scene, rather than being an integrated component along a rural approach to the town.
“Pushing the development further back into the site and reducing its height would allow it to integrate better within its plot, reduce its prominence within street views and bring it more in balance with the prevailing landscape and townscape characteristics within the immediate locality of the site.”
At the time of the application Eisteddfod trustee chair Dr Rhys Davies said although they’d received financial assistance from Welsh Government to cover losses due to this year’s cancelled event, trustees had “recognised the need to raise funds before the current crisis”
He said: “Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod (LIME) has submitted a planning application for a modest residential development on a parcel of land adjoining Abbey Road, Llangollen.
“LIME’s Trustees are applying for planning permission to raise the funds that are needed to create a sustainable future for the event.
“LIME has struggled to retain reserves in very unusual circumstances over the past few years and have to replenish reserves to plan for the future with confidence.
“LIME’s commitment to be a good neighbour in Abbey Road will remain at the heart of our deliberations.
“The parcel of land subject to this application is the only land in LIME’s direct ownership which could be developed.
“Loss of the site will not impinge on our operation of the festival and the scheme has been designed to respect and compliment the area, and to take account of the sensitivity of the site being within the World Heritage Site and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
“We feel that the scheme strikes the right balance between delivering a good outcome for LIME and a beneficial development for the local community.”
Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod has been contacted for further comment.
By Jez Hemming – Local Democracy Reporter
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