Llandudno will not be getting its sandy beach ‘any time very soon’ says council boss

A COUNCIL chief executive warned members “we will not be putting sand on the beach any time very soon” after a cabinet backed Llandudno’s new sea defence scheme.

Iwan Davies, CEO of Conwy county council, made the comment after the entire cabinet seemed to welcome plans to reintroduce sand to the seaside town’s North Shore beach.

The scheme, which will cost around £24m according to private consultants, would see cobbles removed from the beach area and sand and wooden groynes reintroduced to break up waves as a flood defence.

It has been difficult to find anyone outside of the county council’s environment, roads and facilities department who agreed with the strategy of piling rocks on the beach as a flood defence more than seven years ago.

After years of wrangling, proposals came before the authority’s economy and place scrutiny committee last week which outlined two proposals.

One was to keep the cobbles and build a higher sea wall, the other to reintroduce sand and use wooden groynes, with the latter overwhelmingly the preferred choice.

The decision was ratified by the council’s cabinet on Tuesday but not before Mr Davies had sounded a note of caution.

He said: “I might come across as a sandy beach grinch – I’m very happy to accept and understand the members’ desire for this to happen but we need to remember the funding for this scheme has not been secured.

“We will not be putting sand on the beach any time very soon because we need to develop the plan but also find that very significant amount of money.

“There’s a lot of work, persuasion, to be done before we go putting sand on the beach, which I agree would be a fabulous thing for Llandudno.”

The big obstacle now is to produce plans and a business case so Conwy county council can bid for a chunk of the £150m Coastal Risk Management Programme funding on offer from Welsh Government.

It’s estimated the council’s portion of the final bill for the work will be around £3.6m.

The proposals would also see beach management measures adopted on the town’s West Shore beach.

Responding to the idea putting sand back on the beach would help tourism, Cllr Julie Fallon (Deganwy ward) said: “It’s a no-brainer for me that it’s going to improve tourism.

“Over all the many consultations over the years I don’t think there’s been a person who has objected to this has there really?

“I look forward to when I can sit on the beach with my kids and think ‘we helped to make this happen’.”

Before the matter went to cabinet, last week, Conwy County Borough Council’s Economy and Place Overview and Scrutiny Committee Cabinet considered a report presenting two very different options regarding the management of the Llandudno’s rising seas.

One – the preferred option – was to continue with the status quo of a cobble bank but increase the height of the promenade wall at a total cost of £6.7m.

Members, however, opted for the second and more expensive option – ‘the sand option’: to remove the cobbles, replace sand and manage erosion by the use of timber groynes at a cost of £24m.

The council can apply to access a share of £150m on offer from Welsh Government as part of its Coastal Risk Management Programme.

Owen Conry, flood risk and infrastructure manager, said at the meeting on June 1: “When we started out on the journey a number of years ago we had Welsh Government guidance in relation to sea level rise and climate change which mentioned sea level rise of 700 millimetres. The latest guidance published in April talks about climate sea level rise of 890 millimetres to 1.2 metres along the Conwy coastline. So this is what we are trying to do, we are trying to improve our coastal defences and in line with Welsh Government guidance.

“However, bearing in mind where we are, and this location Llandudno, we would be foolish to plough on without considering the wider benefits, which are also a requirement of any Welsh Government scheme, to improve the coastal defences, we also need to take into significant account the amenity aspect of any improvements that we make.”

Councillor Philip Evans said: “A lot of people blame our officers for the stones on the North shore. That is not directly true because I believe an incorrect decision was made in 1993. I remember that myself and then councillor Ian Turner and myself argued long and hard in favour of the groyne option which is referred to as the sand option in this report.

“There was serious undermining of the promenade in 1937 but a distinguished civil engineer.

“He drew up quite a detailed report on the North Shore on Llandudno as his strong recommendation at that time was in fact to install groynes, to use the sand as a buff. And now although councillor Turner as he was and I argued long and hard, unfortunately our view didn’t carry much weight with the consultants and the officers of the council at the time and thus the members. As we were told it wasn’t environmentally friendly to use the hard wood on groynes and there was the cost of it, and we are probably in that same situation today. However, if my forebears in local government had been wise enough to spend money from the revenue account on maintaining those groynes, we certainly wouldn’t be in the position today where to be frank – there is a great deal of flack coming from the public and visitors about these stones on the North Shore.

“I’m not going to go all over that argument again, but suffice to say chairman in the long term, cllr Turner and I were proved right and the experts were wrong.”

Cllr Ian Jenkins said: “What is important here is that we ensure the residents of Llandudno are able to sleep soundly and safely in their beds whenever there are big storms. That is the most essential aspects.

“How pretty the seaside is important of course, but it is people’s quality of life that is the most important thing and when we decide what option to go for, bear in mind the residents of Llandudno most of all.”

Councillors voted almost unanimously to support the ‘sand option’; 13 voted in favour. Cllr Evans abstained.

A proposal, to tie in with option two, was put forward by cllr Chris Hughes for some work to be “urgently” carried out to work on demonstrating the added value and the benefits it will bring so the council can justify the argument of the sand option to the Welsh Government. This was seconded by Joan Vaughan.

The decision, to dump thousands of tons of stones on the sand at at North Shore, in a bid to mitigate rising tides, was first made in 2014.

Since then a coastal forum, including councillors, council officers and interested members of the public, has been prevaricating over what to do next, as a response to the rise in sea levels over the next 100 years.

Janet Finch-Saunders, MS for Aberconwy, said: “I would like to thank everyone who has been campaigning to see the return of sand to North shore. So many of us have been working on this for years.

“Many will remember the public meeting that was held in Venue Cymru consisting of around 850 concerned residents.  It was clear then as it is today that sand must be returned to North shore.

“Llandudno is the Queen of Welsh resorts but her crown has been tarnished since the dumping of quarry stones on our beach.

“There is no greater time for us to continue to cooperate as a community to see the beach restored, and made safe for all.”

North Wales Pioneer | Llandudno