THE Welsh Government has rejected Conwy County Borough Council (CCBC)’s proposal for funding to see sand returned to North Shore beach.
According to a report published by CCBC, the Welsh Government’s Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management branch (FCERM), stated that the return of sand to North Shore “does not appear to provide any additional flood risk management benefits”.
Instead, the Welsh Government appear to be encouraging CCBC to scrap the proposal and move forward with a plan to include the raising of the sea wall and adaption of existing structures.
Though, this would not see sand returned to the foreshore.
The CCBC Scrutiny Committee meeting was held on August 17 to consider the recommendations in relation to the Llandudno sea defences.
The report and Outline Business Case (OBC) will now be considered by CCBC’s cabinet on Tuesday, September 13.
The OBC also states that, other than ceasing maintenance and beach monitoring or continuing with “business as usual”, the following three options were shortlisted for North Shore:
• “Do Something 1”: Beach nourishment (at the western end, replacing part of the cobble beach with sand) with shore-connected structures, such as fishtail or timber groynes, and raising the rear wall in order to minimise risk of flooding from overtopping.
• “Do Something 2”: Beach nourishment alone.
• “Do Something 3”: Business as usual with the raising of the rear promenade wall before year 50.
For all three of the above, ad-hoc repairs to existing defences were also included.
Similar developments are also in the works for Llandudno’s West Shore.
The OBC later stated that the preferred option for North Shore is “Do Something 3”, due to having the best benefit-cost ratio and meeting all critical success factors.
Janet Finch-Saunders, Aberconwy MS, expressed her sadness at the news.
She said: “I am deeply disappointed with the response from the Welsh Government.
“The option most widely supported by residents, visitors, business owners and the previous local authority administration is to see the sand that has been covered by thousands of tonnes of quarry stone restored.
“It is clear that, once again, the Welsh Labour Government, in Cardiff Bay, is failing the people of Aberconwy and North Wales.
“They have simply chosen to ignore the need of our tourism sector here.
“Llandudno is, without doubt, the queen of the Welsh resorts, and our local tourist and hospitality industry is an essential part of the local economy, providing thousands of jobs across North Wales.
“It is shambolic that we have a fabulous promenade, however much of the beach cannot be accessed by children, the elderly and the disabled because of these huge rocks.
“I will be challenging the Welsh Government on its recent decision, and I will continue to work with all interested parties to see a programme of works rolled out to restore Llandudno’s North Shore sandy beach.”
A Full Business Case (FBC), which will set out the economic, procurement and management arrangements, will next being prepared for the schemes at North and West Shore, which is expected to benefit 5,307 properties.
A public consultation will take place later this year, with the OBC stating that, throughout previous consultation exercises with Llandudno residents and the Llandudno Coastal Forum (LCF), “there was overwhelming support for the installation of a sand beach supported by timber groynes”.
Nigel Treacy, LCF chair, added: “Following eight years of work by the LCF, including four public consultations and nine cabinet and scrutiny meetings, the OBC for both North and West Shore was presented to Welsh Government for consideration in 2021.
“The preferred option was that the large rocks are removed from North Shore and a sand option is promoted.
“Last week, we received extremely disappointing news that Welsh Government would not be supporting that initiative.
“Forum members have now requested that senior officers, tourism leaders and assembly members lobby the Welsh Government to reconsider their recommendation and, in addition, work together to explore funding options.”
Welsh Government funding is being applied for through this OBC for 100 per cent funding of the design and development costs (£510,000) and 75 per cent of the scheme construction costs (£860,000).
Ian Turner, formerly of Llandudno Town Council and Restore Our Beach, a pressure group urging CCBC to remove the stones and rocks from the site, said: “This news is a huge blow in our fight to restore the beach, but I have to say it doesn’t surprise me.
“I can’t help but think that there never really was any serious intentions to remove the oversized and untested quarry rocks off the beach.
“I find it strange that the same council can keep finding multi-millions of pounds for Colwyn Bay beach, when the funding principles are just the same.
“I think the public have been sold down the river, big-time.
“I would be interested to know how the Welsh Government arrived at their decision, and on whose advice it was based upon.
“It will interesting to see if the Welsh Government fund the West Shore cost element within the figure quoted.”
By the 1990s, the defences at North Shore were in poor condition, and significant flood damage to them had occurred from storms.
A scheme to repair them comprised of the implementation of a gravel cobble beach in front of the hard defences, repair works to the existing defences, reconstruction of the promenade with the addition of a flood wall, and rebuilding of the dwarf wall over the frontage to the west.
It is currently protected by primarily hard defences with the natural gravel upper beach, supplemented by artificial recharge, which protects the stepped sea wall and promenade behind.
Cllr Frank Bradfield (Craig-y-Don ward), who is also on the LCF, said: “We have a sea defence, but it does nothing for Llandudno tourism or retail by way of generating wealth, and lets children and families down as far as enjoying beach facilities are concerned.
“Cllr Chris Hughes quite rightly spoke about the crowds of visitors that were on Colwyn Bay beach, whereas along the coast at the queen of Welsh resorts, one of the top holiday destinations in the UK and top in Wales visitors had to put their deckchairs on stones, which was not always the case.
“When one asks a child to draw a holiday picture, you can bet there will be a curved line with waves and sand, perhaps a seagull, yacht, sun and a café.
“It must be such a disappointment to visit the North Shore and find rocks which are difficult for some to walk on.
“Thank goodness for the paddling pool, but that is in need of modernising, as well.
“People blame the Welsh Government when, really, the neglect of the North Shore beach and its groynes happened long before the stones.”
Tom Ellis, who runs his family’s boat business at North Shore, said he feared he may have lost work had sand returned to the beach to the extent that had been proposed.
He feared that jetties such as the two he owns may have been displaced by developments, but acknowledged that improvements to North Shore are much-needed.
Tom said: “We were a little relieved that the initial proposals weren’t going to go ahead, in all honesty. They wanted to flood so much sand that we wouldn’t have been able to continue working there at all.
“On the flipside, I do think something needs to be done with North Shore. It’s getting neglected – the railings are in a poor state, the benches are looking dilapidated. I think it could do with a sprucing-up.
“There are other options for flood defences which were outlined in the initial proposals, which I think they could look into further.
“One was to raise the back wall on the promenade – there’s no reason why they can’t put a seat top on that wall, as they have done in other areas.
“We do need to tidy up North Shore – they could extend our section of sand from Kiddies Corner, up to the bandstand, instead of going slightly over the top and doing the full length of the prom.
“Because there isn’t so much sand in Llandudno, people are telling us they’re sitting on Colwyn Bay beach in the day, and then coming to Llandudno in the evening.
“So, we do want more sand on North Shore, and more areas for people to sit and children to play, but I think to do it to that extent – the full length of the prom, extending out 800m from the prom – is a bit too much.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We are providing record levels of investment across Wales to help protect communities at risk of flooding and coastal erosion.
“CCBC is responsible for identifying flood and coastal erosion risk at Llandudno and for bringing forward funding proposals for us to consider.
“We note that the CCBC Scrutiny Committee approved the ‘non-sand’ option as the preferred proposal and acknowledge that CCBC wishes to explore alternative funding to secure potential tourism and economic benefits.
“We will continue to work with the local authority to help ensure that a cost-effective and sustainable scheme can be brought forward to protect Llandudno from potential sea level rise impacts.
“We look forward to receiving the full detailed design funding application and supporting CCBC in meeting its Climate Emergency Declaration and Well-being of Future Generations Act commitments.”
The OBC is available to view from page 153 onwards at: modgoveng.conwy.gov.uk/documents/g8586/Public%20reports%20pack%20Tuesday%2008-Jun-2021%2014.00%20Cabinet.pdf?T=10.
Last week’s CCBC meeting regarding North Shore can also be watched at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJEHntZA3AA (from 1:02:20 onwards).