A U-turn has seen Anglesey Councillors approve the shoring up of sea defences along the Menai Strait despite previously rejecting the proposals amid claims of “environmental vandalism”.
September saw the authority’s planning committee reject plans to replace the existing 90 metre concrete sea defence protecting Cerrig, a 2018-rebuilt private property in Penmon.
Among the chief complaints were the impact on nearby Traeth Lleiniog, with the proposals involving heavy plant machinery travelling along the historic beach packed full of Ice Age clues and a site of interest for geologists across the globe.
But after assurances were provided that any damage could be mitigated, Wednesday saw committee members reverse their earlier decision and go with the advice of officers.
Having gone against the recommendation of the authority’s planning experts, such applications are once again presented for reconsideration the following month after a “cooling off” period.
Some members felt that the authority would struggle to defend refusal if the applicant were to appeal, despite local councillors urging committee members to stick to their guns.
The beach has long been of interest to geologists, archaeologists and historians due to the presence of glacial-age rocks and boulders said to offer vital information on how glaciers behaved.
Anglesey Council was criticised after some of the boulders were said to have been moved during flood relief work in 2018, with locals claiming that post-glacial peat beds were ruined by the bulldozers.
According to the owner of Cerrig, the work is necessary in order to replace the existing sea defence which was said to be in “poor” condition.
But all three local county councillors had raised objections over plans to use a public car park as the works compound which would mean heavy machinery needing to travel back and forth along Traeth Lleiniog.
In an updated report, planning officers obtained assurances from the applicant that measures to control any disturbance to wildlife and ecology would include managing the storage of materials and plant machinery as well as a pollution contingency plan.
Noting that the work would be subject to continuous monitoring, this would be carried out by an on-site ecologist, as well as photographic records and topographical surveys, with the excavators and dumpers to have low ground pressure tracks or floatation tyres to minimise disturbance and restricted to a strip of barren shingle and sand at the top of the beach.
Cllr Alun Roberts, one of the local members for Seiriol, remained critical of the planning officers report and claimed not enough detail had been made available.
Fellow member, Cllr Carwyn Jones, added that allowing the work would change the appearance of the area as well as views onto the island from parts of the mainland, condemning the lack of consultation with the GeoMôn geological group.
“Allowing this would make a mockery of the area of Special Scientific Interest and other designations already awarded, making them worthless.
“This would cause a precedent and just push the problem elsewhere, there are 50 local people living a stone’s throw away.”
But after hearing the officers’ recommendations and updated report, Cllr Ken Hughes said he would be proposing approval after being satisfied it would not cause any long term damage to the beach.
Cllr Robin Williams added his view that any refusal would result in the authority losing any subsequent appeal, with only Cllr Ieuan Williams deciding to vote against the plans.