WELSH Water has been told to rethink its plans to host parties and other events at its giant Llandegfedd Reservoir near Pontypool.
Monmouthshire council’s planning committee voted to reject a recommendation from the authority’s planning officers that two separate applications by the firm, asking it be allowed to hold events and functions at the reservoir’s visitor centre and at its water sports facility, and extend their opening hours, be approved.
It had wanted to extend the opening hours of both centres, so they could operate from 6am to midnight. Both facilities are currently required to close at 9pm.
Live music would have also been limited to indoor events, and outdoor events would have to finish by 5pm and wouldn’t be permitted from November to the end of February to limit the impact on winter birds. Both centres would have been limited to 12 events each a year.
But, although the authority’s ecology officer and Natural Resources Wales had supported the conditions, the committee said it still had concerns over the impact of the proposals on wildlife and the reservoir’s status as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), the highest form of environmental protection.
Among the groups to object to the applications were the Gwent Wildlife Trust, the Gwent Ornithological Society, Torfaen Friends of the Earth, the Usk Civic Society and the Coed y Paen residents association.
A number of community councils from the area surrounding the reservoir, which is on the border of Monmouthshire and Torfaen, also objected, as did the ecology officer for Torfaen Borough Council, who raised concerns that water sports events and weather meant the results of the over wintering birds survey report were limited.
The officer stated: “I am concerned that the Wintering Bird Survey lacks the scientific rigor necessary to adequately inform a planning proposal on or adjacent to a SSSI and therefore doesn’t meet the requirements of PPW (Planning Policy Wales) regarding the protection of a nationally important site.”
At a meeting of Monmouthshire County Council’s Planning Committee, councillors spoke against the applications.
Conservative councillor for Mitchell Troy and Trellech, Jayne McKenna, said she was conscious of the number of objections received.
“Put simply my gut instinct tells me so many people can’t be wrong,” she said. “The site is an SSSI and we can’t ignore the impact it could have on and birds and otters.”
She also said a decsion shouldn’t be “rushed”, with new advice on enhanced protections for SSSIs expected from the Welsh Government.
Fellow Conservative Maureen Powell said: “Places of this ilk are getting less and less throughout the country and soon we won’t have any perfectly beautiful quiet places.”
She added: “Once the birds have gone from there you won’t get them back again.”
Dwr Cymru Welsh Water’s planning agent Dylan Green said it had worked with Monmouthshire council to address the concerns about the impact on the protected site, which included conditions on the use of both centres and said the principle of their use had already been agreed and established.
The planning committee voted to reject the planning officer’s recommendations to approve the applications and a further report setting out reasons for refusal will be brought before the next committee meeting, while officers will also meet with Welsh Water so it can address the concerns.
The committee also cited the impact of the increased use of both centres on the narrow road network around the reservoir as a reason for refusal.