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Fears that Bodlondeb HQ sale could hinder public access to surrounding land

Conwy County Council

A CONCERNED Conwy councillor fears the sale of the council’s Bodlondeb HQ could leave residents without access to the surrounding 60 acres of land, despite assurances from the local authority.

Cllr Sian Grady fears the future sale of the grade-two listed council building could stop dog owners, cyclists, and walkers from enjoying the surrounding paths and walkways.

Cash-strapped Conwy is advertising the council HQ in a bid to make money from the property, in the hope of attracting interest from a hotel or for a similar leisure use.

Conwy is now inviting expressions of interest from developers and occupiers after the authority increased council tax by nearly 10% for the second year running whilst slashing £12m from frontline services, including 5.5% cuts to schools.

Councillors approved the office accommodation strategy part two last year, which would see office-based staff moved to the multi-million-pound Coed Pella office in Colwyn Bay.

According to the National Library of Wales, Bodlondeb was bought by the council through compulsory purchase in 1936, providing public parkland and civic offices.

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But despite cabinet member for sustainable economy Cllr Nigel Smith promising that the surrounding land, including the woods, war memorial, cricket ground, and playground, are not included in the proposals, Cllr Grady says she has serious concerns.

Cllr Grady says any eventual sale or long-term lease could restrict access to the car park, pathways, and land accessing Bodlondeb woods, a popular spot for walkers and sightseers, fearing any sale could threaten the future of the public amenity.

“I have serious concerns that private owners could try and alter the public being there, and I really worry about Armistice Day (at Bodlondeb’s War Memorial),” said Cllr Grady.

“I think the hardest thing is how they (the new owners) react to the public walking around, having access to certain areas, to the woods. I think that is a massive issue. There is a public right of way through part of the land, but when it is a privately-owned company, it is always difficult to know how they are going to react.

“I do worry about that and public access. There are so many people, not just locals, holidaymakers, who take photographs from that area, and we have events on. The land is so important, and the views are amazing, and to lose some of that – we are a World Heritage Site, so to lose anything is going to be damaging to Conwy.”

She added, “The woods are protected, but it is the woods and the path I worry about, basically all the areas around the building. Parking is another thing. If we lose all that parking space, we are going to have real difficulties in the town. We do now.”

Cllr Grady believes the public should have had more say in the matter, claiming much of the talks have been kept behind closed doors.

“When the authority compulsory purchased Bodlondeb, it was to ensure the preservation of the open space for all time, and now this is going against that,” she said.

“I believe the public should have been kept informed all along. I understand there are commercial sensitivities, and some things have to be behind closed doors, but I really believe the public should have been asked or informed from start to finish.”

She added, “I would love a museum to be there. I don’t know if that would be financially viable, but Conwy is crying out for a museum.

The bridges, the castle, the walls, there are so many parts of Conwy that deserve a museum in their own right. To have a large one for it all would be amazing, and it would be a centre hub for the whole of North Wales.”

Earlier this week Cllr Nigel Smith said: “We’re engaging with the market to ensure the most sustainable opportunity is brought to the site and therefore to the town of Conwy.

“We need to test the market to look at all options, but it’s important to note that we’re not seeking any formal bids or proposals at this stage.”

Cllr Smith added: “I’d also like to reassure the local community that the woodland, war memorial, cricket ground, tennis courts, and children’s play area are not included in this proposal.”

Conwy County Council was also contacted for a comment.

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