PLANS for a raised sea wall in Kinmel Bay have been blasted as a “lost opportunity” that “drastically change the look” of the seafront and harm tourism.
Kinmel Bay councillor Nigel Smith said council officers had failed to listen to concerns about the proposed work, and said it made the community look like “the poor relation” when compared to other nearby schemes.
Cllr Smith, who is a member of Conwy Council’s cabinet, said he welcomed the work itself during the announcement and public consultation, but said he felt “let down” at how plans have developed.
Behind closed doors this week, Conwy’s cabinet agreed to award the contract to a construction company to begin the multi-million-pound sea defence work.
The Welsh Government will fund 85% of the work through its coastal risk management programme with Conwy funding the remaining 15%.
As part of the work, the council plan to raise the sea wall, which will protect thousands of homes from rising sea levels and any repeat of the floods that devastated Towyn and Kinmel Bay in 1990.
Cllr Smith said: “Mindful that the previous Rhyl West defence scheme had taken away the beautiful sea view, I added that any defence work should not be detrimental to the amenity enjoyed by our residents and visitors, thinking this work might even make possible the much wanted sand for Llandudno north.
“Locally our priority was a wider, safer promenade for our residents and 55,000 visitors that stay locally and who are squeezed into the narrow promenade that emergency vehicles are unable to access.
“Every year there are accidents with mobility scooters, cyclists, and dog walkers.
“One poor lady fell on the rocks by Golden Sands and the lifeboat had to transport her to the harbour to a waiting ambulance.
“The public were eventually informed of the proposals through a number of meetings, social media, and press, and while the outcome of all those meetings and events was not exactly 100% of what we wanted, it did however widen as much as 70% of the promenade taking a 1.2m strip of the marram grass from the side of the dunes and included lighting, shelters, seating, play areas and loungers.
“Towards the end of the summer, officers invited local members to a site meeting on the promenade and in the conversation mentioned raising the seawall by between 500-750mm.
“Hearing this news for the first time, it came as a real shock as it will drastically change the look and amenity of the whole promenade area.
“I asked officers if they were raising the height of the foot/cycle path to compensate for this additional height but was told that the planned widening of the promenade was also not possible as the land owner would not give consent – Conwy County Council is the landowner – and that many of the extras had also been removed.
“While I welcome the defence work to protect our town, I feel extremely let down by officers who have little regard for the amenity enjoyed by our residents and visitors on the promenade and the views enjoyed by all young and old that walk or ride its length.
“Having not included the widening the promenade to improve its safety for the thousands of residents and visitors, who regularly use the promenade and the increase in height, I’m extremely concerned that once again it looks like Kinmel Bay is the poor relation compared with the other schemes in Penrhyn Bay, Rhos on Sea, and Colwyn Bay.”
He added: “I will have great difficulty in defending the scheme as it is now proposed as I don’t see it as an improvement, and although while at cabinet yesterday in a close session I supported the defence work, I was critical of the scheme as it will be undoubtedly detrimental to this tourist area and tourism in our county and feel it’s a lost opportunity for our residents who deserve better.”
In response to Cllr Smith, Conwy Council’s leader, Cllr Charlie McCoubrey said: “On Tuesday, cabinet members agreed to award the contract for the construction of the coastal defences and public realm improvements at Kinmel Bay.
“This is just the latest stage in this critical project to reduce the flood risk to thousands of properties in Kinmel Bay.
“In December 2022, the proposed scheme was shared with the local community at public drop-in sessions and online.
“Following this, the planning application was submitted, and planning permission was granted in October 2023.
“The project is funded through the Welsh Government Coastal Risk Management Programme (CRMP) to reduce flood risk to coastal communities in Wales.”
The coastal defence at Towyn Revetment in front of the Golden Sands holiday park currently includes a large rock armour barricade.
The council says the rock armour is in a good state of repair but does not provide enough protection from rising sea levels and the increasing number of storms.
Consequently, the council will raise and widen the rock armour and raise the sea wall.
The coastal defences at Kinmel Bay West currently include a sea wall but no rock armour, but the western sea wall is too low to give sufficient coastal flood protection, so the proposals include raising the wall’s height.
Kinmel Bay East also has a sea wall with rock armour protection.
This rock armour will be raised and widened, and the sea wall will be raised.