A LAST-DITCH bid by Welsh Water to gain approval to hold parties and events at buildings it owns at a protected beauty spot has failed.
Councillors had already said they intended to refuse two applications by the water firm for planning permission to extend the opening hours, and the uses, of its visitor centre and a water sports base at Llandegfedd Reservoir near Pontypool.
The location is a haven for birds and is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest which is the highest form of environmental protection.
Both centres are currently required to close by 9pm, but the firm has asked that they be able to open from 6am to midnight, though 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.
The applications went before Monmouthshire County Council’s planning committee on Wednesday, January 11 and were listed for refusal after councillors rejected the recommendation of their planning officers, in November, that the plans should be approved.
Following that Welsh Water reduced the number of events it wants to be allowed to hold at each building, from 12, to six and also said it would remove wedding parties from a list of events that could be held under a management plan.
The firm said it would also restrict the number of guests to 70 at each building.
But councillors remained unconvinced and said the restriction on numbers attending was the same as an existing fire condition.
Conservative Llangybi Fawr councillor Fay Bromfield said: “I welcome Welsh Water’s amendments but I do not feel they go far enough in maintaining the integrity of the Site of Special Scientific Interest.”
Llanbadoc and Usk Conservative, Tony Kear, whose ward includes the water sports centre, said he couldn’t ignore the objections from the Gwent Wildlife Trust, the ornithological society, Usk Civic Society and more than 300 objections as well as a holding objection from Torfaen Borough Council.
The reservoir is on the border marking the two authorities, and Torfaen’s ecology officer had objected due to concerns that water sports events, and weather, meant the results of the over wintering birds survey report were limited.
Though Natural Resources Wales hadn’t objected subject to what planning officer Phil Thomas called “stringent conditions”, Cllr Kear noted it had maintained concerns “as late as November 2022” and said rivers in Wales meant he doesn’t have “a lot of confidence in self-regulation from those two bodies”.
Conservative councillor for Pen y Fal, Maureen Powell, said: “These type of events could be held anywhere, they don’t have to be held at this beautiful lake.”
However Jan Butler, Conservative councillor for Goetre Fawr, said she believed the applications should be granted and the largest impact on the area is from visitors who visit year round.
She said people attend at the reservoir, especially during the summer, regardless of whether events are taking place and said: “This committee has no control over that.”
She said it was likely events at a golf club, at the further end of the reservoir, in Torfaen were more likely to impact the over wintering birds.
Both applications were refused as the committee said it hadn’t been demonstrated the plans wouldn’t have an adverse impact on the protected site.
Officers also clarified the applications were for new planning permissions, and not for a change of use as wrongly stated in the papers they had prepared.