A PLANNING dispute dating back more than 50 years over plans to build 401 luxury homes on a Gwynedd mountainside is set to be heard in the Supreme Court in London next week.

Hampshire-based Hillside Park Ltd has already built 28 houses on the mountain which overlooks Aberdyfi but local people, who gathered for a protest on the lane leading up to the mountain over the weekend, insist no more should be built there.

The complex case leads back to 1967, when the former Meirionnydd County Council granted planning permission for the construction of 401 houses on 29 acres of land within the boundaries of the Eryri National Park.

Between that year and 1973, seven additional planning applications were granted on the Aberdyfi site. And by 1996, the planning issue had become the responsibility of the national park.

In 2019, the site was under the ownership of Hillside Parks Ltd based in Hampshire, England.

The Welsh folk singer Catrin O’Neill - a member of Aberdyfi Community Council – was at the protest on Saturday.

She told our sister title, Corgi Cymru: "Here's the problem - they've built 28 houses and that keeps the permission going. But (Hillside Parks Ltd) wants to build more and (Eryri National Park) wants to stop them building more because it's now out of the development area.”

The Gwynedd village of Aberdyfi where a planning dispute dating back more than 50 years is due to be settled by the Supreme Court.Protesters gathered at the weekend to show their opposition. Picture: Catrin O'Neill

As for the site at present, Ms O’Neill said: “There are some people living there but there is also a mix of holiday homes and second homes. The building plots go for £250,000 and the houses go for £750,000 up to £1 million.”

If the plan to build 401 houses went ahead, "it would double the size of the village and take up the whole mountain," said Ms O’Neill.

In 2019, according to the Supreme Court's website, Hillside Park Ltd brought a case against Eryri National Park, "to establish whether the right to develop was still lawful".

According to paperwork, "... lanes were built in areas designated for housing, and houses were built in areas designated for lanes ..."

This meant that the builders made alterations to the planning rights as the development went ahead.

Eryri National Park successfully argued in the High Court and the Court of Appeal that Hillside Parks Ltd had abused planning rights.

However, the company has a right of appeal at the Supreme Court which will take place on Monday, July 4.

Ms O’Neill still lives in her home village of Aberdyfi, and lists the changes she has witnessed since more and more homes became holiday homes: “Since I was a little girl, we've lost: a surgery; a dental surgery; a vegetable shop; three banks; two chapels, one church, one hall, two garages and the primary school.

“When Mam was a girl in the 1960s there were two primary schools and 100 children here. Now there is no school, and there are about 15 primary school children who have to travel to three different schools.”

Regarding the Hillside Parks Ltd development, opponents claim that the village's infrastructure has already been damaged by large lorries that use the narrow lanes leading up the mountain.

Ms O’Neill said: “We live on Church Street and the street is too narrow for the cement trucks to go up.

“On the next street there is an old railway bridge that is too low for the lorries to go under... there's a hairpin bend that is difficult enough by car. So the cement truck has to reverse up the single track lane. There's subsidence there now and the road is breaking up. ”

There is also a problem with key workers who cannot afford to buy in the village. While, there is also a shortage of housing to rent as so many are let to people on holiday.

Ms O’Neill said, “There is nowhere in the village to rent today but there are more than 300 holiday lets here. I have friends who have had to move out of the village to live. There is nowhere for carers or nurses to live here.”

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Members of the community have reported the problem to Gwynedd Council's Highways Department, according to Ms O’Neill: "They have said they’re not going to do anything about the subsidence until after this project is finished, because they say whatever they do to fix it will just happen again. So they weren't interested - completely useless!”

It is likely that some months will pass before the outcome of the Supreme Court hearing will be known.

Meanwhile, Hillside Parks Ltd's barrister was approached for an interview and the legal team supplied the following statement:

“Planning permission was obtained for 401 houses on the land at Balkan Hill in Aberdyfi in 1967. Though only a small number of houses have been built as a result, it was, until recently, common ground with Snowdonia National Park Authority that that planning permission remained valid, and development continued.

“We have worked with the Park Authority to improve the scheme with discrete variations. It needs to be emphasised that each such variation was approved by the Park Authority, and that the Park Authority specifically confirmed that it was acceptable to proceed in this way.

"The complete recent U-turn by the Park Authority, where they threatened enforcement proceedings if any further works were carried out, was a surprising change of position and raises an important point of law, which is why the issue is now being determined by the Supreme Court.

"We have always emphasised our desire and willingness to work with the Park Authority to deliver the best possible scheme here, which despite these proceedings remains our position. We have always worked to enhance the environment and economy of Aberdyfi, and hope to continue to do so."

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