As Wales gears up for next week’s 22 local authority elections, for the first time since 1990, there is a smaller Community Council election in Llanberis - the village at the foot of Yr Wyddfa.

One hot topic gripping local residents is the future of the Electric Mountain Visitor Centre site, which was originally donated to the community by First Hydro as a result of the construction of the Dinorwig Power Station for electricity generation.

The power station was promoted as a tourist attraction, with visitors taking a minibus tour from the centre to see the inner workings of the power station, which is situated deep inside the Elidir Fawr mountain. 

The company still owns it, and now plans to demolish the large visitor centre building in order to extend the car park and generate income.

The National Wales: How the Electric Mountain Visitor Centre looked before it shut its doors in 2018. Photo: Jim Barton CC BY-SA 2.0How the Electric Mountain Visitor Centre looked before it shut its doors in 2018. Photo: Jim Barton CC BY-SA 2.0

Ken Jones is well known around Llanberis. In 1976, he founded Ras yr Wyddfa - The Snowdon Race, which has raised a lot of money for good causes. He is also the manager of Y Ganolfan (community centre), which is a valuable resource to the residents of the area.

"There are eleven car parks in Llanberis already," Ken Jones told our sister title Corgi Cymru, who argues that demolishing the visitor centre and extending the car park to accommodate about 150 spaces for vehicles is not a "community resource".

The idea behind the Electric Mountain was original, he said: "It compensated the village when the building work (Dinorwig Power Station) was going on. That took nearly nine years, and what happened was that these lorries went back and forth through the village - there was quite a bit of disruption here.

"What they said was: 'we'll build this for you but we own it.'

"Nobody from the village has ever been on any kind of committee to decide what to do with the place."

The National Wales: How the Electric Mountain Visitor Centre looks boarded up. Source: Google StreetviewHow the Electric Mountain Visitor Centre looks boarded up. Source: Google Streetview

Electric Mountain is almost 40 years old, but it has been closed since 2018. First Hydro, according to Mr Jones, says that "it is too much maintenance”.

“But I can't understand that,” said Mr Jones.  “We were celebrating the 800th anniversary of the recent construction of Castell Dolbadarn. Castell Dolbadarn was built 762 years before this (Dinorwig Power Station) and still stands.”

First Hydro's bid to demolish the Electric Mountain complex is yet to come before Gwynedd Council, and Ken Jones wants to know why they didn’t offer it for sale: "It might have been bought by Gwynedd Council or the Welsh Government. We are part of a World Heritage Site.

"It's versatile and has uses - there's a theatre where people would go to see a film about the power station’s history, and they’d go on a bus tour which was very popular.”

The National Wales: A view of Llanberis from across Llyn Padarn. Photo: Robin Drayton CC BY-SA 2.0A view of Llanberis from across Llyn Padarn. Photo: Robin Drayton CC BY-SA 2.0

With some arguing that another car park will help to tackle the village's parking problems during the summer months, Ken Jones does not see much value in this seasonal industry.

Recently he described how he had been looking at a photo of his grown-up children’s old school class: "I asked them how many of them work full-time for Llanberis tourist industry.

“Not one, not one at all.

"No, the Snowdon Mountain Railway is the only full-time employer and the people who board the train don’t touch the paths or make a mess or anything.

“This tourism business is exaggerated."

Referring to a local man who had recently claimed on television that tourism brings income into the village, Mr Jones said:  "Yes, it does, but it doesn't bring work doesn't it?"

READ MORE: 

In the run-up to the local elections, there is a difference of opinion within Llanberis about the future of the Electric Mountain site.

When the plans came before the Community Council recently, the consensus was that there was "no objection" to demolishing the visitor centre and turning it into a car park, according to Heather Jones, a member of Llanberis Community Council.

"It has been discussed many times," she said, and placed some of the blame for the disagreement on poor communication from the Community Council itself.

"Although I am a community councillor myself, the communication has been terribly defective.

“That's the council's fault," she added, pointing out that they don't even have a Facebook page.

Is it fair to say that there is a difference of opinion within the local community on the future of the site?

"Oh yes," Heather Jones said pointedly.

Since 2018, when Electric Mountain closed its doors, Heather has described the building as "a danger, with youths and adults breaking into the place, so we must do something with it.”

First Hydro has been approached for comment.

If you value The National's journalism, help grow our team of reporters by becoming a subscriber.