Penrhos is a 200-acre coastal park in Holyhead, Anglesey/Ynys Môn, the only woodland we have on our island. The park has Grade II-listed historical buildings dating back to 1553. It was officially opened as a Nature Reserve by HRH the Prince of Wales, now our King, in 1971.
But in 2016, the Cumbria-based property development company Land & Lakes secured planning permission from Isle of Anglesey County Council for a £120mn ‘world-class leisure village’ there. The plans entail 500 cabins, shops, restaurants, bars, and a tropical swimming pool. We campaigners have been fighting to save Penrhos for 12 years. We took a blow this past week, but are not about to give up on this precious area now.
Parts of the woodland were created in the early 1700s, with around 15,000 broad-leaved trees. It is home to many rare species of flora and fauna, ranging from humble fungi to badgers, bats, bees, foxes, a plethora of birds, butterflies, newts, and much more. This includes our much-loved but endangered red squirrels, whose fun and frolics please the hearts of many. Penrhos is a magical place, brimming with history and nature, providing calm and solace in the whisper of its trees. There is also the Private Beach, which we try not to advertise too much.
Penrhos has been part of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty since 1967, with the sandbanks and mudflats of the Beddmanarch Bay being part of the Beddmanarch and Cymyran Site of Special Scientific Interest. In 2009, Anglesey gained Global and European Geopark Status because of its unique geology, while the Gorsedd-y-Penrhyn headland within the reserve is designated as a Regionally Important Geological and Geomorphological Site.
Penrhos Nature Reserve is the legacy of Ken Williams MBE, a local policeman, who ran a bird sanctuary and dedicated his life to tending the reserve. The paths and trails were established by the dedication of this great man and nature-loving children from Ynys Gybi and Ynys Môn, who spent their free time volunteering. Its pond, known as ‘Scouts Pond’, was established by Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, and Brownies from all over Anglesey, a labour of love and learning for all.
So by now you may be asking: how can such a place be at risk of development into a very large holiday village? You may also be horrified to learn that 27 acres of mature and ancient woodland are marked to be felled. Are you aghast that the planning application has already been passed? Yes, we are too! What on earth happened? We will tell you our truth as we know it.
Planning and Penrhos
This area once belonged to the Stanley family, baronets related to the Earls of Derby. By 1939, the mansion and grounds at Penrhos were neglected. It was evacuated, and occupied by wartime troops. After the war, Sir Patrick Abercrombie bought the property, planning to restore it, but never did. It became a ruin, its home farm sold off. In 1969, the land became home to Anglesey Aluminium’s smelting plant, which closed down in 2005.
Land & Lakes won outline planning consent for its holiday village in 2009, which it says will create 600 jobs and boost the economy. There was instant and fierce opposition that continues to this day. The grant of permission was not in keeping with all planning policies, nor is it in keeping with the drive towards biodiversity and environmental protection. The one saving grace of Anglesey Aluminium was the creation of the Penrhos Nature Reserve.
As the National Wales reported in July 2022, “As part of its planning permission for the project – under a regulation known as Section 106 – Land & Lakes is required to make good for any loss or damage caused as they develop the holiday village. Back in April 2021, the firm submitted three new planning applications to the local council, seeking a discharge from the conditions attached to the 106 agreement … They have since agreed to create a new nature reserve on neighbouring land at Cae Glas, a former dumping site for toxic waste produced by the now-closed Anglesey Aluminium works.”
In other words, the plan is to somehow move a long-established, internationally-recognised nature reserve currently containing badger setts, three known species of bats, greater crested newts, endangered red squirrels, ancient and 19th century woodlands, woodpeckers, kingfishers, barn and tawny owls, tens of thousands of annually migrating waders and birds, and more flora and fauna, to poisoned land, and build an entire town for tourists instead.
We can save Penrhos
Save Penrhos Country Park Holyhead is our grassroots campaign, fighting the application since our inception in 2011. If you visit our Facebook page (link in bio below) you’ll see new photographs every day of the natural marvels people see while enjoying the reserve they love so much. This is a deprived area, where some can’t afford cars. But this special place and its fresh air, its wild inhabitants, its old trees, and the beach, are free to all. We take care of it, and it takes care of us. It has been essential to people’s mental and spiritual health during the pandemic and other times of crises.
On Wednesday 7 June, Land & Lakes got the go-ahead at Anglesey Council’s planning meeting, members voting 5-3 for their applications. In January our legal team had sent the Council planners a letter saying that Land & Lakes’s planning permission wasn’t valid any longer because they hadn’t made a ‘material start’ on their development. Through its vote, the council is saying it believes a start has been made, so the permission is granted in perpetuity.
The stance of Save Penrhos is that the work is not a material start for a multi-million pound ’world-class class leisure village’. We have a letter from a chartered surveyor with over 50 years of experience who visited the site on 1 June. He concluded that no material start had been made; that any purported start is nominal cost tokenism and does not meet the reasonable threshold of ‘material’. He believes the tenuous works undertaken by Land & Lakes do not comply with the planning permission or its conditions.
Oh, by the way: in August 2022, the 200 acre-park at Penrhos was named the UK’s Favourite Park following a public vote.
For these reasons and many more, Save Penrhos campaigners are now gathering funding for our legal team Buxton Solicitors, our aim being to take this matter to court for a judicial review. If you can help, please follow us on Twitter, join our group on Facebook, and donate to our crowdfunder. You can find all the links you need below.
The Woodland Trust states, “This area has been a Nature Reserve for decades with generations of Holyhead people being able to enjoy the natural heritage that Penrhos Coastal Park has to offer. The wooded area was planted in the 19th century and has a wealth of mixed deciduous and coniferous woodland, flora and fauna, bluebell beds, meadow butterflies, and freshwater habitats. This area alone attracts 100,000 visitors every year.” Penrhos is precious to local people and visitors alike, income-generating and sanity-generating, beloved nationally, and irreplaceable. Please help us save Penrhos.
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