A BID to demolish a former school and build supported living units for people in Gwynedd facing homelessness has been rejected.
The Snowdonia National Park Authority had received an application from Gwynedd Council to knock down Hen Ysgol Glanwnion at Pont yr Aran, Dolgellau in order to build the five flats and office space.
But members went against the advice of officers and decided to refuse the plans, following the views of Dolgellau Town Council who claimed it would cause parking and privacy issues for neighbours.
Town councillors had also felt it would result in an “overdevelopment of the site and additional pressure on local services,” questioning if the proposed use was “really suitable for the site and locality.”
While the meeting has not yet been published for public viewing, a spokesperson for the park told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “At a meeting of the SNPA’s Planning and Access Committee on Wednesday the 14th of April, members voted to refuse permission for the development of sheltered accommodation on the site of the former Ysgol Glanwnion, Dolgellau.
“The application was rejected by the committee because a traditional and historic building was being demolished as well as insufficient information on the need for the actual development.”
28 letters of objection had also been submitted as well as a petition, claiming that the plans were not in keeping with its surrounds and would result in the loss of “a building of significant historic and cultural importance to the town.”
The former school building itself is thought to have been empty for around a decade, having more recently served as a community centre and library.
But despite acknowledging such a loss, park planning officers recommended approval, stating, “There is a strong argument that the unsuitability of the existing building to accommodate the identified need and the provision of a new purpose-built building in its place, outweighs the regrettable loss of the traditional building.
“Officers are of the opinion that the location, form and scale of the development is compatible with the capacity and character of the site.
“Whilst at first glance five units of accommodation and an office would appear excessive for the site, having regard to the modest size of the units and the layout of the site, they can be accommodated without any detrimental impact on neighbouring properties or the character of the area.”
According to Gwynedd Council, the five units would help meet the need for short to medium-term accommodation for vulnerable single occupants who are in urgent need of housing in the Meirionnydd area.
In February 2021 it was stated that there were 27 individuals, couples and families placed in emergency accommodation in Meirionnydd, eight of which were living in Bed and Breakfast accommodation.
It was described as one of several proposed schemes across the county, each providing units for a short period before they’re able to be rehoused into more permanent and suitable accommodation.
Their planning statement added, “Homelessness is now apparent in every corner of the county and the number of people facing homelessness in Gwynedd has been steadily increasing for some years.
“It is unfortunate that this trend has increased again sharply over the last six months due to the economic and social impact of Covid-19.
“The council has a statutory and moral duty to try to help as much as they can to avoid seeing people without secure accommodation within their communities.
“Part of this duty is to provide emergency accommodation i.e. to avoid a situation where individuals without secure accommodation are having to sleep out on the streets.”
When committee members decide to go against the advice of officers, planning applications are often re-presented after a month’s “cooling off” period for final confirmation, but the national park has not confirmed if that will be the case at this time.
It is also unknown at this stage if the authority plans to appeal against the decision to refuse.