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GWYNEDD Council has launched an appeal after a national park refused it planning permission to demolish a former school to build units to support the homeless.

Going against the advice of its planning officers, April saw the Snowdonia National Park’s Planning Committee refuse the application to knock down Hen Ysgol Glanwnion at Pont yr Aran, Dolgellau in order to build the five supported living flats and office space.

The plans had been refused after members cited parking and privacy issues for neighbours, with the local town council also fearing it represented “overdevelopment and additional pressure on local services,” questioning if the proposed use was “really suitable for the site and locality.”

But the final decision now looks to be one for Welsh Government appointed planning inspectors after Gwynedd Council launched an official appeal amid claims the homeless service “cannot cope” without more units being made available.

The documents, which have been lodged with the Planning Inspectorate, respond to the park’s refusal which was said to be based on the loss of a traditional building and that not enough information has been submitted to prove the need for the proposal in Dolgellau.

Gwynedd Council’s case notes that the former school was last used as a community support centre and library more than 10 years ago, having lain empty for over a decade.

With Cadw having chosen not to include it on the national register of Listed Buildings, they added, “Between April and Christmas in 2020, 104 homeless applications were received from Meirionnydd residents and over the previous financial year 170 applications were received.

“The numbers continue to increase weekly and the council are currently unable to cope with offering suitable accommodation to these individuals, couples and families, which isn’t an acceptable situation.

“At the beginning of February 2021, there are 27 individuals, couples and families placed in emergency accommodation in Meirionnydd.

“Of these 27, eight cases are located in Bed and Breakfast accommodation i.e. living in a bedroom only. This does not provide an acceptable living environment for residents facing such a situation.”

Snowdonia National Park Authority planning officers had recommended approval despite the park receiving 28 letters of objection as well as a petition, with opponents 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 proposals for Dolgellau were described as one of several planned across the county, each providing units for a short period before they’re able to be rehoused into more permanent and suitable accommodation.

The authority’s statement concluded, “The desire to protect a traditional building must be weighed against the urgent need to provide short to medium term accommodation for vulnerable single occupants who are in urgent need for housing.

“Upon balance, the benefits of providing such accommodation to meet a clear identified need by local people outweighs the loss of the building.”

The Snowdonia National Park Authority has been approached to comment.

It’s expected that the Planning Inspectorate will make a decision by the autumn.

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