MAJOR plans to protect a Gwynedd town from being flooded by Wales’ largest natural lake will be debated by national park planners later this week.
Concerns that weakening embankments could leave Y Bala in danger of flooding has seen Natural Resources Wales submit proposals as part of its Llyn Tegid Reservoir Safety Project.
First unveiled in 2018, the major project was prompted by fears that the embankments are being weakened by up to 290 trees that have grown on or through them, with fears that a lack of action could lead to the town being deluged.
It was said that, although there are effective flood defences already in place, the deterioration of the embankments has made the lakeside vulnerable to damage from flooding and strong winds.
Many of the trees to be removed are known to be infected with Ash dieback, although efforts will be made to retain those of “particularly high landscape and amenity value”.
“Extensive tree loss is unavoidable as part of these essential reservoir safety works,” notes the Design and Access Statement.
“Trees within the reservoir embankment are not only in the way of the construction of the embankment protection works, their root systems create weaknesses and pathways within the embankment structure and the reservoir inspector has recommended the majority are removed regardless of the embankment protection works.”
The proposed work includes upgrading the existing rock armour on the front (or wet) side of the lake, with mitigation measures to include planting approximately 900 new trees and 350m of hedgerow elsewhere as well as carrying out enhancements to the Snowdonia National Park Authority’s foreshore carpark and to the rear of Penllyn Leisure Centre.
It is also outlined to upgrade some of the existing footpaths that will be affected by the works and improvements to seating areas and new interpretation boards.
The plans, which have been supported by Bala Town Council, are being recommended for approval by the Snowdonia National Park Authority’s planning committee when it meets on Wednesday.
While the officers’ report acknowledges that the work would “inevitably result in local disruption” and calls for disruption to be kept to a minimum during busy times over the summer and bank holidays, they feel the project “should deliver both a robust embankment and significant biodiversity enhancements”.
This is despite three letters of objection being submitted, citing the loss of flora and fauna and claiming that the trees provide shelter to the existing path and any replanting will take time to be established.
It was also claimed, as part of the public feedback, there was “no need” for the development and the area “doesn’t flood,” while also stressing that the project needed to allow the rugby club to operate without significant disturbance.
But the officers’ summing up concluded: “While it is acknowledged that there will be effects in the short term on ecology and the landscape, officers have concluded that these will not be significant in the medium to long term and that with mitigation the scheme should deliver both a robust embankment and significant biodiversity enhancements.”
If approved, it’s expected that work would start this summer and be completed by the end of 2022.