North West Wales

Plans for military airfield in Snowdonia welcomed

Llanbedr airfield
The airfield was built in 1938 and used during World War II

Plans to develop a former Snowdonia military air base as a research site have taken a step forward.

The Welsh Government has been granted a certificate of lawful use, enabling the Llanbedr site in Meirionnydd to be used to test and develop unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Llanbedr Airfield Estates, who hope to purchase and develop the site, cautiously welcomed the plans.

The Snowdonia Society said it was glad the issue had been resolved.

The site at Llanbedr employed 130 people at the time it was closed in 2004.

Llanbedr Airfield Estates (LAE) had wanted to use the land for private flights and let empty buildings for business use.

'Disappointed'

Its 2009 application for a certificate of lawful use was refused by the Snowdonia National Park Authority (SNPA) as planning authority for the area.

But in December 2010, the Welsh Government then applied, as Welsh ministers became the freehold holders of the site in 2006 when they took over the old Welsh Development Agency.

On Tuesday, LAE gave a cautious welcome to the announcement but requested further talks with the Welsh Government.

David Young of LAE said: "We are happy that the certificate of lawful use has been given but we still need to digest the Snowdonia National Park Authority legal advice to understand what exactly has been granted and to discuss this with our planning consultant.

Llanbedr airfield
The Snowdonia Society has previously objected to plans for the airfield

"We are disappointed that the application has not been granted with the same wording as was submitted by the Welsh Government and the change in wording raises questions about what can actually be done at the airfield.

"We want to complete the purchase and we have asked for an urgent meeting with the Welsh Government.

"There has been a delay with these plans and a huge amount has changed in this period.

"The longer term game plan may need to change due to the current economic climate and we need to make sure that there is enough room to make this work."

The decision to grant the certificate has also been welcomed by the Snowdonia Society, despite previous objections to the plans to open as a commercial airfield.

Previously, the society argued this would go against the key aims of the national park to protect the landscape and give enjoyment to the public.

"We hope this opens the way to providing some of the high quality and well paid jobs this area and its people sorely need," said its chair Dr David Lewis.

"We shall be pressing the Welsh Government to make known what its intentions are about use of this site for research and development on unmanned aerial vehicles."

But he added that other parts of the site could be used for other purposes which did not need to conflict with the legal requirements to protect the national park and adjoining nature reserve.

"Some local firms have been hoping to rent buildings on the site and we regret that the site owner and the prospective lessee have not up to now been willing to take advantage of such opportunities.

"We hope those opportunities will now be pursued as appropriate through submission of applications for planning permission."

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "Now this certificate of lawful use has been obtained we will be reviewing our options to maximise the economic benefits for the area and for the local community."

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