Anger as beauty spot Llanberis lagoons car park becomes 'free campsite' for scores of campervans

Upgraded parking facilities at a notorious beauty spot on the edge of Eryri (Snowdonia) are backfiring, critics have claimed. Locals say parking issues have worsened since “improvements” were implemented at Y Glyn, an area known as “the lagoons” by Llyn Padarn in Llanberis.

Three adjacent car park areas were resurfaced to provide 114 parking spaces and a separate aires-type “Arosfan” facility was created for campervans. Cyngor Gwynedd carried out the work to bring “order and control” to an area that at times becomes overwhelmed with visitors.

But with pay machines not yet working, and height barriers only sporadically operated, local people say the car parks have become a giant “campsite”. Two weeks ago, 95 campervans were counted overnighting at the site and, despite a ban, 32 tents.

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With more expected over the Bank Holiday weekend, locals are braced for more bedlam at a much-loved leisure facility. As well as struggling for parking space, there are concerns over littering and, for volunteer rubbish collectors, the prospect of finding more human faeces.

Nearby campsite owners are incensed too, as Llyn Padarn’s “free campsite” is said to be sucking custom from their facilities. While many campervan owners prefer the freedom of unrestricted pitches, campsite operators between Llanberis and Caernarfon are reporting lower-than-usual occupancy figures for motorhomes. “This is ruining local family businesses!” fumed one owner, down 10 pitches last weekend.

Residents insist they are not anti-tourist but they want Cyngor Gwynedd to get a grip and restore the “order” they were promised. The council said a security company would be returning this summer to monitor the area during weekends and over the school holidays. Work is due to start next week on getting payment machines up and running, the local authority added.

Community stalwart Eric Baylis, who helps run Pentref Taclus Llanberis Tidy Village, said the situation at Y Glyn was “baffling”. “When the council launched plans to rearrange the car parks two years ago, 26 campervan spaces were proposed for the new Arosfan. Only eight have been provided – I’ve no idea what happened to the rest. Join the North Wales Live Whatsapp community now

BBQs and plastic bottle litter the ground by tents pitched illegally by the Lagoons
BBQs and plastic bottle litter the ground by tents pitched illegally by the Lagoons -Credit:John Horrigan

“Drinking water costs £3 it’s not yet being supplied. No payment machines are working – some people say card payments are the problem because the banks are not talking to each other. I was told numberplate recognition cameras were planned but the council is not legally entitled to use them.

“Neither are car park height barriers installed three years ago being used at present. Last summer a private security firm was brought in to operate the gates, and they went around warning everyone the gates were closing at 8pm. But when the staff went at midnight, they reopened the gates ready for the morning, and campervans parked nearby would nip in for the night. Without proper management, things are now worse than they were before.”

The Llanberis Arosfan site has been welcomed by many motorhome homeowners as the “closest to a proper French-style aire in the UK”. Visting Y Glyn was previously considered a “nightmare” with some vanlifers taking a relaxed view of parking restrictions. One owner said: “I really want this to work, so I hope it isn’t a victim of its own success. If they have the bays and pay facility, it needs to be enforced so people don’t take the mickey.”

Some motorhomes take up extra parking spaces with their equipment
Some motorhomes take up extra parking spaces with their equipment -Credit:John Horrigan

In the absence of charging and enforcement, already there are signs this is happening. Locals say vans are spilling out across the three car parks, hogging spaces and ignoring prohibition signs. Many have complained of not being able to park after 8am once the few remaining spaces have been taken.

“It’s horrendous,” said local resident John Horrigan. “Van owners are setting up BBQs and putting up chairs and tables despite signs telling them not to,” he said. “Once in place, they’re there for the weekend, and parking becomes a problem for everyone else.

“On Monday, a group of children were brought to Padarn by the National Watersports Centre but the party couldn’t get on the car park. Tents are erected nearby too – I saw one as big as a marquee!

“In the old days, wild campers would pitch overnight, leave early and leave no trace. Now it’s different – they have BBQs, chairs and fires, and some don’t take their litter. What’s really shocking is the sheer number of vans using the site – one was a 40ft US motorhome too big for the lagoons site. It’s always been busy but now things are just crazy.”

The Y Glyn Arosfan provides a generous six-metre space between van pitches to meet fire regulations. In effect, this means there are two parking spaces between each pitch which, in theory, can’t be used, said Mr Baylis. In practise, without enforcement the gaps are filled - either by illicit awnings and tables, or by other vehicles. On Y Glyn’s two other car parks, visiting families complain motorhomes and their equipment spill out across several spaces.

Llanberis lagoons are a popular destination when the weather warms
Llanberis lagoons are a popular destination when the weather warms -Credit:SG&LAS

Most locals would embrace regulated tourism. They are irked by “freeloaders” who avoid paying and contribute little to the village economy. For those grappling with the peak season takeover of their community, and cleaning up afterwards, what’s happening at the lagoons is frustrating.

“It’s crazy,” said one woman when photos were shared online. “As locals we will have to pay to park in our own village. We’re being charged for tourism.” Another noted sourly that locals were often quick to receive weekday fines for parking infringements in the county.

A third person added: “It’s nice to see so many people enjoying the place we have the opportunity to call home. A tent and a fan is better than a second home. But pictures (of the mess) after they leave show how embarrassing they are.”

Litter discarded next to a van at Y Glyn
Litter discarded next to a van at Y Glyn -Credit:John Horrigan

Plenty of bins are provided and there are public toilets too, though these close at 6pm. Under Arosfan rules, van owners must have on-board toilet facilities but there is a suspicion some don’t, judging by the “human excrement” people say they come across. Mr Baylis and fellow volunteers scour lagoon bushes for litter but, for health and safety reasons, faeces is left uncollected.

While locals are at pains to point out only a minority are guilty of “disrespecting” the area, the problems at Y Glyn have led to calls for a complete motorhome ban. “I don’t like to see campervan parked at the lagoons,” said one resident.

“They’re huge. They take up so much space and in high summer families seem to occupy the top lagoons with all their tents and bits and bobs. I don’t believe that campervan should be allowed in the lagoons area, there are plenty of places for campervans to park.”

Van parking may shrink if charges are enforced. But with pay machines still out of action, Mr Horrigan fears Gwynedd is missing out on a potentially lucrative source of revenue.

Another resident believes the council must grasp the nettle. He said: “Cyngor Gwynedd needs to appoint a resident warden 24/7 during the peak time and run it as a business. It’s the only way we’ll get any order there and to protect the environment and community." Get all the latest Gwynedd news by signing up to our newsletter - sent every Tuesday

What Cyngor Gwynedd said

A spokesperson said: “We are working with our partners from other organisations and with the local community to encourage visitors to be mindful and respectful of the area when visiting popular attractions such as Llanberis. We urge people to plan their visit beforehand – for instance, if they’re planning on camping, to arrange accommodation at a licenced campsite before setting off; to plan their activities beforehand so that they ensure their own safety and the safety of others; and to check the availability and opening times of the facilities they will require during their visit.

“We are also taking proactive steps to ensure the safety and wellbeing of everyone using Parc Padarn and the surrounding area. For example, a security company has been used to monitor the area during weekends and over the school holidays for the last two summer seasons and following the success of the scheme, this arrangement will be in place again this year.

“Significant work has been carried out at Y Glyn car park, to improve the look and feel of the site and to ensure parking is better regulated. The private company employed by the council to install the pay-and-display machines are due to be on site next week to complete their work so that the machines can be up and running ready for the main holiday period.

“Due to the number of vehicles coming to Parc Padarn with watercraft and other leisure equipment on the roof of their vehicles, and motorhomes legitimately parking for the day, the height barrier cannot be lowered at the car park entrance.

“We remind the public that overnight camping is not allowed in lay-bys and car parks. Following consultation with local communities and motorhome users, Cyngor Gwynedd is developing a network of Arosfan sites (similar to Aires on the continent), including one at Llanberis, which will also be operational once the final work on the pay-and-display machines has been completed.

"All motorhomes using these sites must be self-contained, with on-board facilities. Motorhomes may park in any of Cyngor Gwynedd’s car parks, but sleeping overnight in any car park – apart from the specific Arosfan sites – is not permitted. Sign up for the North Wales Live newsletter sent twice daily to your inbox

“We are aware that there were three tents pitched at Parc Pardarn on Saturday night during the last Bank Holiday weekend, and the council’s staff moved the people on. We are also aware that many visitors to Llyn Padarn bring tent-like shelters for changing and so on, but these are not used for camping overnight.”

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