Zip World allowed to convert 'ruinous, roofless' Eryri cottage into holiday let

The tiny historic stone building in a tranquil Betws y Coed spot which could be turned into a holiday let
-Credit: (Image: Image Eryri National Park Authority planning documents)

Zip World was granted permission to convert and extend a "roofless, ruinous" historic Eryri cottage into a one-bedroom holiday let. Despite going against its own planning rules over conversion of roofless properties - and officers' recommendations to refuse - Eryri National Park Authority's planners agreed to permit the development proposed by Zip World Ltd.

The redundant building was described as being in a "tranquil spot" by an area of ancient woodland, on land at Craig Glanconwy, Betws y Coed. Sean Taylor of Zip World Ltd, through agent Sioned Edwards of Cadnant Planning, had successfully requested permission to convert and extend the former outbuilding into a short term self-catering holiday unit.

The scheme included creation of a parking bay and to make alterations to vehicular access and associated works. The application was an amended resubmission after a previous plan was refused.

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The property, which is on Welsh tithe maps dates back more than 200 years - but all that remain are walls and gable ends. The plan would retain the walls with a rear extension to provide an "L" shaped building. Sign up for the North Wales Live newsletter sent twice daily to your inbox.

The application was debated at the authority's planning meeting on Wednesday, May 22. Some members felt without development the building was in danger of "falling into a pile of stones" whilst others were concerned at going against their policy, it could open the doors to similar planning requests.

The building, around 35sq m on a 8365 sq m site, is located in a field with the A470 to the south and Betws y Coed to the north. The property would provide "ancillary accommodation" for Zip World Fforest, a tourist attraction two miles away, on the edge of the national park in the Conwy Valley

"It has become one of Zip World’s most popular sites and the need for accommodation had been a long-standing matter which Zip World have sought to meet," plans stated. Some "42% of Zip World visitors were either young couples, metro singles or older adults on holiday without children".

Zip World Fforest in Betws-y-Coed
Zip World Fforest in Betws-y-Coed -Credit:Manchester Family/MEN

"As a result, there was a "significant need for high quality self-catering accommodation for non-family visitor," the plans said.

The initial application had been rejected, for a number of reasons including the "rural outbuilding being of a ruinous state, lacking any roof structure or covering and requiring the establishing of a new vehicular access track, car parking and turning area". It was as a result in conflict with Eryri Local Development Plan policies.

A planning officer stated it was against policy noting that "in the park we have given consistent advice to the public, if it does not have a roof it will not be considered suitable for conversion." However, an expert had confirmed building walls were "structurally sound" and the application stated "if here was a roof present," as policy required, it would need to be removed and replaced to meet building regulation requirements."

Instances where planners had previously granted consent for the conversion of outbuildings; "where the building was considered structurally sound but did not have a roof," where also included in the application.

Access to the property would only be available on foot along a narrow gravelled path, with access to the site over a stream. And an area for one car to park would be provided behind a stone wall with the vehicle parking on the side of the road.

Cllr Dilwyn Owain Roberts urged approval: "This is a conversion in a rural area to provide a one bed unit for tourism - for Zip World - a successful tourism site. If we don't support this our history will be lost if permission is not granted there will be no use to it at all, it will become a ruin."

Cllr Louise Hughes felt it was "a question of balance". "We don't want the park to become a barren, geographical museum, it is a living and working place, but whether we like it or not tourism is part of the local economy.

"I would rather these buildings are brought back into use rather than turning into a pile of stones, to be kicked about by cattle," she said.

Cllr John Pughe Roberts said " he did not want to see it become a pile of stones either, as a building it could help the local economy" and urged keeping the Welsh name

Cllr Ifor Lloyd added: "This is one that pulled me in both directions I support the policy but I see the sense in developing a building like this. If we don't create a precedent that will help, but I'm reluctant to go against the wise words of the officers."

Ifan Jones said "no precedent was being set, but noted that in decisions "they usually refer back to decisions made previously - so it is not exactly a precedent to approve this, but something to consider."

A vote was held and the matter carried to allow planning.

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