The character of a listed country house near Dolgellau would be spoiled if plans to convert adjacent outbuildings were approved, according to a planning inspector, writes Gareth Hughes.

In June 2023, the Snowdonia National Park planning authority turned down applications by Robin Abrams, owner of Caerynwch in Brithdir for the conversion of two garages into cottages and a flat above stables into two cottages.

Caerynwch, which dates from the late 19th century, is a Grade II listed building but the outbuildings are thought to pre-date the existing house.

Some of the work has already been carried out and Ms Abrams claims that a former conservation officer of the planning authority approved the work.

Rejecting her appeals against the refusal, planning inspector Tony Thickett said: “I don’t doubt urgent repairs were needed but the works carried out go well beyond that necessary to prevent further deterioration of the buildings.”

Referring to Ms Abrams’ claim about the former officer, he commented: “Neither I nor the NPA are bound by advice allegedly given by an officer who had no authority to grant planning permission or listed building consent.”

The work already carried out includes rendering of the wall of the stables which, said Mr Thickett, would normally be expected to be finished to the same quality as the main house.

“Unfortunately, this has already been done to the detriment of the historical interest of this building,” he said.

Most of the windows in the stables have been replaced, with no justification having been given for not restoring the originals.

In his report the Inspector continues: “Internally, whilst I acknowledge the stall dividers, troughs and other features would have presented a challenge to the design of the living space, no effort appears to have been made to retain them in situ or justify why they had to be removed.

“Their loss significantly undermines the appreciation of the historical link between Caerynwch and its former stables.”

The Inspector agreed with the planning authority that the work conflicted with its policy over the conversion of redundant rural buildings as it was not associated with a rural enterprise.

The final reason for refusal is that Natural Resources Wales have recorded a lesser horseshoe bat roost at Caerynwch and numerous bats locally, so a survey should have been carried out before work began.

It is understood that Ms Abrams has lodged a claim for costs against the planning authority.