Terrible times and too many tears in Tywyn

More than five months after a storm severely damaged the Dol Hendre block of flats, and then heavy rain poured more misery, residents are still in temporary accommodation. And now, a planning application threatens to take away the community’s vital green space.

By Julie McNicholls Vale   |   Deputy news editor   |
Saturday 6th August 2022 3:30 pm
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Residents have been hit by storm and rain damage as well as the threat of a new housing development on their green space
Residents have been hit by storm and rain damage as well as the threat of a new housing development on their green space (Cambrian News )

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RESIDENTS on an estate in Tywyn say they are at the end of their tether following a further blow for the owners of storm-hit flats and the resubmission of a planning application to build four bungalows on green land opposite.

In February this year, Storm Eunice battered Sherwood House and Dol Hendre flats, tearing off their roofs and leaving some residents homeless.

Almost five-and-a-half months - around 24 weeks later - some flats still remain uninhabitable and their owners are about to enter yet another month in emergency accommodation.

Heavy rain on Sunday, 24 July has caused further damage to Dol Hendre, and it has forced another resident from their home.

Iris Nicklin, 86, lives in flat number 2, and was one of the lucky ones who had been able to stay in their home following February’s storm.

But heavy rain 10 days ago caused further damage, leaving Iris with no electricity and her flat in need of a new ceiling. As a result of that, she has been forced into temporary accommodation in Aberdyfi.

“It’s disgraceful,” said Iris, who has lived in Dol Hendre for 15 years.

Her son David agrees: “It’s been handled appallingly.”

Iris and David Nicklin Dol Hendre Tywyn
Iris Nicklin, 86, was forced from her home in the wake of heavy rain last month, forcing her into temporary accommodation away from family and friends. Her son, David, says the situation has been handled “appallingly” (Cambrian News )

The owners of the flats told the Cambrian News they are fed up and frustrated by the length of time it is taking to repair them.

They also claim that a temporary tin roof and scaffolding put up around the flats for building work to take place has not been done correctly and led to further damage to the flats on 24 July.

Tywyn councillor John Pughe said: “I believe the scaffolding has had to be redone, and the tin roof on top of the damaged roof has let in heavy rain recently.

“I was called to see the latest damage on Monday, 25 July, at 8am.

“I got building regulators from Gwynedd Council to have a look and I got in touch with social services to rehouse people who needed to leave their accommodation.”

He said the recent bad weather is another blow for residents who have been waiting for the flats to be fixed since February.

“Everyone’s mental health is being affected,” he said.

“And people are running dehumidifiers and paying for the electricity to run them themselves.”

Iris said: “I don’t know when I will be able to come home again.

“My ceiling needs to be replaced and I have no family or friends in Aberdyfi.”

The heavy rain on 24 July also caused a fire at Dol Hendre. North Wales Fire and Rescue Service has been asked to comment.

Mark Bradley lives at number 1 Dol Hendre. He said he is lucky as he has been able to stay in his flat, but he is concerned for his friends and neighbours, and for the state of the building.

“When the storm hit in February the insurance company assessed the damage and a company put scaffolding up,” he said. “They’ve had to do that multiple times, and tin sheets on the roof have blown off and could have killed someone.

“The tin sheeting also leaks and someone needs to be held accountable.

“The scaffolding company keeps coming back to make the tin roof watertight but it’s still not.”

Sue Griffiths and her husband bought their Dol Hendre flat in 2013 but had to move out in February when Storm Eunice hit.

“I was also off work sick for five weeks when it first happened, and I’ve moved five times since then,” said Sue.

“Our belongings are in four different places throughout Tywyn and it took 11 car loads to move it.

“We were told the work would take eight to 10 weeks but it’s been months now and it’s beyond a joke.”

She added: “The emergency services were amazing in February and even the mountain rescue service helped.

“We were initially put up in the leisure centre and the council said they could rehome those who wanted, but we’re all getting fed up now.”

A second blow

A further blow for residents is the resubmission of a planning application to build four bungalows on green land opposite.

Mark said: “I’ve been here 25 years and people need this green area.

“It will affect our outlook if it gets the go-ahead and it is a crying shame to spoil the area. I can’t believe someone wants to build four bungalows on it. The area is too enclosed. They are going to ruin it, affect the community and property prices.”

Residents made signs urging the community to sign their petition in a bid to stop a proposed housing development and save the green at Dol Hendre
Residents made signs urging the community to sign their petition in a bid to stop a proposed housing development and save the green at Dol Hendre (Cambrian News )

Residents of the flats are not the only ones who will be affected. Others who live in houses around the land said they had opposed the application before, and it was turned down, but now it has been resubmitted and a petition against it has been launched.

The application is for four single-storey dwellings on land adjacent to Ffordd Dyfed, Tywyn. One of the four houses will be an affordable dwelling. It has been made by Michael Bishton through Spencer Pughe Associates.

Dr John Olsen has lived at Awel Dyfi, next to the proposed development land, for seven years. He believes the development will “steal some of his land” and said “the whole development is an attempt to grab a another pile of cash”.

“There’s a footpath on the plans on my land,” he said. “This land has been set aside as green space for the community for 40 years. Residents have enjoyed unhindered access to this land and for the last 14 years have paid for its upkeep.”

He added: “Gwynedd Council has declared a climate emergency and green spaces are more important than ever. There are a dozen different species of flowering plants here that are important for the bees, and birds also feed here. Five of those birds that do are on the RSPB’s red list and six are on their amber list. There are also badgers and foxes here. This area is important for both the wildlife and the people here.

“It will be a massive visual intrusion if this goes through, quite apart from the impact on the wildlife.

“Also, the building work itself will be very unwelcome. Most people here are retired, and here all day. It will have an effect on mental health and the end result will be a degraded environment.

“This area is also a carbon sink and should be developed sensitively with trees and shrubs to support and encourage wildlife. We want to do that, but we can’t if it gets built on.”

Residents told the Cambrian News that, historically, the air ambulance has landed there, and fire engines already struggle to get to properties there without further development.

Jean Hudson, who put up Iris Nicklin in her home until emergency accommodation could be found, fears for her community if plans for the houses opposite her house get the go-ahead.

“The council has sent 18 notices out but last time they sent out more,” she said. “The property is in Awel Dyfi but they have put it adjacent to Ffordd Dyfed in the plans. The way the new builds are situated, the fire and ambulance service would have restricted access, and the land is used by the local community. Last year we raised nearly £600 for the air ambulance. This year we have arranged bingo on the green with all the money going to terminally children, as one of the residents supports this charity.

“We are also arranging a residents’ barbecue as some of our residents can’t get out, so the green is an aid to their mental wellbeing. We have two friendship benches on the green so people who feel alone, depressed or want company can sit on the bench and one of us will go out to check on them and see if they need to talk. If this planning goes ahead all this will be lost.

“This is the only open green space left in Tywyn. The community needs this land.”

A petition against the application has 164 signatures. Objections to the application must be sent to the council by 7 August.

A Gwynedd Council spokesperson said: “We would urge anyone who has comments or concerns about the application to take part in the consultation by submitting their planning based representations via the council website or by post.

“No date has been set for when the application will be presented to committee.”

To make representations, visit gwynedd.llyw.cymru click Planning and find the application on the ‘Track and Trace’ system, using reference number C22/0646/09/LL. Written representations can be sent by post to Gwynedd Council Offices, Ffordd y Cob, Pwllheli.

Nick Plotnek Associates, who residents say has the leasehold for Dol Hendre flats, has been approached for a comment. SDS Scaffolding said they did not want to comment.

Spencer Pughe Associates released the following statement on behalf of the planning applicant: “The development seeks to make use of land within the development boundary of Tywyn.

“We understand that objections refer to the land as open public space, however this is not correct. The land is privately owned and is not subject to restrictions under historical planning consents for the land to be designated as a community area.

“Like many coastal towns in Gwynedd, Tywyn has experienced high demand for property and whilst a number of housing developments have been completed during the current development plan period, there remains a number of extant planning consents for housing that have either stalled or have been postponed for years and never progressed. This distorts the delivery of new, energy efficient housing in the town, which we feel is even more necessary now at a time of significant energy price increases.

“We strongly believe that the issue of climate change has become critical and whilst this may be an uncomfortable truth for some, there is urgent need to provide modern houses with far better performance than that achieved by existing housing stock.

“This development also seeks to provide targeted housing most suited to elderly residents along with one affordable dwelling.

“We therefore expect the local planning authority to balance the need of local residents, who feel they may be impacted by this small-scale housing development with their ambitions for adding to the stock of affordable housing for local residents when determining this application.”

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