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Gwynedd Council

1.1.1           The boundaries of Gwynedd Council were defined by the Local Government Act (Wales) 1994, and the Council came into existence in April 1996.  Gwynedd is located on the most westerly part of North Wales and it is bordered by five Unitary Authorities, namely Anglesey, Conwy, Denbighshire, Powys and Ceredigion.

1.1.2        Because of its geographical location, not only is Gwynedd peripheral in terms of its links with Europe but also with the rest of the UK. A large proportion of the Council’s area (63%) falls within the Snowdonia National Park. According to the 2001 Census, Gwynedd's resident population stood at 116,843. It is an area with a relatively low population density: 46 persons to every sq km.

1.1.3         In terms of administration, Gwynedd Council is divided into three sub-areas, namely Arfon, Dwyfor and Meirionnydd and then into 43 community councils.

Planning responsibilities within Gwynedd

1.1.4         As a result of local government reorganisation in Wales there are two Local Planning Authorities with statutory planning responsibilities within the area of Gwynedd, namely:

Gwynedd Council - operates within the areas of Arfon, Dwyfor and Meirionnydd that fall outside the Snowdonia National Park. 

Snowdonia National Park - which is an independent Planning Authority and responsible for the whole area falling within its boundaries.

1.1.5        Since there are two Planning Authorities operating within Gwynedd, there will be two operative Development Plans, namely the one which will be prepared by the Snowdonia National Park Authority, and this Plan (the Gwynedd Unitary Development Plan) which cover the respective planning administration areas. The boundaries of these areas are shown on Key Diagram 1.

1.1.6         The two Planning Authorities work together during the preparation of their respective plans to:

Gwynedd Council is also working closely with other neighbouring authorities on strategic issues such as housing, employment, transport, etc.

The Gwynedd Council planning area

1.1.7        Although the area is considered geographically peripheral within Wales and the UK, the A55 and the North Wales Coast Railway Line link it with the remainder of North Wales and beyond. The main links to South and Mid-Wales are the A5 (T), A470 (T), A458 (T) and the Cambrian Coast Railway Line.

1.1.8    It is an area predominantly rural in character with a rich and varied landscape. The landscape and habitats, together with the species that are dependent on them, are recognised as being of local, national and international importance.

1.1.9         The communities which have grown around the towns and villages, which are primarily located along the coastline, all have their unique characteristics based on the Welsh culture, the local geography, the varied historical background and the local economy. However, the natural beauty of the area conceals deprived communities which have suffered from economic decline as a result of industrial recession and its resulting social impact over a long period. In addition to this, some communities are suffering because of the weaknesses common to rural and peripheral areas throughout the country: poor infrastructure, lack of job opportunities, insufficient services and a lack of affordable housing.


Why the need for a Unitary Development Plan?

1.1.10       The role of land use planning is to set a framework for development and land use, giving full consideration to economic, social, environmental and local issues. All local planning authorities in Wales were required to prepare Unitary Development Plans under the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and the Planning and Compensation Act 1991.

1.1.11       The Gwynedd Unitary Development Plan establishes a policy framework and makes provision for development needs for the period from 2001 to 2016. It will be used by the Council to guide and control development, providing a basis for consistent and appropriate decisions on planning applications.

1.1.12       The importance of the Unitary Development Plan in the process of decision-making on planning matters is highlighted  by Section 54a of the Planning and Compensation Act 1991, which emphasises that development control decisions should be made in accordance with the provisions of the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise.

1.1.13       The Gwynedd Unitary Development Plan:

1.1.14      Therefore, the Plan offers guidance for new developments and promotes enterprise and
a level of certainty to developers and the public in respect of developments, which are either 
acceptable or unacceptable. It will be a means of ensuring that decisions on planning applications are made in a fair and consistent manner.

Form and content

1.1.15       The Gwynedd Unitary Development Plan includes the Council's policies and proposals in relation to land use, and includes an explanation and justification of the emphasis the Council has placed on economic, social, environmental and other relevant material considerations.

1.1.16       The Plan is divided into two parts:

Part 1- This is the strategic base for the whole Plan. It presents a geographical pattern for directing development within the Plan's area and a written statement of the strategic policies relevant to the whole Plan area. These provide the context and framework for the detailed policies and proposals in Part 2. It also notes the general provision to be made for housing and employment.

Part 2 – This presents the justification for the strategic policies in Part 1 together with the more detailed policies and proposals relating specifically to land use matters. This part of the Plan also includes the Proposals Maps.

In addition, it is intended to prepare a series of Supplementary Guidance for some forms of development. The Supplementary Guidance will offer additional information and advice to developers and, depending on their status, they could be used as 'relevant material considerations' when deciding upon planning applications.

1.1.17       The Plan has been prepared in a positive way, so that it can lay a firm foundation and offer drive and direction for regenerating, maintaining and promoting sustainable communities in Gwynedd.

1.1.18       The Plan was the subject of a combined Sustainability Appraisal/ Strategic Environmental Assessment at various stages during its preparation and a summary of the appraisal will be included with the final document.

The Unitary Development Plan preparation procedure

1.1.19       The process of adopting a Unitary Development Plan involves taking a number of statutory actions. These actions include a number of consultation periods with the public and various public and private bodies, so that those likely to be affected by the Plan can state their views. Table 1 illustrates the actions that were undertaken in preparation of the Gwynedd Unitary Development Plan.


Sustainable Development

1.1.20       The concept of 'sustainable development' has been established as a cornerstone for policy at an international and national level and is central to the Council's mode of thinking with regard to service provision.

1.1.21        Sustainable Development is defined as ’development that satisfies the present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs’. Sustainable development and an improvement in the quality of life of the area's inhabitants will be achieved by securing a balance between the four objectives set out below:

All the Plan’s policies were evaluated in the context of the above objectives by means of the Sustainability Appraisal, which is part of the Plan’s preparation process. The objectives were used to assess all new development in the Plan area.

1.1.23       The Plan provides a framework to respond to our collective responsibility to maintain, safeguard and, where possible, improve the environment in its entirety. To this end, the Plan's strategy reflects environmental considerations as well as social and economic ones. When a development is approved, the valuable features of our communities and our culture - our language, our built environment and our natural resources - will not be sacrificed for short-term gain. A key part of achieving this will be effective utilization of previously developed areas and the development of effective transport systems.

1.1.24        Sustainable development, as set out in ‘Learning to Live Differently’ and ‘Wales: A Better Country’  (the Assembly’s Strategic Plan), provides the over-arching framework within which the Assembly will develop any new strategies, policies, programmes and grant schemes, and will underpin the review of its existing ones. It is vitally important to link the aspirations and implementation measures used by the Welsh Assembly Government, Local Authorities, businesses, public and voluntary sectors as well as the communities, so that sustainable development can be achieved in Wales.

1.1.25       The Assembly’s commitment to the principles of sustainable development is based on the duty under Section 121 of the Government of Wales Act to promote sustainable development in the exercise of its functions. The Assembly has prepared a Sustainable Development Scheme that sets out how it intends to achieve and monitor this duty.

The national and international context

1.1.26       All Unitary Development Plans must be consistent with the laws and regulations of the UK Government and the European Union. The Welsh Assembly Government holds responsibility for planning and land use issues in Wales and the European Union land use planning context is primarily incorporated into the Assembly’s policy documents. In respect of the Unitary Development Plan process the main Assembly guidance and policy documents are:

  1. Unitary Development Plans Wales (2001) – provides advice on the preparation of Unitary Development Plans;
  2. Planning Policy Wales (2002) (as amended) – this is supported by technical advice in the Technical Advice Notes (Wales) and sets the context for sustainable land use planning policy.
  3. Minerals Planning Policy 2000

1.1.27       Land use planning has a role in supporting all the strategies of the National Assembly for Wales relating to land use and sustainable development. It contributes to economic development, to the conservation of Wales’ natural and built assets, and to the health, well being and quality of life of individuals and communities. Planning policy can help achieve the Assembly’s goals:

It is within this context that Local Planning Authorities’ Unitary Development Plans are prepared, and development control decisions on individual applications and appeals are made on the basis of the Plan.

The regional context

1.1.28       It is essential that the Development Plan is set in a regional context for North and Mid-Wales because a number of strategic level land use considerations are issues that transcend administrative boundaries.  All North Wales Planning Authorities have jointly produced the North Wales Regional Planning Guidance. This Guidance was adopted in July 2001.

1.1.29       The principles identified in the North Wales Regional Planning Guidance seek to promote sustainable social and economic development, including the protection and promotion of the Welsh language and culture, its landscapes, built and natural heritage.

Spatial planning

1.1.30       In November 2003 the Assembly published ‘People, Places, Futures – The Wales Spatial Plan’, i.e. the Spatial Plan for Wales. The aim of the document is to build upon the Assembly’s sustainable development responsibilities and to set a framework for spatial development throughout Wales. An important role for the Spatial Plan will be to provide a context for Local Planning Authority plan making and decision making.

Human rights

1.1.31       The Human Rights Act came into force on 2 October 2000 to incorporate the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into UK law and enable the UK Courts to enforce these rights. The general purpose of the ECHR is to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms and to maintain and promote the ideals and values of a democratic society. It sets out the basic rights of every individual together with the limitations placed on these rights in order to protect the rights of others and of the wider community. The Human Rights Act makes it unlawful for a public authority to act incompatibly with these ECHR rights except where, as a result of primary legislation, it could not have acted differently.


Relationship with the Council's other strategies and plans

1.1.32        Planning and sustainable development issues are important considerations in the delivery of all Local Authority services. The basis for the land use strategy put forward in the Unitary Development Plan will be the objectives set out in Gwynedd Council’s Corporate Plan:

1.1.33  The Unitary Development Plan will be part of a series of strategies and plans prepared with the aim of fulfilling the Council’s main objectives. Gwynedd Council has ensured that the policies and proposals of the Unitary Development Plan will inform and influence the delivery of all the Council’s functions. There was a close relationship between the Unitary Development Plan and the Gwynedd Community Strategy which is also a statutory plan which the Council is duty bound to prepare. There must be consistency and inter-working between these two documents in order to achieve their respective objectives.

1.1.34  In addition to the Community Strategy, there will be a close relationship between the Unitary Development Plan and the:

Sustainability Appraisal, Strategic Environmental Assessment and Screening under Regulation 48 of the Conservation (Natural Habitats etc) Regulations 1994

1.1.35       The appraisal of strategies, policies and proposals is an important part of the Plan’s preparation. At the outset the Council chose to undertake a Sustainability Appraisal of the Plan as it was seen as being the most effective tool to ensure that the Plan helps to facilitate sustainable development.  The EC Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Directive requires a SEA to be undertaken for plans whose preparation began before 21 July 2004 but would not be adopted before 21 July 2006. In order to be fully compliant with the Directive, SEA should be carried out from the commencement of the preparation of the Plan. This was not possible with the Gwynedd UDP and it has therefore been necessary to apply the SEA 'retrospectively' to the Deposit Draft UDP and the Proposed Modification stage. The Council appointed specialist consultants Baker Associates to undertake this task.

1.1.36        The consultants also revisited and updated the previous Sustainability Appraisal (SA) of the Plan, to ensure that it complied with up to date guidance. The two aspects of SEA and SA have been combined into a single study to ensure that the Plan’s environmental impacts and sustainability credentials were comprehensively addressed. This process included the following key stages:

1.1.37         The SEA / SA was also accompanied by a Screening under Regulation 48 of the Conservation (Natural Habitats etc ) Regulations 1994. The Directive requires that 'Any plan…..likely to have a significant effect…..shall be subject to appropriate assessment of the implications for the site in view of the sites conservation objectives'. The objective of this screening was to determine whether the UDP would have significant adverse effects upon any Ramsar or Natura 2000 sites and hence whether a formal appropriate assessment would be required.

The documentation is available for inspection at the Council’s Headquarters in Caernarfon and on the Council’s website ( and briefly comprises:

Monitoring and review

1.1.38         Once the Council has adopted the Plan, it must be continuously monitored to ensure that it meets the needs of local communities. Indicators to assess the Plan were developed in parallel with the preparation of Part 2 of the Plan and this will be produced in the context of the feedback results from the combined sustainability/ SEA appraisal. Individual policies will be monitored to ensure that they are sound and can withstand inquiry at appeal. On some occasions changes in planning law or policy will also mean that alterations need to be made to a plan to ensure that it is up to date.

1.1.39        Consequently Gwynedd Council has committed itself to a full review of the Gwynedd Unitary Development Plan every 5 years. If however the monitoring process reveals that changes are required to the contents of the Plan before its review date, then the Council, depending on the significance of the changes required, will undertake a complete/partial review of the Plan at the earliest available opportunity.

Table 1 - The Procedure for preparing the Gwynedd Unitary Development Plan

Preparatory Stages


(The following actions were taken in the preparation of the Consultation Draft of the Gwynedd Unitary Development Plan)

 Stage 1 - Collect and Collate Information
(Survey of the Area, Research, Issues Papers & Public Participation)

  1. Invite suggestions from local members and community councils as representatives of their areas regarding current needs and opportunities

  2. Collect information and statistics and prepare a series of Background/Research Papers on specific topics

  3. Encourage and enable public participation in the development of policy and proposals

Stage 2 - Pre Deposit Consultation –
(after considering the options the Council decided on the following process):

  1. Invite informal comments from specific bodies and the public on a Consultation Draft of the Plan. The Council considers the comments and makes changes to the Plan (if needed)

Statutory Plan Stages


(In order to accord with legislation and national planning policy the Planning Authority must take the following actions:)

Stage 3  - Publish a Deposit Draft Plan


  1. Make the Plan available for public examination for a set period. Opportunity to make formal objections or statements of support
  2. The Council considers the comments and offers to make proposed changes to the Plan (if needed) and to publish them for comments
  3.  Hold a Public Local Inquiry to deal with those objections that remain unresolved
  4.  The Inspector, following the Inquiry,  publishes his Report and the Council considers this Report

Stage 4 - Publish Proposed Modifications to the Plan (if needed)

  1. Make the modifications available for public examination. A further opportunity to make formal objections or statements in support of the modifications
  2. The Council considers the comments

Stage 5 – Adoption of the Plan

Notice of intention to adopt the Plan




1.2.1          Communities in Gwynedd have developed around its towns and villages, which are mainly located along the coast and in the quarrying areas. They have their own character, based on the Welsh culture, the local geography and the varied historical background.

1.2.2           The area's natural beauty conceals many underprivileged communities that have suffered as a result of gradual and unrelenting economic decline.

1.2.3           In addition to this there are communities which are battling against weaknesses common to rural areas the length and breadth of the country: the development patterns of the past, lack of infrastructure, lack of employment opportunities, inadequate services and lack of reasonably priced housing .

The quality of the environment

1.2.4           The area is principally rural in nature with a rich and varied landscape. The landscape and habitats, together with the species dependent upon them, are recognised as being of local, national and international value. A substantial part of the County, 174,200 ha (63%) has been designated as a National Park, 15,500 ha (5.6%) as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and 88 kilometres of the coastline as Heritage Coast.

1.2.5           With regards to biodiversity, 66 sites have been designated as National Nature Reserves or Sites of Special Scientific Interest within the Plan area and 1,500 as sites of nature conservation interest (Wildlife Sites). (Figures are based on the information available in June, 2004.)

1.2.6           In accordance with European Directives for birds and habitats, two sites have been designated as Special Protection Areas and five sites as prospective Special Areas for Conservation. Three of these sites are maritime sites with the areas, which are Pen Llŷn a'r Sarnau, Aber Menai and the Menai Straits and Conwy Bay, comprising over 90% of Gwynedd's coast and coastal waters.

1.2.7          There are 2235 Listed Buildings and 40 conservation areas within the Plan area. A high percentage of the County has been registered as a landscape of special historic interest and there are 211 Scheduled Ancient Monument sites within the Plan area.

1.2.8           The County's landscape has been assessed using the LANDMAP process. The public perception exercise, which was part of this process, clearly demonstrated that people considered the environment important both as regards nationally designated sites or those of local value. The exercise showed the desire of local inhabitants to safeguard the environmental diversity of the County.

1.2.9               Examination of indicators gathered from a wide variety of established sources indicate that the quality of theair and water in Gwynedd are generally considered to be comparatively good.  The Ecological Footprint, which is one way of measuring how the population’s lifestyle impacts on the planet, has shown that Gwynedd has an ecological footprint of 5.28 gha per capita.  The significance of the ecological footprint result for Gwynedd is that at current levels of consumption the county is unsustainable.

1.2.10      Gwynedd has many natural resources, which derive from renewable sources. The forests, rivers, the power of the tides and coastal currents are examples of these. In addition, the location and nature ofthe landscape contributes to the potential for the use of wind power.

1.2.11         Environmental quality is important to the wellbeing of Gwynedd's economy. The beauty and character of the area and its healthy environment attract both visitors and investment. These natural attributes also tend to attract immigrants, which have diluted the Welshness of many coastal and rural communities over time.

The population

1.2.12         In 2002 the population of Gwynedd was 117,200, about 4% of the population of Wales. Geographically, the County is large, extending 78 kilometres from north (Bangor) to south (Aberdyfi) and 91 kilometres from west (Aberdaron) to east (Llandderfel), with a total surface land area of 2,450 square kilometres. Gwynedd's population density is 0.46 persons per hectare, the third lowest among the Welsh unitary authorities.

1.2.13          Gwynedd's population has gradually increased since 1971 due to inward migration exceeding outward migration and the net effects of births less deaths. This has led to a lack of balance in the age structure of the population that is more obvious in the south and west of the County, where the age structure is much older than in the north. This has a negative effect on economic activity rates, reducing communities' ability to create economic opportunities and increase income levels.

1.2.14          Demographic changes and changes in patterns and lifestyles have a marked influence on social needs and particularly on housing needs. These changes must be incorporated in our projections for the future and, in planning for substantial changes in the nature of our communities.

The Welsh language

1.2.15         At present, the Welsh language and Welsh culture remain relatively strong in Gwynedd. According to the 2001 Census 69% of the population speak Welsh, the highest percentage of all the Welsh unitary authorities. The percentage of Welsh speakers varies considerably between communities, ranging from 88% in Peblig Ward (Caernarfon) to 28% in Deiniol Ward (Bangor). Research shows that in communities where the proportion of persons born outside Wales is high, there has been a corresponding decline in the percentage of Welsh speakers.


1.2.16          According to the 2002 Annual Business Inquiry (ABI), 42,652 people were employed within the boundaries of Gwynedd. Since 1999 there has been an increase of 7.5%, or 2,975, in the workforce. Over the same period, employment across North Wales increased by 2.1%, i.e. over 4,800 jobs. In Gwynedd 2,100 jobs or 70% of this growth was in public sector employment. The ABI data does not include data on the self-employed or agriculture. However, the 2001 Census counts the number of residents who are employees or self-employed as 45,143, which shows an overall increase for the ten year period of only 0.1% when compared to the 1991 Census.

1.2.17   In 2002, 42% of jobs in Gwynedd were within the public sector, education and health and 28% in the distribution of goods, hotels and restaurants sector. The corresponding percentages for Wales are 32% and 23%. Only 9% of employment in Gwynedd, compared with 17% in Wales, is in the manufacturing sector, with 6% compared with 12% throughout Wales in the growth sector for banking, financial services and insurance.

1.2.18         A high percentage of the workforce resident in Gwynedd is self-employed with 22% in this sector compared to an average of 14% across Wales.

1.2.19          Gwynedd's main problem in the context of employment is the tendency towards those sectors offering low wages. In 2003 weekly earnings (average gross) in Gwynedd were £368.68  - 88% of the Welsh average and 77% of the United Kingdom (UK) average. The percentage of the workforce                                      earning less than £250 per week was much higher in Gwynedd, with the figure at 36.1% compared to 28.3% for Wales and 23.7% for the UK. This situation is at the root of a number of the county's deprivation problems.

1.2.20         As to the individual domains, the Index of Multiple Deprivation reveals that 14 out of 69 wards in Gwynedd are in the worst quintile (20%) for deprivation in Wales as regards income.

The workforce

1.2.21         The percentage of the population which is economically active reveals people's desire and ability to be a part of the workforce. In 2001 the percentage for Gwynedd was 60.5% compared with 61.0% for Wales. Within this figure, the rate for men in Gwynedd was 67.9% (Wales – 67.7%) and 53.6% for women (Wales – 54.5%).

1.2.22         The pattern to note here is the increase in female activity and the decrease in male activity within the workforce. This pattern can be seen across the whole of Wales and is to some extent the result of social and demographic changes.

1.2.23          During the period from January 2003 to January 2004 the average unemployment rate in Gwynedd was 3.0%, compared with 2.6% for Wales. In 1998 the unemployment rate in Gwynedd was 2.0 percentage points higher than the rate for the UK and 1.5 points higher than the average rate for Wales. Between 1998 and 2004 the differences have contracted and the rate for Gwynedd is now between 1.0 and 0.5 points higher than Wales and the UK.

1.2.24         The total unemployment for Gwynedd in October 2003 was 1,820, or 2.7% compared with 2.4% for Wales and 2.4% for the UK. It should also be noted that the definition used for unemployment, particularly within the economically inactive categories, conceals an element of unemployment in the County. The figure for the long-term unemployed (over 12 months) is substantially higher in Gwynedd, 19.6%, compared with 12.8% for Wales. A very high 99% of those who have been unemployed for over 12 months and 22.5% of benefit claimants in Gwynedd are aged over 25, rates which are much higher than corresponding rates across Wales. Of those claimants over 25 years old, 11.7% have been unemployed for over 2 years whereas the rate for Wales and the UK is 4.4%.

1.2.25          Unemployment in Gwynedd also varies as a result of the seasonal nature of the tourist industry.

The economy

1.2.26         The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) measures an area's economic output by measuring the value of goods and services produced within the area. The GDP is a key measurement for comparing the prosperity of different areas. During the period 1994-1996 the GDP per head in Gwynedd was under 75% of the average GDP of the European Union. The equivalent figure for Wales was 82%.

1.2.27       A number of factors, many of them beyond local control, influences the competitiveness of Gwynedd's economy. The prosperity of the national economy, national policy, interest rates and regional competition all influence the economy of Gwynedd. In addition to its current comparatively weak condition, this makes it difficult to compete with other areas. However, it should be noted that this is also an indication of the potential and the opportunities for local regeneration.

1.2.28       One sector of the economy that has recently suffered hard times is the agricultural sector. The industry has suffered substantial hardship and a reduction in the workforce in the wake of problems such as low prices for produce, increasing costs, new regulations and animal health problems including BSE, foot and mouth disease and bovine TB. As a result of these problems, less young people are entering the industry and there is a tendency to merge farms and sell the houses separately. These tendencies have a negative impact on the indigenous rural communities of the Plan area.

Peripheral location

1.2.29   Owing to its geographical location, Gwynedd is not only peripheral from the point of view of its links with Europe but also with the rest of the UK.  The distance from populated business centres and the standard of connections can have a negative influence on economic investment decisions.

1.2.30          Some communities within Gwynedd, particularly in the Meirionnydd and Llŷn areas are peripheral even within Gwynedd. The Multiple Deprivation Index shows that the 23 wards which are amongst the most deprived quintile (20%) in Wales relate to geographical access to services.

1.2.31         To the east, the A55 and the North Wales Coast Railway link Gwynedd with the rest of North Wales and beyond. The A55 and the railway provide the main links to Anglesey with the port at Holyhead as the gateway to Ireland. The links with Mid and South Wales are essential for the southern part of Gwynedd with the A470, the A483 and the Cambrian Railway providing the main links. The County’s other strategic highways are the A487; A494; A497; A499 and the A4212.

1.2.32          Another feature is the scattered settlement pattern. Some centres of population are found along the coast, with smaller Service Centres and villages being more characteristic of the rural areas. This means that the cost of providing services is comparatively higher and creates a considerable challenge for social and economic development policies.

1.2.33          Natural barriers such as mountains, rivers and lakes also increase travelling times, with the distance travelled being much more than the distance as the crow flies. This adds considerably to the cost of living for residents and can also inhibit inward investment.


1.2.34         The Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation 2000 shows that 35 of Gwynedd's 69 wards were amongst the worst 20% in Wales as regards housing deprivation. The influence of the industrial revolution is a root cause of this, as we have inherited housing unsuitable for today's needs. Of Gwynedd's housing stock, 47% were built before 1919, the third highest figure for Welsh unitary authorities. Only 22.7% of the housing stock was built after 1964, the lowest proportion among Welsh unitary authorities. The age structure of Gwynedd's housing stock is very similar to those of Blaenau Gwent and Rhondda Cynon Taf.

1.2.35   The housing market in Gwynedd is driven by external forces and as a result house prices do not reflect the strength of the local economy. When house prices and income levels in the area are considered it is obvious that some people, young people in particular, have difficulty in buying or renting their own homes. Local people are in competition for the houses that are available with people from more prosperous areas who wish to move into the area. The effect of this is increased house prices and an increasing number of the area’s housing stock being out of the financial reach of local people. The situation is most acute in coastal and rural areas.



1.3.1     The Unitary Development Plan's Main Strategy is to:

Provide a framework for creating and maintaining sustainable communities


Sustainable Communities

1.3.2     Sustainable communities are defined as ‘communities which have reasonable conditions for people to live and work in. This means balancing and integrating the need to safeguard the interests of the Welsh language, to protect and make the best use of environmental resources, encourage the development of inclusive societies and support economic regeneration.’1

1.3.3           The concept of developing sustainable communities is a central element in the Unitary Development Plan and permeates all of its policies. The Plan aims to achieve the appropriate mix of land uses to make the communities of Gwynedd sustainable and to improve the quality of life of the County’s residents. In addition, an effort is made to enable the communities of Gwynedd to contribute to national and international obligations to safeguard the earth’s wellbeing.

1.3.4           The Plan aims to achieve this by means of the following objectives: -

1  Opportunities for change (DETR 1998)


1.3.5           Two important functions of the Unitary Development Plan is to guide and direct developments within the Plan area (taking full consideration of its special linguistic, cultural and environmental features) and address issues and conditions already in existence that could  have a bearing on the future of Gwynedd.

1.3.6          There is a distinct difference between individual settlements within the Plan area. Some are of a stable and robust character whilst others were under threat or deteriorating due to lack of investment, resulting in poor services and the deterioration of the environment and the condition of buildings. The future of these settlements must be considered in the context of their current situation and recent history.

1.3.7          Some settlements, particularly those within easy reach of the main centres, have seen considerable development in recent years. In some cases the development has been at the expense of other settlements, which have seen the loss of population, facilities and services.

1.3.8          Through the Unitary Development Plan the aim is control these tendencies by restricting development in settlements which have seen a significant level of development in recent years, whilst providing more opportunities in other settlements which have suffered deterioration. Such action aims to sustain, safeguard and regenerate indigenous communities.

1.3.9          Coastal settlements, which are very popular with visitors and retirees, have been the subject of substantial speculative development. This has led to considerable social and physical problems, such as a high percentage of second homes, the negative effect on the indigenous communities, sewerage problems etc.  The Council does not wish to see this situation continue uncontrolled as it contravenes the principles of sustainability. In these settlements development opportunities will be restricted.

1.3.10       In order to attempt to address these issues, the Unitary Development Plan, in conjunction with the Council’s other plans and strategies, will aim to provide the conditions conducive to economic development as well as providing for housing. The scale of development in the settlements, especially proposals for housing and industrial land, will depend on the principles of sustainable development, with specific emphasis on an integrated transport and communications network.

1.3.11         In order to achieve this effectively, and in line with the aim of creating sustainable communities, a spatial strategy has been adopted as a basis for the Plan’s policies and proposals.

1.3.12         Eight Dependency Catchment Areas (DCA) have been established as the basis of the spatial strategy for guiding development and addressing existing issues and conditions. The eight areas are shown on Map 2 - Key Diagram.

1.3.13      These Catchment Areas are not based on administrative boundaries within the County. Instead they convey the diverse characteristics of different parts of the area, the character of the area, and the social and economic interaction and dependency between different settlements within the Plan area and beyond its boundaries. They are a practical and realistic way of dealing with the area in its entirety.

1.3.14         The way in which the Plan area and different parts of it function was analysed during preparation of  the spatial strategy. The way in which individuals and businesses interact in different parts was examined as well as the implications for facilities and services, travel patterns, and the demand for development.

1.3.15         A clean slate approach was not possible therefore the past and present development pattern influenced the work. The location of settlements in the Plan area and Gwynedd depends to a large extent on the area’s geography and on past rural and industrial activities.

1.3.16         One of the Plan area’s characteristics is the number of ‘Centres’, which differ in terms of size and function, and are varied in terms of  the level of their self-containment and the level of services and facilities available within them. Nonetheless the Centres are an important resource to the surrounding rural areas, and can offer the nearest cluster of shops, secondary school or health facility for a number of rural residents, particularly those that in live in the more remote rural areas. The relationship between Centres, Villages and the Rural Villages is varied in nature and complex. However, there is a strong relationship between some Villages and Centres. Personal mobility has generally improved over the years, which has weakened the past relationship between settlements. At the same time, accessibility to a choice of workplaces, services and facilities for those rural residents without access to a car has deteriorated. Therefore, the interaction between them and the nearest Centre or Village is stronger.

1.3.17         It was possible to identify functional areas for a number of activities, e.g. retailing, secondary education, as well as travel to work patterns. Although the boundaries of these functional areas were slightly different, there were common elements. These common elements were the basis for the decision regarding the extent of the DCAs.

1.3.18         The process of identifying the DCAs involved contributions from representatives of different Council services, as they would form the basis for other Council strategies, such as the regeneration strategy. The extent of the DCAs are generally similar to the Local Housing Market Areas as shown in the emerging Local Housing Market Assessment.

1.3.19     By considering the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing the Dependency Catchment Areas and the individual settlements within them, the Plan identifies the various needs within these Catchment Areas and attempts to address them. This method of forming the spatial strategy involves identifying a hierarchy of settlements that is primarily based on the role and function of the different settlements in their locality, i.e. the DCA, rather than basing it on its size and the size of the population. It is considered that guiding development in accordance with the role and function of the settlement in the DCA will:

1.3.20         The Plan presents policies and proposals aimed at responding to the needs of the Dependency Catchment Areas and the communities within them.

1.3.21         It also aims to create a framework for the appropriate provision of jobs, services, facilities and opportunities for development in order to reduce deprivation, maintain sustainable communities and ensure appropriate land uses within the Catchment Areas.

1.3.22         To allow for comprehensive assessment of the County, to reflect the fact that there are no geographical boundaries between the Gwynedd UDP area and the Snowdonia National Park’s development plan area and that there are some strategic issues that affect both planning areas, the Dependency Catchment Areas include those areas of Gwynedd which lie within the boundaries of Snowdonia National Park. There will be continuous consultation and co-operation between both planning authorities. However, it should be emphasised that the Gwynedd UDP does not guide development in areas of the County that lie within the boundaries of Snowdonia National Park.

1.3.23          Development pressures, availability of suitable sites, the private sector's desire to invest, the quality and sensitivity of the environment, together with networks and an infrastructure for transport and services, vary considerably across the county. It varies between the 8 Dependency Catchment Areas as well as between communities in each DCA .  The Authority’s strategy for directing development in each of the Dependency Catchment Areas is presented in the following section.

Bangor and Caernarfon Dependency Catchment Areas

1.3.24         The potential for economic growth is higher in the Bangor and Caernarfon Dependency Catchment Areas than in the rest of Gwynedd, mainly due to the transport links, the size of the population and the links with public administration, health and educational institutions. Public and private investment in these areas over recent years has reinforced this potential to boost and develop the economy.

1.3.25         The Catchment Areas have good links to the rest of the UK and Ireland via the A55 and the North Wales Coast Railway line. The geographical location and role of Bangor, and that of Caernarfon to a lesser degree, as gateways to the rest of Gwynedd and to the Snowdonia National Park is an important element of the Plan’s overall strategy.

1.3.26          Commitment and investment in an integrated and efficient regional transport system, serving rural and urban areas, is vital to the prosperity of the Bangor and Caernarfon Catchment Areas and to the rest of Northern Gwynedd and Anglesey. Gwynedd’s Economic Development Strategy and the Local Transport Plan acknowledge the importance of good transport links for economic development and this forms part of the Plan's development framework.

1.3.27          Bangor’s role as a higher education centre is an important factor in the city’s potential and capacity to accommodate growth. Caernarfon’s role is orientated towards the public sector and tourism. The Service Centres as foci for investment and economic development can benefit the more deprived areas in the rural and post-industrial parts of the Dependency Catchment Areas.

1.3.28         A substantial percentage of brownfield land within the Plan area lies in the Bangor and Caernarfon Catchment Areas. The Plan emphasises the importance of making full use of buildings and brownfield land that are suitable to be developed particularly within the two main Service Centres and in all the post-industrial quarrying settlements.

1.3.29         The main environmental considerations in the Bangor and Caernarfon Catchment Areas will be to ensure that development will not adversely affect the visual amenities or the biodiversity of the Menai Straits area. There is also an emphasis on safeguarding visual amenities towards, from and along the fringes of the Snowdonia National Park and the Anglesey Coast and Llŷn Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

1.3.30         The percentage of Welsh speakers varies between communities in the Bangor and Caernarfon Dependency Catchment Areas, from 88% in the Peblig ward in Caernarfon to 28% in the Deiniol ward in Bangor. The language and social and cultural traditions are important for the area’s residents as they, together with other features, contribute towards the community experience of living in a specific location. Therefore, the Plan emphasises the importance of maintaining and strengthening the social, linguistic and cultural fabric of the communities.

1.3.31      The Plan’s aims for the Bangor and Caernarfon Dependency Catchment Areas:

Llŷn, Porthmadog, Dolgellau/Abermaw and Tywyn/Machynlleth Dependency Catchment Areas

1.3.32       Whilst the whole of the Llŷn Dependency Catchment Area (DCA) lies within the Plan area, only around 50% of the land area of Porthmadog DCA lies within the Gwynedd UDP area. The remainder lies within the Snowdonia National Park. Only the settlements and areas around Barmouth and Fairbourne in the Dolgellau/Abermaw DCA and Tywyn and Corris in the Tywyn/Machynlleth DCA and the surrounding areas lie within the area covered by the Gwynedd UDP.

1.3.33          These areas are geographically peripheral both in the context of Wales and within the County. Reducing the effect of peripherality is a key part of the Plan strategy and is vital in promoting prosperity in those areas. Sustainably improving the transport networks to Bangor, Mid and South Wales and eastwards to Wrexham and Shrewsbury in an integrated fashion and reducing the need to travel can provide some potential for economic benefit. However the main priority will be sustaining and regenerating the communities within these Dependency Catchment Areas. .

1.3.34          These areas are rural and coastal and are characterised by an agricultural economy and because of their very high quality environment, they have a high dependence on tourism. Deprivation and low levels of income are distinct characteristics. It is not easy to attract private investment to these areas.

1.3.35   Recent research shows that there are very few houses available for sale that are within the financial reach of people on average earnings for the Gwynedd area within these DCAs. This creates housing affordability problems for local people.

1.3.36         One of the aims of both the Gwynedd Economic Development Strategy and this Plan is to give a high priority to the regeneration of deprived rural communities. Gradual growth, which complements investment programmes to regenerate, support and develop these communities, will be enabled and promoted by this Plan.

1.3.37         A number of the Service Centres in these Dependency Catchment Areas have nurtured strengths that can be a means to contribute to their regeneration and further prosperity. Pwllheli has been established as an international centre for sailing, Porthmadog is a gateway to the National Park and Llŷn and has strong railway links. The Plan is supportive of developments that are based on the characteristics of the centres and other complementary developments that will provide means to maintain and promote their community, environmental and economic wellbeing.

1.3.38         The quality of the environment is very high is these Catchment Areas. Safeguarding biodiversity and landscape features, the built environment, and promoting integrated coastal management through firm policies and good design, is considered a priority, particularly as a basis for the economic regeneration of these Catchment Areas.

1.3.39         The Plan’s aims for the Llŷn, Porthmadog, Dolgellau/Abermaw and Tywyn/Machynlleth Catchment Areas:

Ffestiniog Dependency Catchment Area

1.3.40       Whilst less peripheral than the more westerly DCA, Ffestiniog DCA displays many similar characteristics, especially in terms of economic weaknesses. 

1.3.41         The part of Ffestiniog DCA which lies within the Gwynedd UDP area, is post-industrial in character and its strengths and weaknesses are a direct result of this. The DCA is dominated by the historic remnants of the quarrying industry. The Urban Centre of Blaenau Ffestiniog is characterised by terraced housing and declining environmental quality. The town’s population is less than half the size it was when the town was at its industrial peak. Although the area has been in economic decline for almost a century, it may well that be the export of slate waste, mainly as secondary aggregates, can help rebuild its economy.

1.3.42          Existing transport links eastwards by rail and road do provide opportunities but need to be improved if the DCA’s economy is to be regenerated. Economic deprivation and low levels of income are distinct issues and it is not easy to attract private investment into the DCA. Regenerating the communities within the Dependency Catchment Areas is a priority. Reducing the need to travel can provide some potential for economic benefit. 

1.3.43         This area is dominated by high density 19th Century terraced housing. House prices in this area are much lower than in the rest of Gwynedd with affordability levels consequently better.

1.3.44         The Plan’s aims for the Ffestiniog Catchment Area:

Bala Dependency Catchment Area

1.3.45       Only the part of the DCA which lies east of Bala, including the village and ward of Llandderfel lie within the Gwynedd UDP area. The area has good links to the town of Bala itself and eastwards towards Wrexham.

1.3.46         This rural area is characterised by an agricultural economy and a high quality environment. Safeguarding biodiversity, landscape features and the built environment through robust policies and good design, are considered a priority, particularly as a basis for economic regeneration.  

1.3.47         This Plan gives a clear priority to the regeneration of rural communities. Gradual growth, which complements investment programmes to regenerate, support and develop these communities, will be enabled and promoted by this Plan.

1.3.48         The Plan’s aims for the Bala Catchment Area:



General principles

1.3.49         The principles used to direct the location of development on a strategic level across the Plan area and within each Development Catchment Area are:

1.3.50          Homes, work, goods and services should be provided as locally as possible in order to create communities that are genuinely sustainable and lessen the need to travel. This will provide assistance for people to stay within their communities. The Plan therefore supports development, which will make communities and areas more self-sustaining.

1.3.51          Urban and rural regeneration and dealing with deprivation are central themes of the Plan. Therefore its policies and proposals must address the real needs and problems. This means there is a difference in emphasis in the way the Plan deals with the area's towns and villages. Development will be restricted in some settlements as part of the strategy to regenerate and sustain communities in other areas.

Development boundaries

Each settlement within the Plan area was assessed by considering the criteria below:

  1. the role and function of the settlement
  2. the size of the settlement
  3. land use features and the pattern of the settlement
  4. the ability to develop/ constraints to development
  5. the existence of set and defendable  boundaries

Three main types of settlements emerged by utilising this methodology. The three types are Service Centres, Villages and Rural Villages.

1.3.52        Development boundaries have been designated for the area’s towns and villages. The purpose of the boundaries is to restrict development to sites that are within settlements in order to regulate development and to protect the countryside. More information about development boundaries is contained in the section on housing.

1.3.53         The Plan aims to locate the majority of development on sites within development boundaries. Some of the most important considerations in guiding new development will be their effect on the environment and on local communities. Throughout the whole of Gwynedd there is a wealth of distinctive landscapes or sites of biodiversity interest. The LANDMAP data-base and Natur Gwynedd - the Local Biodiversity Plan - together with information on the nature of the communities will be crucial in measuring the capacity of areas to accommodate particular developments. Because of the quality of the environment and the advice given in the national guidance, development outside the boundaries will be restricted.

Service Centres

1.3.54         The Plan aims to distribute development between the settlements in accordance with their function and role as Service Centres, Villages or Rural Villages in the relevant Dependancy Catchment Area. The character and identity of each of the settlements, including local economic and environmental conditions will be important considerations when deciding the scale of new development for approval.

1.3.55      Where it is possible to do so, the majority of new housing and employment development during the Plan period will be located in the Service Centres, namely the Sub-regional Centre, Urban Centres and Local Centres. These are the settlements with the best transport links and the most robust infrastructure in the area.

1.3.56         The Service Centres in the eight Catchment Areas vary in size and in the range of services and facilities they provide. The prosperity of these centres depends to a large extent on the prosperity of their Catchment Areas.

1.3.57         The City of Bangor is the only Sub-regional Centre in Gwynedd. It provides a range of services, such as transport, health, education and retail for the whole of North West Wales. The Sub-regional Centres of Llandudno, Wrexham and Aberystwyth serve some of the county’s eastern and southern communities.

1.3.58       The Urban Centres of Pwllheli, Caernarfon, Porthmadog and Blaenau Ffestinog have a strategic role and importance within their Catchment Areas and within the County.

1.3.59         They are easily reached from the rest of the area and provide a wide range of community services and facilities and a high standard of public transport links. They serve areas outside their neighbouring communities. Together with Bangor, they are the main employment centres of the Plan area.

1.3.60         The Local Centres of Bethesda, Llanberis, Penygroes, Nefyn, Penrhyndeudraeth, Criccieth, Barmouth and Tywyn have traditionally acted as centres for valleys, areas or groups of communities within the Dependency Catchment Areas. The facilities and services they provide meet the day-to-day needs of the local community, but they offer less variety and choice of additional facilities and services than the Urban Centres. They are also important centres in the context of providing jobs and employment opportunities and services connected with leisure and tourism.

1.3.61         All these Centres are located on the county's strategic roads network, and are served by better public transport provision than the Villages. Dolgellau, Bala, Harlech and Aberdyfi, which are within the boundaries of the Snowdonia National Park, serve parts of the Plan area, and can also be considered Local Centres.          

Table 2: Summary of the role and function of the Service Centres


Dependency Catchment Area

Sub-regional Centres

Urban  Centres

Local Centres










Llanberis Penygroes














Blaenau Ffestiniog



Dolgellau - Abermaw










Tywyn -




*  - Within the Snowdonia National Park

1.3.62         On the basis of sustainable development principles and the need to integrate land-use policies with transport policies, the current status of all the above mentioned centres will be safeguarded and promoted and an effort will be made to reinforce and extend the variety of services and facilities provided therein.

Villages and Rural Villages

1.3.63          Villages: Many have basic facilities and services such as a shop, post office or school and some have a public house or a garage. Local residents usually travel to one of the Service Centres to visit shops and to access more specialist services. Due to the restricted work opportunities and services in the villages and hamlets, the provision of good public transport links between these settlements and the Service Centres is important. The Plan aims to provide for the needs of the local area, including housing and employment needs within the Villages. There will be an emphasis on sustaining and safeguarding the form and character of Villages, and on environmental improvements.

1.3.64          Facilitating economic development in the Local Centres and Villages will assist in dealing with specific matters and will be a means  of creating a suitable level of local new employment, providing individuals with local opportunities in order to avoid maintaining or increasing unsustainable patterns of travel.

1.3.65          Rural Villages: Only limited development, which is required to meet genuine needs arising from the local community, will be permitted. Additionally it will be required that any development must blend with the form and character of the Rural Village in question as regards location, size, scale, design and materials used.

1.3.66         The rural areas or open countryside, which are a marked feature of these Catchment Areas, have faced recession in recent years. The role of the countryside as somewhere to live and earn a living is important in Gwynedd. Emphasis is placed in the Plan on the re-use of land and buildings for promoting enterprise and creating employment in rural communities. 

1.3.67         The hierarchy of Centres and Villages identified in Table 2 and on the Strategic Proposals Map, will be maintained and strengthened by ensuring that:




1.4.1           The Strategic Policies of the Unitary Development Plan determine the land use context on issues such as housing, employment, retail and the environment. Policies in Part 1 of the Gwynedd Unitary Development Plan are relevant for the whole Plan area. These Strategic Policies are aimed at encouraging and enabling development which fulfils the needs of communities in a sustainable manner.

1.4.2           The Strategic Policies are divided into the 5 following categories:




Development proposals that would have an adverse or uncertain impact on the environment, the economy or cultural character (including the Welsh language) of the Plan area will be refused unless it can be conclusively shown by an appropriate impact assessment that this can be negated or mitigated in a manner acceptable to the Planning Authority.




The area’s natural environment and its landscape character, and views in and out of the Snowdonia National Park and the Anglesey and Llŷn Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, will be safeguarded, maintained or improved by refusing development proposals that will significantly harm them.


The area’s built and historic environment will be protected from development that would significantly harm it and new developments in historic areas will be expected to conform to particularly high design standards which will maintain or improve their special character.


Development will be expected to be of a good design in order to ensure that it makes a positive contribution, wherever possible, to the landscape, built environment and sustainable development.



Developments that are inconsistent with the need to safeguard floodplains or to minimise flood risk and developments that create a risk of unacceptable damage to health, property or the environment, will be refused.




Priority will be given to making appropriate and suitable use of previously developed land, which is suitable for development, or buildings that are vacant or not used to their full potential. Development should make the most efficient and practicable use of land or buildings in terms of density, siting and layout.  



Development proposals to make use of mineral resources, including secondary aggregates, will be approved provided they do not significantly harm the environment or the amenities of local residents. These resources will be protected from development in order to safeguard Gwynedd’s contribution towards meeting the regional and national demand.



Proposals for facilities to treat and dispose of waste will be approved, if they fulfil the needs identified in national, regional and local waste strategies, and provided they do not significantly harm the environment or the amenities of nearby residents.



Development proposals to provide energy from renewable sources will be approved provided they do not significantly harm the environment or the amenities of nearby residents.




The need for housing in the Plan area during the plan period will be met through:



Development proposals which are accessible to all through a variety of transport modes by virtue of their location, will be permitted providing the appropriate infrastructure, including highways, cycle routes and facilities and footways, is in place, or is to be provided; and provided they do not significantly harm the environment or the amenities of nearby residents.



Transport schemes that form part of the strategic and integrated transport network identified in the Key Diagram, extend the choice of travel modes, facilitate access for local people and show clear benefits as regards network safety and efficiency, will be approved, provided they do not lead to an unacceptable increase in the need to travel and that they do not significantly harm the environment or the amenities of local residents.



Development proposals that maintain or improve the existing provision of community services and facilities or amenity spaces within the community will be approved provided they do not significantly harm the environment or the amenities of nearby residents.



Development proposals which maintain or improve existing sports and leisure facilities or for new quality sports and leisure activities will be approved provided  they do not significantly harm the environment or the amenities of nearby residents.




Land and property in the Plan area used for industry and business will usually be safeguarded for those purposes.



Land on employment sites in the Plan area


77.95 ha


55.78 ha


17.14 ha


35.52 ha


9.84 ha


8.00 ha


0.00 ha


0.00 ha


3.25 ha of land is allocated for employment initiatives to meet the shortage identified in the Plan area.


Development proposals that will strengthen or diversify local economies including on working farms within the Dependency Catchment Areas will be approved provided they do not significantly harm the environment, the area’s cultural characteristics or the amenities of nearby residents.



Proposals to develop or improve the variety and quality of tourist facilities and attractions will be approved provided they do not significantly harm the environment, the area’s cultural characteristics or the amenities of nearby residents.



The role of the Service Centres will be maintained or improved by approving proposals for development that will encourage/ facilitate a wide range of shopping, commercial, employment, transport, entertainment, leisure and culture facilities and activities in suitable locations.





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