‘Chaotic’ parking scenes in Snowdonia have been avoided, says park authority member
Some of the “chaotic” scenes witnessed in Snowdonia over the weekend could have been “foreseen” and “avoided”, says a member of the body overseeing the national park.
Neil Martinson, a member of the Snowdonia National Park Authority, says that he compiled a report in May forewarning some the issues facing the park when lockdown was eventually lifted.
But Mr Martinson, who runs the Snowdonia Mountain Hostel in Nant Ffrancon, believes that his report was not acted upon but could have avoided such scenes as those witnessed at Pen-y-Pass on Sunday with over 500 cars said to block the highway.
The chair of the national park, however, said that the report was considered during several meetings held over subsequent weeks as the authority planned out its re-opening measures with partners such as Gwynedd Council, North Wales Police and the Welsh Government.
As a result of the scenes, described as “dangerous” by local politicians and resulting in 180 vehicles receiving fixed penalty notices, more buses have been laid on facilitate an improved park and ride service with police also warning that cars could be towed away if found to be blocking the highway in future.
Mr Martinson’s report, sent to officers and authority members on May 18 – over six weeks before Welsh outdoor attractions were permitted to open – warned that the effective stop on overseas travel and an increase in day trip visitors would accentuate transport issues in areas such as Snowdonia.
Referring to 2018 figures, Mr Martinson found that Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) attracted approximately 1,828 visitors on a summer weekday and 5,142 on weekends.
His report suggested that visitor figures would be “considerably in excess of these” due to factors including restrictions on overseas travel, pent-up demand such as that witnessed in the Peak District, and the fact that almost two million people have claimed universal credit and are not restricted by working days to be able to visit.
He went on to warn of “a significant increase in road traffic over and above normal summer levels with a concurrent increase in road traffic incidents,” and “an increase in parking congestion throughout the hotspots.”
With 91% of visitors previously arriving by car, warning that the number would be expected to increase given advice not to use public transport, his recommended measures included:
- Determining how many people could access each area, and where, on a given day in a way that allows social distancing on arrival, during the day and on departure.
- Limiting car parking at access points to those numbers. All car parks with access would need to be controlled.
- Putting in place parking restrictions with tow-away enforcement across all roads in the area.
- Online system for paying for the car park space/transport on a given day.
- Determining which areas are suitable for one-way tracks.
- Putting in place local transport shuttles.
- Determining appropriate parking locations and transport locations.
- Putting in place safe forms of track entry and supervision.
But speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Mr Martinson says that he did not receive a response.
“It seems to me there was certainly time to put in some different measures, and its regrettable that there wasn’t more done to prevent the scenes that we saw,” he said.
“Frankly it’s not rocket science, we know over many years there have been issues over parking and safety and the issue was always going to be worse this year due to that inevitable bottleneck.
“The fact there was so little accommodation available, it was clear to anyone that we would see more day visitors, which was so predictable.
“A proper park and ride it would benefit local communities economically as well.
“But if the authority says that my comments were considered, then why did Sunday’s chaos happen before something was done?”
But Owain Wyn, Chair of the Snowdonia National Park Authority, dismissed claims that his views weren’t taken on board, pointing to several internal meetings between May 11 and July 15 where Mr Martinson’s views as well as other members were taken on board.
“I confirm that Mr Martinson presented his comments to staff and authority members,” he said.
“A number of comments were also received from other members of the authority.
“The allegation, that it has not been properly addressed or responded to, is incorrect as the Authority has considered Covid 19’s position on a number of occasions.
He added, “The issues raised in Mr Martinson’s report have been considered by members and staff.
“Some of the issues have been discussed with our main partners namely North Wales Police, Gwynedd and Conwy Councils, Visit Wales, Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales.
“Everyone involved in the management of Snowdonia had anticipated all the issues identified by Mr Martinson.
“I can see no basis to claim that the considerations Mr Martinson raised have not been properly addressed.”
The new emergency measures in operation from Saturday include more frequent services for the Sherpa buses – linking the area’s main car parks with the various summit paths – running every 15 minutes between 6.45am and 6.40pm, with walkers asked to use the service to access Pen-y-pass.
On weekends the car park at Pen-y-pass will be a drop-off site for buses and taxis only, with staff from Gwynedd Council, the Snowdonia National Park and North Wales Police on duty to remind motorists of their responsibilities and signs warning they are liable to be towed away.
By Gareth Williams – Local Democracy Reporter
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