Legal action under consideration to halt commercial airport scheme in Welsh national park

Plans for a commercial airport in Snowdonia have drawn fierce criticism from the three Welsh national park societies, with legal action a possibility.

The Snowdonia Society, the Brecon Beacons Park Society and the Friends of Pembrokeshire National Park all oppose the scheme at the former military airfield at Llanbedr, near Harlech in Gwynedd, on the grounds that it would damage the environment and the local economy.

The Snowdonia Society, whose director, Alun Pugh, is a former culture minister, is considering demanding a judicial review. Pugh is concerned that the Welsh government has not produced evidence to show it has met all its legal requirements.

Pugh told The Politics Show Wales that he had not seen evidence that the government had met the special planning requirements that apply to national parks under the Environment Act.

“If they’ve met their obligations then they would have produced the evidence,” he said. “We’ve made several requests using freedom of information legislation to the Welsh government and yet that evidence has not been forthcoming. And it makes you wonder why that evidence has not been forthcoming.

“We’re greatly concerned that Welsh ministers have not behaved in a fully lawful manner here.”

Pugh conceded that a judicial review was a last resort, as it would be expensive and long drawn-out. However, he said, “if the evidence is not made forthcoming that the government has indeed fulfilled its legal obligations” then it would be “something that we have to consider very seriously indeed”.

The Welsh government, which has offered to meet Pugh, told the BBC that the plan would have minimal environmental impact and emphasises “sustainable development in sympathy with the local area and community”.

Kemble Air Services, which is to run the airfield on a 125-year lease from the Welsh government, said that the airport would be used largely by aircraft such as small private planes. It also pointed out that aerial activity is not new to the area, which is already used as a training area for the RAF.

The airfield is not licensed for passenger flights, and Kemble said that development in that direction would be an expensive goal that could perhaps be pursued in the longer term in co-operation with the local community.