There are concerns that an area of north east Wales “won’t be able to cope” with a new national park.
The Welsh government has plans for a fourth national park to be based in the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley, which has already been designated an area of outstanding natural beauty.
The pledge was part of the Labour Party’s manifesto in the 2021 Senedd election, along with plans to reduce the default speed limit on residential roads to 20mph.
But a councillor on Denbighshire County Council has told Sky News the infrastructure is not in place.
“We can’t cope with the people on Moel Famau [highest hill in the Clwydian Range] originally,” said Cllr Huw Williams.
“There are currently 300,000 visitors up there each year.
“We’ve recently had to put double yellow lines along the road towards it because at weekends or bank holidays, when it’s sunny, the car parks are full to the brim.”
A rainbow over Moel Famau
A farming union has also expressed concerns and said its members wanted “a fair process” before any final decision was made.
A spokesperson for the National Farmers’ Union said issues raised included potential implications for farming in a designated area and “wider concerns around the process and appropriateness” of the designation.
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) said it wanted “everyone to share their views” as part of an ongoing consultation commissioned by the Welsh government.
If approved, the national park in north east Wales would become the fourth in the country, joining Bannau Brycheiniog National Park (also referred to as the Brecon Beacons), Eryri National Park (also known as Snowdonia) and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.
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‘Worth going for’
Pip Gale is the owner of Gales Wine Bar in Llangollen and is chair of the Dee Valley food and drink group.
Mr Gale said he understood the worries but saw national park status as something which can be “positive” for the town and the wider area.
“Obviously people know Llangollen, people know these places, but it’s forgotten about on the stage which national parks have, so I think that national park recognition will be important for making an identity for the area,” he said.
The group has launched a survey which will form the basis of a plan to prepare the hospitality sector for national park status.
“We don’t do much around here other than tourism,” he added.
“So I think it is important to do what we can to increase the industry of tourism in our area. Are we ready for it? Possibly not. But I think it’s worth going for.”
Keith Davies is NRW’s principal advisor for designated landscapes.
He said that, as the designating authority, NRW was about to start “an extensive period of engagement and consultation”.
Mr Davies added their initial work involved establishing which areas “may meet the legal tests for designation”.
As part of the engagement events taking place in October and November, NRW says it will be “listening to and understanding” the viewpoints of all stakeholders.
“We would urge everyone to share their views and work with us to help us understand more as we continue the necessary and complex work needed in this process,” Mr Davies added.
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A spokesperson for the Welsh government said national park status can bring a number of benefits, “including additional resources to manage tourism pressures”.
The engagement process conducted by NRW will ensure all voices are heard, the spokesperson added.