Page last updated at 09:21 GMT, Wednesday, 29 April 2009 10:21 UK

Mountain car parking challenged

Snowdon (Pic: Peter Macmillen)
Pen-y-Gwryd marks a popular starting point for ascents of Snowdon

Conservationists are meeting national park officials over plans to create 90 car parking places at the foot of Snowdon.

Gwynedd council says the move will help regulate parking on grass verges at Pen-y-Gwryd in Nant Gwynant, with charges invested in public transport.

But the Snowdonia Society says that "pouring concrete" over protected landscapes is not the way forward.

The Snowdonia National Park Authority is considering the plans on Wednesday.

The council claims that on busy weekends, up to 300 cars can be parked on verges at Pen-y-Gwryd, which marks the junction with the Pen-y-Pass and Capel Curig roads.

Under the proposals being put forward by the council, 90 parking bays would be created in the area, with hard-standing areas using modern "grasscrete" techniques, that have less visual impact.

But Snowdonia Society director Alun Pugh has argued that the council should not be exploring additional car parking in the area.

"Pouring concrete or 'grasscrete' as it was said, over protected landscapes is not the way forward," said Mr Pugh.

Pen-y-Gwyrd hotel
Pen-y-Gwryd is indeed a busy place, but the reason it is busy with cars is because there has been a failure to plan or to invest in public transport over the years
Alun Pugh, Snowdonia Society

"We want to see scarce public funds invested in public transport provision - not in more car parking spaces."

But Gwynedd's head of transport, Aled Davies insisted that the current situation in the area posed a road safety risk, and actually detracted from the natural beauty of the area.

"Pen-y-Gwryd is a popular place and at busy times we have up to 250 even 300 cars parking alongside the roadside verges," said Mr Davies.

"The proposal is not for a new car park, but to regulate the car park along the road verges, which means at busy times a reduction, there will be less than half the parking space that there are currently."

He said that in addition to restricting parking places, money raised from car parking charges would then be reinvested in the buses for the area.

The current Snowdon Sherpa bus service is under threat after it was announced that Welsh Assembly Government funding for the buses was being withdrawn.

"This is the first step in the encouragement for people not to park in Pen-y-Gwryd but to park in Llanberis, in Beddgelert, in Capel Curig, and use the bus service," added Mr Davies.

"The income from the car parking will go to support the bus service, and if they do park in those locations, hopefully they will help the economy in those villages, so really it's a win-win situation."

But Mr Pugh said Pen-y-Gwryd remained an "iconic" location, which was chosen as the training base for Edmund Hilary's historic expedition to conquer Everest in 1953.

"Pen-y-Gwryd is indeed a busy place, but the reason it is busy with cars is because there has been a failure to plan or to invest in public transport over the years," argued the society's director.

"Members of Cymdeithas Eryri certainly want to see people having a good day out on Snowdon but we are very concerned with the practice of building more and more car parks."



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