Press statement from Shell Island
7th Febuary 2018
Snowdonia Aerospace LLP limits emergency services access to Shell Island
The owners of Shell Island campsite in Gwynedd, North Wales, have presented a petition to the Welsh Government in a bid to protect their long-standing family business from potential closure.
The petition, which has collected more than 30,000 signatures online and a further 1,058 on paper, was presented to Simon Thomas AM on the steps of the National Assembly in Cardiff on Wednesday 7th February 2018. It calls on the Welsh Government to ‘Save Shell Island’ by maintaining guaranteed, 24-hour high tide emergency services access to the campsite.
The issue of Emergency Services Access was raised by Joyce Watson AM, in the Senedd chamber, on Tuesday 6th February, the day before the petition was presented to the Welsh Government. In response to her raising the issue of emergency services access, Julie James AM said:
“It is a matter for the directors of Shell Island to pursue discussions with Snowdonia Aerospace centre directly to reach amicable arrangements, and we are encouraging both parties to explore all the options available to seek solutions which work for everyone concerned.”
Speaking in response to Ms James’s statement, Ed Bailey, land agent and chartered surveyor for Shell Island said:
“The lease between the Welsh Government and their tenants had reserved out of it all similar rights and privileges which the land was subject to prior to Snowdonia Aerospace leasing Llanbedr Airfield.
“In other words, it is in the Welsh Government’s gift to insist that emergency services access is maintained at a level consistent with what has been done in the past, even if their tenant disagrees.
“It is disappointing that the Welsh Government doesn’t seem to want to have this discussion with Snowdonia Aerospace. We hope that it is not the case that the Welsh Government is trying to enhance the prospect of investment into Llanbedr Airfield at the potential cost of people’s well-being, health and safety, as well as at the cost of long-established local businesses.
“More than 30,000 people have expressed their concern at the current situation, and our petition continues to grow. We need to move this forward and it is time for the Welsh Government to stop sitting on their hands.”
The Shell Island campsite opens for its new season on March 16th, 2018.
Background to the petition
The Welsh Government is the owner of Llanbedr Airfield, a former MOD site which neighbours Shell Island, also known as Mochras. Regular access to Shell Island is via a causeway, but at the twice daily high tide the only way for emergency services vehicles to reach the Shell Island peninsula is via the airfield’s perimeter road.
A long- standing access arrangement has been in place for more than 50 years. That changed after the Welsh Government leased Llanbedr Airfield to Snowdonia Aerospace LLP in 2012. Snowdonia Aerospace, which is seeking millions of pounds worth of public funding to develop a UK spaceport at the airfield, said it would no longer supply emergency services with the code to open its perimeter road access gate, saying it feared the code had been passed around to the wider community. Since April 2017, emergency services requiring access to Shell Island during high tides have been obliged to call a mobile number issued by Snowdonia Aerospace.
Snowdonia Aerospace pledged to open their access gate when necessary, subject to the availability of their contact.
However, when a visitor to Shell Island required emergency treatment for suspected a heart attack in July 2017, emergency services found the code that was given to them by Snowdonia Aerospace was wrong. The mix up meant that paramedics trying to reach the casualty were delayed for over an hour. Snowdonia Aerospace says it is investigating the incident.
On another occasion, paramedics were forced to drive across the Shell Island causeway against an incoming tide, putting themselves – and their vehicle – at substantial risk.
Richard Workman, one of the directors of Shell Island said: “As a campsite that welcomes over 80,000 visitors every year it is imperative that we have adequate access for emergency services. That means being able to guarantee that we can get emergency vehicles on site, round the clock, and without delay.
“Our number one priority is the safety and well-being of our guests and our employees. It’s unthinkable that we could be forced to close because of the actions of Snowdonia Aerospace, but the reality is we are facing a very uncertain future. “This is not just about the Shell Island campsite. The airfield perimeter road is the only high tide access point for a four-mile stretch of the Welsh coast. Snowdonia Aerospace is putting everyone on the Shell Island peninsula at potential risk – from off shore vessels to walkers on the beaches and the Wales coastal path.”
Local MP, Liz Saville Roberts, has made several attempts to broker meetings between Shell Island and Snowdonia Aerospace to find a mutually agreeable resolution to the issue. Snowdonia Aerospace declined to attend the last such meeting, which had been scheduled for 2 nd February.
Liz Saville Roberts MP and Simon Thomas AM issued a statement saying: “It is extremely important that Snowdonia Aerospace at Llanbedr maintains good contact with neighbouring businesses and residents.
“It is vital that access to the airfield is made available to emergency services vehicles so that they can reach Mochras campsite, and we hope all parties communicate and develop a working relationship which is mutually advantageous.
“We are pleased to have been able to facilitate one such meeting and look forward to further discussions.
“The Future Generations Act means we need to be mindful of the balance between development and the natural environment. We hope the Welsh Government will listen to the strength of feeling voiced by the petitioners.”
The directors at Shell Island say they believe that Snowdonia Aerospace’s decision to prevent access to their site is driven by their ambition to develop what has been billed as the UK’s first Spaceport, a scheme which is backed by the Welsh Government.
Mr Workman added: “We are not opposed to development at the airfield, but we do believe that any development – especially one that is set to benefit from significant funding from the Welsh Government – should be delivered in such a way that doesn’t force the closure of established local businesses.”
“Along with close to 30,000 supporters of our petition, we’re calling on the Welsh Government to acknowledge what’s at stake and help us to find a way forward.”
The Shell Island campsite opens for a new season on March 16 th , 2018.