- % Water
46 / km2
- Any skills
1974 - 1996
|Control||NOC (Plaid minority administration)|
Gwynedd () is a county in north-west Wales, named after the old Kingdom of Gwynedd. Although one of the biggest in terms of geographical area, it is also one of the most sparsely populated. A large proportion of the population is Welsh-speaking.
The name "Gwynedd" is also used for a preserved county, covering the Isle of Anglesey as well as the current county. Culturally and historically, the name can also be used for most of north Wales (see below for the case of "Gwynedd Constabulary"), corresponding to the approximate territory of the Kingdom of Gwynedd at its fullest extent (see Kingdom of Gwynedd: Gwynedd Uwch Conwy and Gwynedd Is Conwy).
Gwynedd was an independent kingdom from the end of the Roman period until the 13th Century when it was conquered and subjugated by England (for more on this period see Kingdom of Gwynedd). The modern Gwynedd was one of eight Welsh counties originally created on 1 April 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972, based on the principal territory of the former realm. It covered the entirety of the old counties of Anglesey, and Caernarfonshire along with all of Merionethshire apart from Edeirnion Rural District (which went to Clwyd), and also a few parishes in Denbighshire: Llanrwst, Llansanffraid Glan Conwy, Eglwysbach, Llanddoget, Llanrwst Rural and Tir Ifan.
The Local Government (Wales) Act 1994 abolished the 1974 county (and the five districts) on 1 April 1996, and its area was divided: the Isle of Anglesey became an independent unitary authority, and Aberconwy (which included the former Denbighshire parts) passed to the new Conwy County Borough. The remainder of the county was constituted a principal area with the name Caernarfonshire and Merionethshire, reflecting that it covered most of the areas of those two counties. As one of its first actions, the Council renamed itself Gwynedd on 2 April 1996. Modern Gwynedd is governed by Gwynedd Council. As a unitary authority the modern entity no longer has any districts, but Arfon, Dwyfor and Meirionnydd remain in use as area committees.
The pre-1996 boundaries were retained as a preserved county for a few purposes such as the Lieutenancy - in 2003 the boundary with Clwyd was adjusted to match the modern local government boundary, so that the preserved county now covers the modern Gwynedd along with Anglesey, and the area of Conwy county borough is now entirely within Clwyd.
A Gwynedd Constabulary was formed in 1950 from the merger of the Anglesey, Caernarfonshire and Merionethshire forces. A further amalgamation took place in the 1960s when Gwynedd Constabulary was merged with the Flintshire and Denbighshire county forces, retaining the name "Gwynedd". In one proposal for local government reform in Wales, "Gwynedd" had been proposed as a name for a local authority covering all of north Wales, but the scheme as enacted divided this area between Gwynedd and Clwyd. To prevent confusion, the Gwynedd Constabulary was therefore renamed the North Wales Police.
The Snowdonia National Park was formed in 1951. After the 1974 local authority reorganisation, the park fell entirely within the boundaries of the County of Gwynedd, and was run as a department of Gwynedd County Council. After the 1996 local government reorganisation, part of the park fell under Conwy County Borough, and the park's administration separated from the Gwynedd council. Gwynedd Council does still appoint 9 of the 18 members of the Snowdonia National Park Authority; Conwy County Borough Council appoints 3; and the National Assembly for Wales appoints the remaining 6).
Prior to 2001, there had been a decline in Welsh speakers in Gwynedd. According to the 2001 census the number of Welsh speakers in Wales increased for the first time in over 100 years, with 20.5% in a population of over 2.9 million claiming fluency in Welsh, or one in five. Additionally, 28% of the population of Wales claimed to understand Welsh. However, the number of Welsh speakers declined in Gwynedd from 72.1% in 1991 to 68.7% in 2001. By 2003 however, a survey of schools showed that just over 94% of children between 3 and 15 were able to speak Welsh, though there have been concerns that the influx of English speakers is damaging the standing of Welsh.
#redirectTemplate:Dated maintenance category In 1996 there were large protests, backed by Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, against the construction of 800 houses at Morfa Bychan near Porthmadog. The protests followed a High Court decision that planning permission given in 1964 was still valid, which Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg described as a "scandal" in a 1998 report. The owners of the site later entered a legal agreement with the council which allowed building of a caravan site on part of the site, but which set aside the earlier permission for the houses; the council later also settled a compensation claim by the developers for its handling of the matter.
In 2001 nearly a third of all properties in Gwynedd were bought by buyers from out of the county, and with some communities reporting as many as a third of local homes used as holiday homes, whose owners spend less than six months of the year locally. Controversial comments by former Gwynedd county councillor Seimon Glyn of Plaid Cymru focused attention on the relationship between the property market and use of the Welsh language. Glyn was commenting on a report underscoring the problem of rocketing house prices outstripping what locals could pay, with the report warning that '...traditional Welsh communities could die out..." as a consequence. Concerned for the Welsh language under these pressures, Glyn said "Once you have more than 50% of anybody living in a community that speaks a foreign language, then you lose your indigenous tongue almost immediately". Plaid Cymru had long advocated controls on second homes, and a 2001 task force headed by Dafydd Wigley recommended land should be allocated for affordable local housing, and called for grants for locals to buy houses, and recommended council tax on holiday homes should double, following similar measures in the Scottish Highlands. However the Welsh Labour-Liberal Democrat Assembly coalition rebuffed these proposals, with Assembly housing spokesman Peter Black stating that "we [cannot] frame our planning laws around the Welsh language", adding "Nor can we take punitive measures against second home owners in the way that they propose as these will have an impact on the value of the homes of local people".
By autumn 2001 the Exmoor National Park authority in England began consideration to limit second home ownership there which was also driving up local housing prices by as much as 31%. Elfyn Llwyd, Plaid Cymru's Parliamentary Group Leader, said that the issues in Exmoor National Park were the same as in Wales, however in Wales there is the added dimension of language and culture. Reflecting on the controversy Glyn's comments caused earlier in the year, Llwyd observed "What is interesting is of course it is fine for Exmoor to defend their community but in Wales when you try to say these things it is called racist..." Llwyd called on other parties to join in a debate to bring the Exmoor experience to Wales when he said "... I really do ask them and I plead with them to come around the table and talk about the Exmoor suggestion and see if we can now bring it into Wales". By spring 2002 both the Snowdonia National Park (Welsh: Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri) and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park (Welsh: Parc Cenedlaethol Arfordir Penfro) authorities began limiting second home ownership within the parks, following the example set by Exmoor. According to planners in Snowdonia and Pembrokeshire, applicants for new homes must demonstrate a proven local need or the applicant had strong links with the area.