Villagers demand demolition of hotel's folly on the hill: Michael Prestage reports on a battle being fought in Wales over a modern monument

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The Independent Online
TO ITS admirers, the recently constructed obelisk at Ffrith Hill, near Llandudno in north Wales, with views over the Snowdonia National Park, is a monument that enhances the landscape. But critics describe it as an eyesore. Its future may have to be decided in the courts.

A colour brochure celebrating the 64ft obelisk, produced by its owner Richard Broyd, features pictures of nine similar monuments, including Cleopatra's Needle in London. The difference is that the newcomer might not survive a year, while the others have clocked up centuries.

The obelisk was built on the Bodysgallen estate, where the restored hall has become a hotel. It towers above a 100ft quarry face from a meadow designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

But its construction has prompted the formation of the Ffrith Obelisk Action Group, dedicated to having the folly dismantled; a petition has 700 signatures. And in the village of Pydew people claim they were deceived. Planning permission was granted by Aberconwy district council as part of a list of applications for the Bodysgallen estate. There were no objections, locals say, because they were not aware of where the obelisk was to be sited.

Pauline Lancashire, secretary of the group, said: 'A commercial enterprise has been allowed to build a totally inappropriate structure on a valuable wildlife site. It must now be demolished.'

The Snowdonia National Park and the North Wales Wildlife Trust have supported the campaign. And the Countryside Council for Wales, which had to be consulted before planning permission was granted, appears to accept it made a mistake. A letter to the action group says: 'The location of the proposed obelisk . . . was not properly recognised by CCW, so there did not appear to be any significant implications for nature conservation interests.'

Mr Broyd, however, has acted within the law and if the obelisk is demolished will be eligible for compensation. Bill Brice, chairman of the planning committee, said: 'The obelisk is too big and the site is too prominent. Recently we turned down a small extension to a house near by because it would break the skyline. Yet this has been allowed and its sole purpose is to dominate the skyline. It should definitely never have been built.'

Mr Broyd, adamant that the obelisk will stay, will fight in court if necessary. 'It is a splendid thing and the construction is part of the tradition of building ornaments on the landscape in country houses. We applied for planning permission correctly, we built correctly, and we confirmed all we were doing with council planning officers.'

(Photograph omitted)