Conwy in medieval town wall tourist coaches size worry
Businesses in a north Wales town say vital tourism cash could be lost because modern coaches are struggling to fit through its medieval town walls.
Three of the main routes into Conwy are via narrow 13th Century archways, the chamber of trade said, but new coaches are longer and wider.
Urgent action is needed before coach operators stop visiting, it warned.
Conwy council said it was working with coach operators to find a solution to a difficult problem.
Coach driver Norman Mylchreest brings coaches to Conwy regularly, and he says the local drivers have their own tricks to make sure they get through the archways.
"When you're coming up from the coach park through one of the arches, there's a weed growing out of the wall.
"You get your front end close to the weed and then turn ready to come through at an angle. It does feel like you're playing chicken with the wall as you approach."
Chris Owens, managing director of Llandudno-based Alpine Travel has been working closely with Conwy council on the issue.
He said: "European legislation has allowed for coaches to become longer and wider. Conwy and its archways haven't changed, but coaches are now about a foot wider than they were in the 1950s.
"The major problem is that the coach park in the town is no longer fit for purpose because of the difficulties getting to it.
"Some of the arches aren't square to the road. It taxes the skills of the local drivers and makes a precarious manoeuvre for those who aren't familiar to the area.
"We need a coach drop off facility which is more suitable and an out-of-town parking area for the coaches which are becoming far bigger than they've been before."
Toby Tunstall, Conwy Chamber of Trade chairman who runs the Knight Shop opposite one of the archways, said the coach trade is extremely important.
"We've already been told by some coach companies that they are reluctant to come into Conwy because of the difficulties with the arches," he said.
"That is of great concern, which is why we have highlighted it with the council, and asked it to look very seriously at alternative parking.
"We're getting more cruise ships coming to Holyhead and Liverpool, and the coaches are bringing these people into Conwy.
"They are people with money to spend, and if those coaches stop coming to Conwy, it will certainly hit the economy hard."
Conwy council said its already had meetings with coach companies to start looking at a solution.
Goronwy Edwards, Conwy's cabinet member for communities, said: "We've been limited by the sites immediately in and around Conwy over the years.
"Now we need to take a fresh look at what is available and ask if we can provide sites for the coaches to drop off and then park outside of town and avoid some of the narrower arches.
"If we can signpost the coaches to use alternative car parks which we hope to develop and keep the largest coaches to the easiest options as they pass through town, then hopefully we can find a solution without spoiling what we have.
"This is a very important issue. We welcome the increased number of visitors; now we have to make sure we develop things sustainably for the future."