Planning committee members have defied council officers in backing plans to convert an empty business unit into a “desperately needed” specialist dental surgery.

Approval of the plans, councillors were told, will avoid patients having to make journeys to Liverpool or Manchester for some specialist dental services, while also filling an obvious need following the planned closures of practices at Caernarfon and Colwyn Bay.

Gwynedd Council planning officers had recommended refusal for the conversion of an empty unit at Parc Menai, near Bangor, to accommodate the facility providing specialist dentist services not available elsewhere in north Wales.

According to officers, such a facility would be more acceptable in a town centre or within the development boundary, noting that Parc Menai has been designated for specialist employment use.

Members were told that with the unit having been empty since 2018,  the proposed practice would specialise in dental implantology, gum disease and advanced restorative cases, with the majority of clients being referred from other dentists across north Wales.

Proposed to employ three or four full-time staff, the site already has 10 parking spots with overflow spaces available elsewhere on the business park.

Having been previously turned down last year, the officers’ report continued to raise concerns that the proposals would contravene planning policies, and could not recommend approval.

But Dr Mike Hughes, the applicant, noted that Parc Menai was “ideal” and “easy to get to,” pointing to other dental practices in north Wales which are based on business units.

Cllr Menna Baines, the local member for Pentir, added: “This would be a modern practice concentrating on specialist and difficult issues, usually patients from Gwynedd and Anglesey must travel to Liverpool or Manchester for such treatment.

“It would also offer day to day dental work and the lack of dentists in the area is a big problem, the closure of practices at Caernarfon and Colwyn Bay is a big issue.

“This will create jobs locally, as well as being a bilingual service.

“I’m aware that the location isn’t within the development boundaries, but this is an easy to reach destination.

“This is an exciting application and answers a clear need, we should be supporting local ventures instead of setting barriers in their way.

“There are many empty units on Parc Menai, this is a golden opportunity to use  one of them in a clearly positive manner.”

Cllr Louise Hughes added she “couldn’t believe” the plans were being recommended for refusal, raising the lack of dentistry services across Gwynedd while accusing officers of “splitting hairs over policy.”

Cllr Dilwyn Lloyd added that people were “desperate” for dentists, going on to say “Parc Menai was designed for this kind of thing, its not in the middle of a row of houses, its ideal!

“While respecting the views of officers, we’d be doing the people of Gwynedd a disservice if we didn’t approve this.

“I’ve had to go to Llangefni on Anglesey to visit a dentist, its a big issue.”

Cllr Huw Wyn Jones added: “Sadly Parc Menai is largely empty and if Dr Hughes wants to open a practice here then great, we need something somewhere.”

Having been approved unanimously, conditions attached to the permission include a caveat that the unit is restored to its original intended use when or if its designation as a dental surgery comes to an end.