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A History of the Fight the Plan Group

The beginning

4 July 1996 Prayer Walk - from Holy Trinity Church, Pontnewydd and St. Hilda's Church and the Baptist Chapel, Sebastopol to Bevans Lane on the canal towpath. A joint service was held at Bevans Lane and, from this inspired beginning, plans were made to set up a serious and focused group.
9 July 1996 Fight The Plan Group was formed by residents on the Five Locks Estate, Pontnewydd.
23 July 1996 First Public Meeting to launch the group at West Pontnewydd Community Hall.
August 1996 Policy Statement and operational structure adopted by the steering group.
i. Primary objective - to seek to introduce a "green belt" status between Pontnewydd and South Sebastopol.
ii. Secondary objective - to make constructive objections to the whole of the Torfaen Local Deposit Plan, by networking with other community groups.
iii. Responsibility to make public the names of those responsible for the deletion of the "greenwedge".
September 1996 1,780 representations were made to the Torfaen Deposit Local Plan (707 relating to the South Sebastopol proposals).
Mr G. Powys Jones was appointed as professional planning consultant to the group.
Christmas 1996 Sponsored Walk around the site

Fundraising and Networking

Autumn 1996 Fundraising starts:
Prayer Breakfast, Teddy Bears' Picnic, Sponsored Walk around the site, "Spook Concert" at the Lamb Inn, Penyrheol, 1st Calendar issued.
April 1997 Public Meeting at West Pontnewydd
Fight the Plan Group (FTPG) Art Competition for children and adults, judged by local artist, David Bellamy.
24 May 1997 Five Locks Marina was opened by Mayor of Torfaen.
FTPG lobbied its case.
19 July 1997 Joint planning conference with the anti-opencast group, at Talywain Rugby Club.
Keynote speaker was Dr. Wendy Le Las.
Also Tony Gosling & Penny Kemp from "The Land is Ours" group.
July 1997 Painting exhibition at Llantarnam Grange Art Gallery.
2 August 1997 First Fundraising Garden Party at Box Cottage, Upper Cwmbran.
Autumn 1997 AGM held at West Pontnewydd.
Tony Blair & Ron Davies lobbied.
G. Powys Jones addressed all community groups who were fighting the Torfaen (Local Deposit) Plan.
table top fundraising sale at St Hilda's Church Hall.
Postcard Campaign.
"JIGSO" software (for determining local consensus of opinions) acquired from Wales Council for Voluntary Action.
Cartoon Calendar issued.
October 1997 Council meeting on South Sebastopol Draft Framework document lobbied by FTPG.
December 1997 Final responses to the modified Torfaen Deposit Local Plan submitted to "Public Inquiry".
Christmas 1997 Sponsored Walk between the "Open Hearth" pub in Sebastopol and the "Cross Keys" in Pontnewydd.

Public Inquiry

26 April 1998 "Changing the Landscape" conference organised by FTPG at The Parkway Hotel, Cwmbran.
Keynote speaker: Marion Shoard (author of "This land is our land").
Cross-site canal navigation (courtesy of a member in their cruiser) and towpath (walkers) fundraiser and publicity stunt.
11 May 1998 FTPG addressed the National Assembly for Wales Advisory Group on planning issues*, at County Hall Cwmbran.
28 May 1998 Written evidence submitted to National Assembly Advisory Group*
June to October 1998 Public Inquiry into Local Deposit Plan, every session attended by FTPG.
G. Powys Jones (FTPG's professional planning consultant) presented the group's case.
September 1998 A visit by Jack Cheshire (producer) and Mark Thomas (presenter) of Channel 4's "Comedy Product" resulted in members of FTPG, and the precious green area between Pontnewydd and Sebastopol being featured in a special programme about protecting countryside.
October 1998 A "Planning Watch Forum" for Torfaen was proposed.
Autumn 1998 Desperately needed fundraising continued (see approx. cost at end of this history!)
Christmas 1998 Sponsored Walk between the "Open Hearth" pub in Sebastopol and the "Cross Keys" in Pontnewydd.

Public Inquiry Result

Spring 1999 Public Inquiry Inspector's report was published.
The inspector found in favour of the South Sebastopol site being developed, but recognised community and special interest group concerns.
May 1999 A new mandate from the public was secured to continue to work to protect the South Sebastopol site, by participating in the development framework document consultations - Environmental Damage Limitation & Sustainable Development.
"4D Landscapes" were engaged to provide professional support (including an independent environmental survey of the site).
G. Powys Jones (Professional Planning Consultant) was retained to help co-ordinate the work of FTPG.
July 1999 FTPG attended the "URGENT" housing conference at Ruskin College Oxford.
Autumn 1999 Desperately needed fundraising continued.
Christmas 1999 Sponsored Walk between the "Open Hearth" pub in Sebastopol and the "Cross Keys" in Pontnewydd.

Development Briefs - Unitary Plans

January 2000 FTPG was recognised by National Assembly for Wales planning division, as a consulting body on planning and environmental issues
February 2000 FTPG attended the National Assembly for Wales South East Regional committee meeting at Newport.
May 2000 1st Grand Springtime Quiz was launched.
3 May 2000 FTPG submitted its response to the Torfaen Unitary Plan Strategy & Issues paper.
June 2000 FTPG's South Sebastopol Landscape Document was issued.
16 June 2000 The National Assembly for Wales was lobbied for an Environmental Bill of Rights for Wales.
FTPG ran an information and fundraising stall at Cwmbran Carnival, and FTPG's adult walking carnival entry (an endangered tree!) received 2nd prize.
July 2000 Torfaen Local Plan was adopted by the Council
Autumn 2000 Desperately needed fundraising continued.
September 2000 FTPG submitted a 1,427 signature petition requesting the "Calling in of the Torfaen Local Plan" to Sue Essex (Welsh Assembly Environment Secretary) via Lynne Neagle (Assembly Member for Torfaen).
29 September 2000 FTPG joined Torfaen Biodiversity Action Group.
6 November 2000 A joint seminar with Torfaen Friends of the Earth entitled "Working Together for the Environment" was held at Pontypool Community Council Offices, with Lynne Neagle (Assembly Member for Torfaen). Development Briefs were explained.
Christmas 2000 Sponsored Walk between the "Open Hearth" pub in Sebastopol and the "Cross Keys" in Pontnewydd.

Determining the Way Forward

16 March 2001 FTPG's Landscape Constraints Map for the South Sebastopol site was published.
26 April 2001 Evidence on "Draft Planning Policy, Wales" consultation document was submitted (on behalf of Torfaen Friends of the Earth & Friends of the Earth Cymru).
May 2001 Grand Springtime Quiz fund raising.
18 May 2001 FTPG attended the South East Wales Regional committee meeting (of the Welsh Assembly) at Caerphilly Leisure Centre.
May 2001 Website set-up
2 June 2001 Annual Garden Fete at Box Cottage, Upper Cwmbran.

June 2001 up to Today

We are fighting on.
2005 Torfaen Borough Council grant planing permission for the South Sebastopol development with limitations, many of which are environmental.
2010 Developers apply to renew planning permission for the South Sebastopol development. Torfaen Friends of the Earth continue the work of FTPG to oppose the renewal of planning permission and ensure that environmental constraints on the development are not eased.