Understanding environmental impact is crucial to sustainability and community quality of life.

Tir Pentwys

Tir Pentwys Cut or Tir Pentwys Canyon is a former open cast mine near the settlements of Hafodyrynys and Llanhilleth, to the west of Pontypool, in the upland area between the Ebbw and Llwyd valleys in South Wales. Tir Pentwys was last worked in the early 1960s and has largely been reclaimed by nature. Now it is a popular place to visit. (A video giving an overview of the Tir Penwtys site is part of a South Wales Argus report.)

A planning application has been submitted to Torfaen County Borough Council by the land owners to extract secondary aggregates from Tir Pentwys over a twenty year period. The land owners want to process the rock waste that remains from the open cast mining operation to create aggregates to be used in construction projects. The proposal is to extract 1,000 tons of aggregates a day from the site (i.e. 100 ten tonne lorries entering and leaving the site each working day). The planning application was made to Torfaen County Borough Council as the Tir Pentwys site lies within Torfaen. However, proposed access points, traffic movments and the work itself, was well as the loss of amenity will affect the residents of Havodyrynys in Caerphilly County and Llanhilleth in Blaenau Gwent.

The application has attracted considerable opposition from residents groups from Hafodyrynys, Llanhilleth and Pantygasseg; pressure groups, including Torfaen Friends of the Earth and the Campaign for the Preservation of Rural Wales; and both Lynne Neagle, the AM, and Nick Thomas-Symonds, the MP for Torfaen. Alun Davies, the AM for Blaenau Gwent, has also argued that the Welsh Government call-in the planning application because it affects three authorities, not just the one to which the application was made.

Objections

A range of arguments have been advanced in opposition to the application to extract aggregates. The site has not been worked for 50 years and has become a much-visited local amenity which the nearby communities do not want to lose. The proposed access to the site would require a road to be created through an area of ancient woodland. Not only is the destruction of the woodland a significant concern in its own right, the will necessarily be an impact on biodiversity in the area as a consequence. A further, major, concern for local residents is the impact of the number of lorry movements, as well as the workings themselves, on the local environment.

A Decision

In late April 2017, Torfaen County Borough Council's Planning committtee rejected the planning application for aggregate extraction at Tir Pentwys. The grounds for rejection were that "… the proposal was unacceptable due to the irreplaceable loss of almost 3 hectares of Ancient Woodland of high biodiversity value. As such the application conflicts with Adopted Torfaen LDP Policies BW1B (iii) and (v), S2, S7 and Planning Policy Wales Edition 9 and Technical Advice Note 5."

Appeal

Peakman Ltd., the landowners and applicants, have appealed against the April 2017 decision to reject the planning application. A Planning Inquiry is scheduled to start hearing the appeal on 15th January 2019. Local residents groups and others, including Torfaen Friends of the Earth and other environmental groups, will speak under Rule 6 to argue that the appeal be refused.

Since the date of the Planning Inquiry was announced those opposed to the application to work Tir Pentwys have been making their voices heard. Over 100 objectors met in Hafodyrynys in August and there was also a protest on the steps of the Senedd in September.


Sources

  1. Full council meeting 2018-04-17
  2. BBC Report of council meeting
  3. Resident's Meeting in Hafodyrynys 2018-08-06
  4. Protest at Senedd 2018-09-19