UPDATE: Environmental impact of Ebbw Vale's Circuit of Wales 'can be lessened' - Natural Resources Wales
2:20pm Tuesday 13th August 2013 in News
Michael Carrick, Chief Executive of Heads of the Valleys Development Company said: “Throughout the planning process we’ve been committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure we address, as much as possible, the specific concerns they have. After ongoing discussions with Natural Resources Wales we are pleased to have reached a positive outcome and await further news once the Welsh Government has had sufficient time to consider the responses from stakeholders.”
NATURAL Resources Wales say that the potential impact to environment by the Circuit of Wales can be mitigated.
The organisation’s Graham Hiller, confirming the news that the agency told the Welsh Government that the project does not need to be decided on by ministers, said the agency wants to work with the Heads of the Valley Development Company to help the firm secure benefits for the economy and wildlife.
The agency had been asked by the Welsh Government for advice on whether the project should be called in.
Mr Hillier from Natural Resources Wales said: “We have always recognised the importance of this development for the local community. Equally, we would have failed in our statutory duties if we had not raised the concerns about the impact this proposed development could have on the environment.
“Following lengthy discussion with the developers, we have agreed how the potential impacts of this development could be mitigated and the scheme can progress.
“Natural Resources Wales seeks to work with developers from an early stage to assist them as they plan their schemes to not only minimise the impact, but also to secure environmental benefits for people, the economy and wildlife.”
The agency advised Welsh Government officials that, on the balance of the information available and commitments made by the applicant and accepted by Blaenau Gwent council, a call-in wasn’t needed.
Natural Resources Wales had held significant concerns about the potential impact of this development on the environment, saying it could result in the loss of 236 hectares of important habitat and hit the special qualities of the Brecon Beacons National Park.
The agency and the developers identified specific work that would be needed to be included in planning conditions, including improved management of up to 800 hectare, almost 2,000 acres, of moorland on Mynydd Llangynidr and Mynydd Llangatw to compensate for loss of habitat, and fully mitigating the greenhouse gas emissions caused by peat loss from the development.
They also agreed that a landscape led design of the scheme that will help to lessen its impact on the local landscape and Brecon Beacons National Park. Officials at NRW are to continue to work with the developer to advise and assist on these issues and other environmental matters, the agency said.
THE Welsh Government confirmed it has received a letter from Natural Resources Wales indicating the agency does not think a call in is needed. However officials are now considering the responses of others who requested the call-in, and are to prepare advice for the minister responsible for planning, Carl Sargeant.
No decision has yet been made.
A Welsh Government spokesman said "We have received a letter from NRW indicating their view that the planning application need not be called in on issues within their remit.
"Officials will now consider the responses of other consultees and all other information before them and prepare advice for the minister on whether or not the application should be called in. This will be done as soon as possible."
WALES’ environment agency has told officials in Cardiff that a call-in is not necessary for the Circuit of Wales project, according to the area’s MP.
Nick Smith, MP for Blaenau Gwent, said Natural Resources Wales have advised the Welsh Government that its ministers do not need to make a decision on the planned race-track, calling it a “big-ticket” decision.
He said it was heartening to see the agency use its remit to work with the developers “for the benefit of everyone concerned”.
“This is a £280 million venture that would bring thousands of jobs to the area. It would be a real turning point in Blaenau Gwent’s history. We have been bereft of a big development for a generation, and our community has suffered as a result,” he said.
The Welsh Government put a halt to Blaenau Gwent council issuing planning permission after it issued a so-called holding direction on the scheme, allowing ministers more time to decide whether they should make the final decision, a process known as a call-in.
A final decision will rest with the Welsh Government. once the holding direction is lifted and negotiations to iron out details with developers are complete Blaenau Gwent can issue planning permission.
A number of organisations had requested a call-in for the project, including the Brecon Beacons Park Society, Campaign for National Parks, Gwent Wildlife Trust and the Llangynidr Environment Action Plan.
Open Spaces Society, the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority and Roger Williams MP also asked for a call-in.
The Argus has requested comment from both the Welsh Government and NRW this morning.
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