PEOPLE in Blaenavon are again preparing to fight moves to open cast mine 256,000 tonnes of coal from Varteg.
Just six months after the plan was refused by Welsh minister Carl Sargeant, Torfaen Council confirmed that Harmers, the agents acting on behalf of Glamorgan Power, have requested a scoping opinion for the information to be provided for an environmental assessment. This is usually a precursor to the submission of a planning application.
This has sparked fresh concerns from staff at Ysgol Bryn Onnen, which is only 120 metres from the proposed mine.
The chairman of the governors, Boyd Hackley-Green, said that they “continue to be amazed and frustrated”.
Torfaen Council refused the application in 2011 due to its proximity to houses, which led to an inquiry in 2012.
Last November, the minister for housing and regeneration, Mr Sargeant, refused to grant outline planning permission. He thought the application was “environmentally acceptable”, but did not accept that the benefits of the scheme justified working within 500m of the settlement.
The minister was also concerned that there was insufficient detail to satisfy him that funding would be available to complete the restoration should the developer fail to do so.
Speaking on the matter, Mr Hackley-Green called the rejection “weak”.
He said: “It clearly left the door wide open for yet another attempt to rip this wonderful community to pieces.
“We have a duty to protect our children, school and way of life.”
The Plaid Cymru AM for South Wales East, Lindsay Whittle, said he is fully behind the opposition shown by the governors.
He added: “The potential impact on health makes any mining totally unacceptable.”
Torfaen AM Lynne Neagle has worked with campaigners who have called for the Welsh Government guidelines, Mineral Technical Advice Note, which says that a 500m buffer zone should exist around opencast workings, to be made law.
She said: “I intend to do everything I can to ensure this latest application is thrown out too, especially as their plans remain in clear breach of the guidance on buffer zones.”
As the community prepares to fight any new planning application, a Varteg Land Reclamation Liaison Group has been formed.
The group’s chairman Tony Kinsella explained that the group will work to keep the community informed by holding meetings.