EIGHTY people packed into Talywain OAP Hall to welcome ideas of regenerating former industrial land, but voted a resounding no to opencast mining.

Resident John Cox chaired Wednesday’s meeting, which saw a heated debate about the future of The British.

The 1,300 acre site has been derelict for decades, since mining and iron working ceased in the area and is riddled with old workings and industrial contamination.

Previous proposals, over the past 25 years, to reclaim the land have all come to nothing.

Those proposing opencasting followed by restoration have met strong opposition.

Negotiations have been ongoing between Torfaen council and the present owners of the land HSBC, to strike a deal which will see the bank receive a return on its investment, while also fulfilling the council’s aim to see the land reclaimed.

Torfaen chief planning officer Duncan Smith said the council wanted someone to buy the site who would do something with it.

“We do not want someone who will just sit on it.”

There are plans to remove coal from a section of the site, roughly the size of 40 rugby pitches, by opencast mining.

Any scheme submitted by a developer would have to go through the planning process to get approval.

There is also the potential that HSBC could pull out of negotiations and sell the land, but if the council is involved then it can help to get money for the project.

After a lengthy question and answer session, Mr Cox invited the group to vote on resolutions.

They voted in favour of regenerating the site provided that the money offered to HSBC does not exceed the market value.

Road improvements should be made from Pontypool to Big Arch, no more than 100 houses should be built on the land, Big Pond should be restored and Cwmsychan Brook used to generate hydroelectricity.

They then voted against opencasting.