A PACKED public meeting gave a resounding no to any plans for opencast mining on a former colliery site.

Eighty people squeezed into Talywain OAP Hall last Wednesday to welcome ideas of regenerating the former colliery site known as The British.

Dr John Cox chaired the sometimes heated meeting about the future of the site at Talywain.

The 1,300 acre site has been derelict for 30 years since mining and iron working ceased in the area.

Recently it was revealed that negotiations have been going on between Torfaen council and HSBC to strike a deal which will see the bank receive a return on its investment whilst also fulfilling the council’s aim to see the land reclaimed.

Torfaen chief planning officer Duncan Smith said: “As a council we want someone to buy the site who will do something with it.

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

The council said reclaiming the land would make the brownfield site safe by removing hazards, including mines and voids, and treating contaminated ground.

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

Garndiffaith resident, Lyn Clarkson, whose home overlooks the site, said: “I’m hoping that we can organise ourselves as a community to get our opinions across.

“We are at the beginning of a long road, but we need to be prepared.”

Resident Gwyn Jenson, added: “I’m against plans to reclaim the land, but as the council will get what they want, we need to work to get the best deal.

“I feel that the heritage on the site needs to be protected as well as the wildlife.”

Even if a deal is agreed between the council and HSBC, any proposal would still need planning permission.

Potentially HSBC could pull out of negotiations and sell the land, but the council is hoping that its involvement will help ensure it does go ahead.

Mr Smith reassured residents that any future fluctuations in the coal market would not affect any deal.

Residents questioned why the land couldn’t be developed without opencast mining, but it was explained that this is where money for the project would come from.

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

Attendees voted in favour of regenerating the site provided that the money offered to HSBC does not exceed the market value and with the caveats that road improvements be made from Pontypool to Big Arch before the work starts, no more than 100 houses be built on the land, Big Pond is restored and Cwmsychan Brook is used to generate hydroelectricity.

They voted against plans to opencast on the site.