Varteg opencast plan set for go-ahead
5:23pm Friday 8th February 2013 in Gwent news
CONTROVERSIAL plans to opencast mine at a site near Pontypool have been given the go-ahead by the planning inspector after a year’s wait for a decision.
Now, the group set up to fight the plan is increasing its efforts to make their opinions known to the Welsh government.
A year after the public inquiry took place on plans to opencast in the Varteg, a letter has been sent out on behalf of the Minister for environment and sustainable development, John Griffiths, stating he is “minded to approve” the planning appeal.
Welsh Government-appointed inspector Clive Nield recommended to the minister that the appeal from Glamorgan Power, against Torfaen council’s rejection of plans to extract 256,000 tonnes of coal from the Varteg, be allowed and that planning permission be granted subject to conditions.
A final decision is yet to be made and Welsh ministers will make the decision.
Members of the No Campaign now see it as their last chance to show Mr Griffiths that local opinion is still against the plans.
Member John Cox said: "The Welsh government must consider if a civil servant can rip up rules regarding open-casting in such close proximity to houses and a school, as it is within the buffer zone that was agreed by the government itself.
"In regard to the minister going against the recommendation, it can be done and everyone must remember that the final decision is yet to be made."
Torfaen’s AM, Lynne Neagle, who has spoken out against opencast mining in the Varteg and has previously written to the minister with her concerns, is "deeply dismayed to learn that this is the minister’s intention."
Hundreds of local residents opposed the proposals including teachers and parents from Ysgol Bryn Onnen, just 120 metres away for the planned site.
In January 2011, the council rejected the planning application from Glamorgan Power to extract the coal because of concerns over dust and noise pollution.
The firm appealed against the decision, sparking the public inquiry, which was held at the end of January and early February 2012.
The inquiry lasted around eight days, overseen by Inspector Nield, who heard arguments for and against plans for opencast mining.
Glamorgan Power said the proposal is the only way to achieve reclamation of the land.