PLANNING permission to allow opencast mining of 256,000 tonnes of coal in the Varteg has been refused by minister Carl Sargeant.

In a letter from the minister for housing and regeneration, he states that he dismisses the appeal by Glamorgan Power Company Ltd and refuses to grant outline planning permission for the development comprising a land reclamation and coal recovery scheme at Varteg Hill.

The decision came after Welsh Government-appointed inspector Clive Nield had recommended to the minister earlier this year that the appeal from Glamorgan Power, against Torfaen council’s rejection of plans for the opencast mine, be allowed.

The decision had lain with previous minister John Griffiths, who sent out a letter stating that he was “minded to allow” the plans subject to an acceptable Section 106 legal undertaking to ensure the restoration and aftercare of the land once coal recovery had been removed.

But due to a Welsh Government cabinet reshuffle, the decision then fell to Mr Sargeant.

Following the news, councillors and campaigners said they were delighted but found it unacceptable that the decision had taken so long.

Executive member for housing, planning and public protection and Abersychan ward councillor, Gwyneira Clark said: “The Abersychan ward councillors are delighted that the minister Carl Sargeant has agreed with council. We realise that there could possibly be an appeal.

“Given the length of time it has taken to reach this decision after the councils overwhelming decision to refuse it was totally unacceptable.”

Campaigner Dr John Cox said: “People have been worried about the closure of the school. A couple of people have moved house because they were scared of it. They cannot justify the delay.”

Abersychan ward councillor, Wayne Tomlinson said: “Hopefully people can now get on with their lives without the fear of it near their homes. The feedback from people is that they are delighted."

Reasons given include that a unilateral undertaking (UU) submitted raises the question of whether realistic assessments have been made with regards to the likely cost of the restoration works.

The report, signed by the minister, states that the UU proposed for an initial security sum of £2,870,775 to be put in an account held by the council in its name to carry out restoration works, site clearance and aftercare works.

But the report states the sum is larger than that proposed at the inquiry and that there is little information provided on the justification for the levels of costing for some parts of the restoration works.

The report also states the UU makes provision for the council to seek further money if necessary from the developer for the completion of the restoration works and for the addition of a contingency fund. There is no indication as to what would happen if the developer was unable to provide the funds at the time.

Mr Sargeant states: “I do not consider that the UU provides me with the assurances I need to be satisfied that, after the cessation of working, the land would be restored and not left in an unacceptable condition.”