THE need for Torfaen to contribute crushed stone - for road building and other purposes - as part of Wales- and UK-wide supply requirements came under scrutiny at the public inquiry into plans for a quarry at Tirpentwys Cut.

Terse exchanges between Morag Ellis QC - representing Peakman Limited, which is appealing against a Torfaen council refusal of planning permission for the scheme - and minerals expert Hugh Towns, a council witness, centred on allocations council areas are given in respect of providing secondary aggregates - stone for the likes of road building.

Miss Ellis said Tirpentwys is identified as a 'preferred site' for secondary aggregate extraction in Torfaen in the area's Local Development Plan, and as the only one, barring the quarry scheme would mean the county borough would make no contribution to providing materials acknowledged as an important national resource.

This, she argued, goes against Planning Policy Wales (PPW) guidelines and therefore created a situation contrary to Welsh Government policy, which is that all areas should contribute.

A picture at Tirpentwys Cut taken by Camera Club member Matthew Clibery.

Mr Towns however, did not agree all areas should be contributing, and that while 'appropriate allocations' of amounts of secondary aggregate extraction were mentioned in guidance, "it may be that the appropriate allocation is zero".

Miss Ellis contended that Tirpentwys is the only site in Torfaen capable of meeting requirements for the area's extraction allocation and that with a "leave it to nature" approach, Torfaen would not make any contribution, and its five-six million tonnes a year requirement would come down to nought.

Mr Towns argued there was no need for a contribution because the current 'land bank' of crushed rock is sufficient.

Asked by Miss Ellis if he was saying that the weight the planning inspector should give to Tirpentwys on national need was "negligible at this time", Mr Towns replied: "Yes."

Michael Bedford QC, representing Torfaen council, pointed out that guidance stated that the land bank for the material in question should be "adequate but not excessive".

Asked to explain that, Mr Towns said that if there is a 20-year land bank, there is no requirement to make any further allocation (for extraction) in Local Development Plans.

The inquiry - at Blaenavon Workmen's Hall - has been told previously that the current land bank estimate is 42-56 years.


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Mr Bedford asked if the situation had reached "excessive" in south Wales.

Mr Towns replied that, the bank being "almost double where adequate is, it is fairly close to excessive", though he stressed he did not know what the Welsh Government's measure would be.

He added that he did not think Torfaen was "ruling out all forms of mineral extraction", but that "it is just not required to make an allocation".

Peakman Limited wants to overturn the council's refusal of its plan for Tirpentwys - to reclaim old opencast workings, recover secondary aggregate, and build a new access road for the purpose, blocking rights of way.

The inquiry is set to continue until the end of January.