CONCERNS have been raised about the potential harm to wildlife as exploratory work begins on the site of a proposed housing development next to a site of special scientific interest.

A petition against the development at the Harold J Finch Memorial Park has gained more than 700 signatures.

The park was named in memory of the former MP who represented Bedwellty between 1950 and 1970. He died in 1979. 

South Wales Argus: Damage to the ground surrounding the park. Picture: Beverley HarmerDamage to the ground surrounding the park. Picture: Beverley Harmer

It was designated a site of special scientific interest in 1987 as it supports a diverse range of both grasses and herbs, typical of old meadow grasslands. The site also supports large populations of a number of locally rare species, including greater burnet and lady’s mantle among others.

The family of the former MP, who was a champion of miners' rights and welfare, say they are distraught about the impact the proposed housing development could have on wildlife and on the park dedicated to their late relative. The plans for the site also include moving a stone plinth in honour of the MP to a different part of the site. The plinth is currently behind the war memorial which will not be affected by the development.

The so-called Chartist Gardens housing development is set to be built on the site of the former Pontllanfraith House council offices and car park. According to Caerphilly County Borough Council, the development will include the war memorial as a central part of the development.


Residents were told at a progress report meeting on April 10 that the development will be confined to the former civic offices as previously reported by the Argus. 

Sir  Harold Finch’s granddaughter, Beverley Harmer, said: “We have heard that they are going to move the memorial stone, which is on the site of the park and is a boundary stone, and they want to build right up to the road.

“We were told that they would keep the family informed but we have not been informed at all.”

A spokesman for the council said that they want to move the stone to an area that is more visible than the location it is currently. He said the council is also in discussion with the family and there is a possibility that the plinth could stay at its current location.

South Wales Argus: Memorial stone for Sir Harold J Finch. Picture by Beverley HarmerMemorial stone for Sir Harold J Finch. Picture by Beverley Harmer

The family do not want the stone moved and do not want it to be surrounded by housing.

Ms Harmer added that she was also concerned about the effect any development at the site would have on wildlife.

A nature reserve is in the adjacent park.

The park is known to house herons, kingfishers, ducks, moorhens, peacock butterflies and redwings. The pond in the reserve can support the great crested newt, although it is unclear whether these are in the pond as no survey of wildlife has been done since 2017.

Blackwood Town Councillor Kevin Etheridge has been vocal about his concerns over the plans and the effect the development would have on the wildlife and has asked for detailed information on the site investigation.

Ms Harmer believes work has already started on the area, although public consultation is not due until October 2019. She added: “I found out online through photos and Plaid councillors. It looks like they have been measuring up trees and putting notices in place for trees to be cut down.

“We have also seen that they are digging around the memorial.”

A spokeswoman for Pobl Group, the company behind the development said: “We sent our contractor firm to the area last week for exploratory work with consent from Caerphilly County Borough Council to check the quality of land and to see if there was any water running beneath. 

“They did a dig of between 30-40m down in the designated spots and no damage was done to the surrounding area.”

The council confirmed this. They said: “These types of works are normal as with any similar development site.”

Ms Harmer said: “There was digging near the stone. While it was not directly on the stone, it was in close proximity.

 “It is a bit of a shock when we haven’t been informed and see it on social media, especially as they promised they would keep us informed.”