AT THE council elections earlier this month, Plaid Cymru took two seats off Labour in Caerphilly County Borough Council's St Cattwg ward.

The ward, which includes the communities of Gelligaer, Penybryn, Penpedairheol and Tir y Berth, is now represented by two Plaid Cymru councillors – Haydn Pritchard and Judith Pritchard – as well as Labour's Ann Gair, who retained her seat.

The Plaid Cymru councillors have said it was their visibility, as well as promises to switch street lights back on, that secured two of the three seats – in addition to their stance on ongoing work at the Bryn Quarry.

In the aftermath of the election, Caerphilly’s Labour Senedd Member Hefin David blamed the corporate side of the council for his party’s losses in the ward - pointing the finger at the authority's chief executive Christina Harrhy.

Dr David, who grew up in Penpedairheol and is himself a former St Cattwg ward councillor, wrote on Twitter: “Our losses in St Cattwg aren’t due to elected members but a consistent failure of the corporate leadership of Caerphilly County Borough Council to take seriously the concerns of the community over many years.

"I remember the battle we had to set up a liaison group. Not good enough Christina Harrhy.”

The local concerns Dr David is referring to include the Bryn Quarry in Gelligaer – which has been the subject of controversy for a number of years.

Responding to Dr David’s tweet, Ms Harrhy said her role was “strictly non-political”.

She added: “The council is aware of ongoing concerns in the community relating to operations at the Bryn Quarry site and we are working with a range of statutory agencies to closely monitor activity. I would like to assure the community that we take their concerns seriously and we have options to progress appropriate enforcement action if required.”

Cllr Judith Pritchard said: “I think the reason we won is because we fought a very hard campaign – Haydn is a personable person, and I have lived in the St Cattwg ward.

“The traditional Labour block vote seems to be breaking, and people voted for the names they actually recognised.”

Cllr Pritchard added that, while the Bryn Quarry did play a part in the election, the issue of street lights was brought up more often.

She said: “There’s no debate, the quarry work is having quite a big effect on people’s lives and we could smell it on election day.”

The local Plaid Cymru councillors put out a leaflet during the election period informing residents of the pre-application the Bryn Group had submitted – this included changes to the drainage system, enhanced landscaping and the storage of recyclable waste.

Another Plaid Cymru leaflet read: “Are you happy with the very slow progress in tackling the Bryn Quarry problems? Plaid Cymru will prioritise the environment.”

Cllr Haydn Pritchard - no relation to Cllr Judith Pritchard - said: “The Bryn Quarry is absolutely an important issue, but also the general consensus on street lights is that people want them switched back on.”

He added: “By the fifth and sixth time we were seeing residents even their dogs were wagging their tails at us – the familiarity was there.”

Former leader of the Plaid Cymru group, Cllr Colin Mann, said securing two seats in St Cattwg represented “good progress” in the north of the borough.

Labour councillor for the St Cattwg ward, Ann Gair, was also contacted for comment.

Statement from the Bryn Group

Alun Price, joint owner and managing director of Bryn Group, said: “We are aware that some of our neighbours do not like living next to our farm, recycling and quarry operations, and that they would like to reduce or stop our business activities.

"We are part of the county borough’s waste management strategy, and the significant investment we have made in facilities, technology and processes has been done to improve our services to local communities and businesses.

“We have always acknowledged that there are noises, odours and disturbances arising from our operations, which is why we have taken significant steps to ensure those impacts are minimised and managed, and that we operate well within permitted and regulated levels.

“We have always sought to speak with our neighbours and their elected representatives. It is only through constructive dialogue and information sharing that local communities can be kept informed and reassured. We hope that our new ward county councillors will agree to engage with us, and to keep us informed about community concerns and report back to residents on what steps we are taking to address those issues.”

Full results in St Cattwg:

  • Haydn Pritchard (Plaid Cymru): 902
  • Ann Gair (Labour): 848
  • Judith Pritchard (Plaid Cymru): 843
  • Carmen Bezzina (Labour): 822
  • John Tully Toner (Labour): 784
  • Catrin Moss (Plaid Cymru): 752