AN ENVIRONMENTAL expert gave evidence in a public inquiry into Torfaen council’s rejection of plans for opencast mining at Varteg, near Pontypool, yesterday.

The council refused permission for 325,000 tonnes of coal to be extracted because of concerns over dust and noise pollution.

Applicant Glamorgan Power Company is appealing against the decision at County Hall, Cwmbran, on the grounds that the proposal is the only way to achieve reclamation of the land.

Roger Coghill, a consultant, giving evidence for The Pentwyn Against Opencast group told the hearing that dust inhalation and noise created by opencast mining can have adverse health effects.

Mr Coghill said a study of a similar scheme at Glynneath found an increase in the cases of childhood asthma within days. He said research identified other health effects on those living nearby, including respiratory, eye and skin disease.

He said: “The idea that an opencast mining operation should be carried out so close to schools and homes becomes questionable, given the certainty that this will not just be a nuisance but will create serious adverse health conditions.”

He said scientific evidence suggests that up to half the sort of particles in the air fromthis scheme are likely to travel more than 500 metres, increase the levels of asthma in children, exacerbate cardiac disease in adults and accelerate lung-related disorders generally.

He said scheme designers AECOM only looked at the site itself and failed to assess the effects of traffic dust and noise from four 20-tonne lorries travelling to and from the site through Blaenavon each hour.

Doctor David Palmer, a noise expert for AECOM, said a noise and traffic impact study on the movement of the lorries was carried out in accordance with the Department of Transport guidelines and the increase was found to be insignificant.