Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Written Evidence

Planning issues related specifically to Parc Slip/Margam


  1.  The local community having been subjected to opencast coal mining in the valley since 1947 objected to the planned extension of Park Slip Extension in 1988. The then Local Authority, Mid Glamorgan County Council took heed of these objections and refused planning permission. At the time West Glamorgan County Council had a very small part of the land subject to the planning application and to avoid any expense on their part that council consented to the application (I've been told this by a councillor who was on the planning development committee at the time.) The local community councils also objected to the application nevertheless the case went to Public Inquiry headed by one person, a planning inspector who eventually decided to allow the extension because:

    (a)  It would only last for a total of six years including restoration of sites that needed two years restoration anyway.

    (b)  Where it would be situated between Law Street and Bedford Road it would be screened from the villagers of Kenfig Hill and would not impact greatly on the communities of either Cefn Cribwr or Kenfig Hill. The community of Cefn Cribwr would have to put up with two years of restoration anyway. The land between Bedford Road and the woodland of Hafod Heulog would shelter Kenfig Hill from the site.

    (c)  British Coal had no plans to extend further down valley.

  Where is the democracy in this? The County Council representing the communities of the area had voted democratically to refuse the application, the local people had objected and yet one individual was allowed to give a consent that has since been made a mockery. Despite what that man said consent has been given to allow the destructive opencast to move down valley to within a few hundred metres of Kenfig Hill. It is now 12 years since the open cast then consented to restarted, no reclamation has taken place, the communities of Cefn Cribwr, Kenfig Hill and Pen Y Bryn are denied all cross valley footpaths, two cross valley routes are closed—Bedford Road and Crown Road—leading to congestion in both villages at peak times, businesses have suffered and closed due to the loss of passing through traffic. Why has this been allowed to happen? Perhaps to some extent because of the reorganisation of local government that has taken place in South Wales since the mid 1980's. We no longer have a Mid Glamorgan and a West Glamorgan County Council, we no longer have Ogwr Borough Council, Port Talbot, Neath and Swansea councils but we have Bridgend CBC and NeathPortTalbot CBC and Swansea all divided up differently and separate.

  Celtic Energy, the private company resulting from the management buy out of British Coal in the area following the Public Inquiry in 1993, worked Park Slip West and then applied in 1998 to sink a deep mine that required a little bit more opencast in order to sink it in the void—Park Slip West Extension/Margam Mine. The only reason the application included a "deep mine" was because Neath Port Talbot had planning policies in force that would have stopped further opencast in the valley. Policies in the adopted plan for the area The Cwmafan, Bryn, Goytre and Rural Margam Local Plan were in force protecting the land under application:

    (d)  From the opencast mining of coal—E 4.

    (e)  Protecting the land for the deep mine—I 3.

    (f)  Protecting valuable high grade agricultural land.

  These policies were not brought to the attention of the Neath Port Talbot Planning Development Decision Committee when the application for the deep mine was put to them. In both Bridgend and Neath Port Talbot a lot of emphasis went on the virtues of the proposed "Deep Mine" which would employ 300 to 400 people over a 20 year period. However though the company together with Tower colliery with whom they were supposed to be in partnership, stated that they would be conducting surveys into the viability, economic and geological, of the proposed deep mine, no official from either borough council requested to see these surveys both of which were supposed to have been completed before the councils decided the application. If this is supposed to be a democracy when a company proposes to break so many previous conditions, so many existing policies, why was this company not asked to provide evidence to prove their application? In the event, no sooner was the company given the legal consent in the form of the 106 agreement in March 2001, having been allowed to continue opencasting in the meantime, than they let it be made known to council officers and to the site liaison committee that their "consultants had advised against sinking a deep mine from the void due to safety considerations". It is a mockery of the planning process and of democracy and of the views of the local communities to allow a company employing a handful of people, the majority of whom are not even locals, to bypass written legal planning policies in this way. The law is certainly not there to protect democracy is it?

  In the last two years the local community has again objected most vociferously to the planning application submitted by Celtic Energy in 2004 to continue opencast down valley through the Hafod Heulog Woods and through the River Kenfig, in full view of, adjacent to and with no protection offered to the village of Kenfig Hill. The Countryside Council for Wales and The Environment Agency both refused consent because of the proposed destruction of the pristine river and the semi natural ancient woodlands. I feel that the community should have been spared such an application. It should have been sufficient in planning law that such features are protected and cannot be subject to such process. The company should have been made aware from the outset that such an application was invalid. The Planning Officer for Neath Port Talbot recommended refusal in his report to the decision committee and the company then withdrew it's application. However we are now under threat of a revised application and a current application to extend the ongoing opencast by yet another year. I think that the company should now be made aware that the cumulative impact, the visual impact, the effect on the health of the local populations, the damage to the remaining wildlife, the loss of access to roads, to footpaths, to countryside should make any further application to opencast the remains of our valley beyond consent.

  Furthermore, once the company has the initial, major consent to opencast then it immediately sets about applying for alterations to planning conditions etc to enable it to do exactly what it wants. In this area, this has included raising the overburden mound, extending the time limit for mining, mining an additional area to within a couple of hundred metres of many dwellings in the village, removing soil mounds placed to absorb sound and dust to protect the community in the process.

  We have suffered enough mockery of democracy here, we have suffered enough pollution and disregard, it is time to move into the 21st century and adopt modern technologies to protect the environment, the resources of the planet, the climate and the health of the people—which is amongst the worst in the UK. It is time to put an end to opencast coal mining here.

J K Adamson

 (PACT member)

January 2007

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