VISITORS to a "breathtaking" canyon and former mining site near Pontypool have spoken of their dismay after access to the site was unexpectedly blocked by barbed wire and felled trees.

Visitors to Tirpentwys quarry near Pontypool earlier this week found barbed wire and signs warning against trespassing had been put at the entrance, while trees had been felled to block the path into the site, forcing walkers to clamber over them to access the canyon.

This comes after developer Peakman Ltd was refused planning permission last year to redevelop the former opencast coal mine. The company has appealed.

Residents have said the site has been used regularly by people since mining stopped and Torfaen's AM and MP Lynne Neagle and Nick Thomas-Symonds visited the site with residents and Torfaen council representatives today, Friday, to see the situation first-hand.

Ms Neagle called it a matter of "environmental vandalism". "I don't think it's smart because it will create hostility," she said.

"It's not good for community relations."

And Mr Thomas-Symonds said he was fully behind efforts to protect access to the site. "I am willing to support local residents in all they are doing," he said.

"I would ask anybody in the area who has views to contact me."

Resident Danny Hickman, 30, said: “I think they want to stop people getting into the canyon so they can do something with it.”

He added: “It’s such a shame because I took my 12-year-old boy up back in April and I want to take other children but I can’t now because they destroyed the entrance.

“Dylan loved it. He thought it was special and unique,

“The landscape is like something you would see in America or Canada. It’s breathtaking.”

Cllr Giles Davies, of Abersychan, said: “I remember as it started to regenerate itself from an industrial wasteland to the natural nature reserve it is today.

“We have enjoyed watching the flora establish itself along with the wildlife to become an example of outstanding beauty, and personally I feel that the area needs to be protected.

“In my opinion, I believe that this area enjoyed by generations of people outweighs the promise of 12 jobs and the disruption of 100 HGV lorries.”

A Torfaen council spokesman confirmed the landowner closed off unofficial entrances to the site.

A public meeting about the situation will be held at Hafodyrynys Community Centre at 7pm on Monday, August 6. The Argus has made multiple attempts to contact Peakman Ltd, but has received no response.