Campaigners still await Varteg decision
2:37pm Wednesday 9th October 2013 in Pontypool news
CAMPAIGNERS hoping to have planning guidance made law in time to stop opencast mining in the Varteg have had their hopes dashed.
Those who have campaigned against opencast mining at the Varteg have been calling for the guidelines of a 500-metre buffer between open-cast mining and dwellings to be made law, and submitted a petition to the Assembly.
Campaigners hoped if it was made law, the opencast plans would not be able to proceed in the Varteg as there are homes within this distance of the proposed mine, and Ysgol Bryn Onnen is just 120 metres away.
Campaigner Dr John Cox explained that previously the Minister Carl Sargeant had said that he would not attend the petitions committee to speak about the issue until after he had come to a decision on the Varteg.
Campaigners welcomed news that he agreed to appear before the National Assembly's Petitions Committee on October 24 to answer questions about the petition entitled Make the Minerals Techincal Advice Note (MTAN) law.
But yesterday it was revealed it would not go ahead as anticipated.
A spokesman for the National Assembly for Wales said: ““The minister has indicated that his responsibilities in relation to an on-going planning application mean that he will not be able to answer committee members’ questions at this time. It will, therefore, be better for him to attend a meeting of the committee at a later date once the application in question has been decided.”
Mr Cox said: “With the time it would take to implement it if it were to be made law, we doubt it would happen in time to stop the Varteg appeal.”
The final decision to allow open cast mining of 256,000 tonnes of coal in the Varteg lies with the Mr Sargeant, the minister for housing and regeneration.
The decision was sent to the assembly following an appeal from Glamorgan Power after Torfaen council had rejected the plans in January 2011. This followed a public inquiry held in early 2012.
Torfaen AM Lynne Neagle said: “Given the length of time people in Varteg have been living with uncertainty hanging over their heads, it’s totally understandable people are getting increasingly frustrated.
“It's 18 months since the full public inquiry and we’re still totally in the dark as to what the Planning Inspector’s Report says, so it’s not surprising that speculation in the community is rife.”
She added that she will remain focussed on keeping Varteg on top of the political agenda in the Assembly and that she intends to see this through till the very end.
Campaigners have called a public meeting to speak on the issue at 7pm in the Talywaun OAP Hall on October 23.
A Welsh Government spokesman said: "The Varteg appeal is under consideration and a decision will be issued as soon as possible."
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