A CONTROVERSIAL planning application to mine 256,000 tonnes of coal in the Varteg looks like it could be back before Torfaen Councillors.
Just four months after the plan were refused by Welsh minister Carl Sargeant, the applicant, Glamorgan Power Company Ltd, has informed Torfaen council that it is considering submitting a new planning application.
A seminar was called on Monday to update councillors about the pre-planning application enquiry, and concerned residents and representatives of the school, Ysgol Bryn Onnen, packed into the public gallery.
Leading the seminar was Chief Planning and Public Protection Officer at Torfaen Council, Duncan Smith.
He said that this type of enquiry was common practice, but said that “as it's on a controversial application, we thought it only right to let you know.”
He recapped that Torfaen Council refused the application in 2011 due to its proximity to houses, this led to an inquiry in 2012, and the then minister John Griffiths sent a letter stating he was minded to allow it.
Then in November 2013, the minister for housing and regeneration, Mr Sargeant, refused to grant outline planning permission for the land reclamation and coal recovery scheme at Varteg Hill.
In January this year, the company approached the council advising that it is considering a new planning application and they want to work with Torfaen council to identify feasible options.
Mr Smith explained that the minister thought the application was ‘environmentally acceptable’, despite school children being taught only 120 metres from the proposed mine and houses being within 500 metres.
The minister, however, did not accept that the benefits of the scheme justified working within 500m of the settlement, and since no evaluation of alternative options had been carried out, it could not be concluded that the proposed development was the most effective solution.
Another reason for refusal was in regard to the unilateral undertaking, and the minister remained concerned that there was insufficient detail to satisfy him that funding would be available to complete the restoration should the developer fail to do so.
So the company is now seeking to address these points, but Mr Smith said there has not been an application received yet.
Torfaen AM, Lynne Neagle, said: “Local residents have spent years in a state of limbo with the threat of this development hanging over their heads – it is just not acceptable.
“Of course we’ll have to await the detail, but what I do know, is that overwhelmingly people in Varteg simply don’t want this on their doorstep.
“ Working with local residents and campaigners, I will do everything I can to see these latest proposals defeated - Glamorgan Power are facing the fight of their lives.”