Varteg Hill opencast mine appeal rejected

Glamorgan Power wanted to extract 256,000 tonnes of coal at Varteg Hill

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Plans for a new opencast mine near Blaenavon in Torfaen have been rejected by the Welsh government.

An appeal against the council's decision to refuse permission for the mine near houses and a school at Varteg Hill has been turned down.

It would have breached guidelines which say opencast mining should take place at least 500m from homes.

Developer Glamorgan Power said the decision was "unbelievable" and warned it may take legal action.

'Political'

In February John Griffiths - the minister then responsible for planning - said he was "minded to approve" the development, which was first proposed in 2011.

But his successor - Housing and Regeneration Minister Carl Sargeant - has now decided to refuse the appeal.

Start Quote

We would have created 35 jobs over the next five years and regenerated that land. We feel very let down”

End Quote Bernard Llewellyn Glamorgan Power

He said he was not satisfied that after work at the mine comes to an end, the land would be restored and not left in an unacceptable condition.

Bernard Llewellyn, managing director of Glamorgan Power, described the decision as "very, very disappointing."

"We were told by the minister's predecessor in a letter that he was minded to approve our application, and then six months in a new person is there and suddenly he's come to a different decision.

"It's unbelievable. It has got to be political."

Mr Llewellyn said they would discuss the possibility of taking the decision to judicial review with their barrister.

He said: "I'm just sad for the people of Varteg. You go up there, speak to them, they want this, it's people not from the area who are against it.

"We would have created 35 jobs over the next five years and regenerated that land. We feel very let down."

Torfaen AM Lynne Neagle has campaigned against the mine plans and welcomed the minister's decision.

"I think that the community, local elected representatives, Torfaen council and now the minister have made it clear that we do not want this development to go ahead and I hope the developer will listen to that view," she told BBC Radio Wales.

'Absolutely delighted'

But Dr John Cox, a local resident who has fought the application from the outset, said he was obviously delighted but questioned why it had taken the minister so long to come to the decision.

"Why did they allow the appeal in the first place when it was so clearly not in accordance with their own guidelines?

"I would ask why it has taken two years to finally arrive at this decision and I am disappointed not all of the evidence we raised was summarised in the report.

"But everyone is absolutely delighted. The council voted unanimously against this proposal and the assembly has agreed with us.

"To have something like that so close to a school would have been ridiculous."

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