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Concern as former opencast mine Ffos y Fran used for off-road rallying

20 Mar 2024 4 minute read
Ffos-y-Fran opencast coal mine in Merthyr Tydfil

Emily Price

Concerns have been raised in the Senedd after photos emerged of 4×4 vehicles and scramblers using the former opencast coal mine Ffos y Fran for off-road rallying.

The UK’s last opencast coalmine operated by Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd closed in November last year.

The company’s planning permission ran out in September 2022 and an appeal for more time was refused by the local council.

It sparked protests at the site on the hillside in Merthyr Tydfil from climate activists after it continued operating without a licence for almost ten months.

Nearly 11,128,000 tonnes of coal have been produced there – which is the size of 400 football pitches – since it opened in 2008.

A Motocross event took place on the Ffos-Y-Fran site in June last year.

The temporary use of the land for motor racing falls within permitted development which means it does not require planning permission for a period of up to 14 days per calendar year.

The council said that although it had no control over the event because it was taking place on private land, it did liaise with the organisers to look at it from an emergency services perspective and with the police, ambulance and fire services.

Calls have been made for the company operating the mine to restore the site and make it safe.

Restoration

The operator of the mine is in early discussions with Merthyr Tydfil Council to consider a revised restoration strategy.

Residents living near the former coal mine have complained about off road vehicles and caravans arriving at the site in recent weeks.

They say the vehicles are being let in through the main gate.

It is unclear whether the event was overseen by the sites owners.

Off road vehicles at Ffos-y-Fran opencast coal mine

Speaking in the Senedd on Tuesday (March 20) Plaid Cymru MS Peredur Owen Griffiths raised concerns about the safety of such activities.

He said: “I’d like a Government statement on the future of Ffos-y-frân opencast site in Merthyr. It has been some time since we heard anything about this site.

“Residents have been left with an ugly eyesore that requires remediation to return it to the beautiful and wildlife-friendly habitat this vast tract of common land once was.

“It would be unacceptable for the mine operators to renege on their contractual obligations to restore the land after making vast amounts of profits over the life of this opencast mine.

“Residents have had to put up with too much already, but, to add insult to injury, the site had numerous 4×4 vehicles and scrambler bikes using the land for rallying over the weekend.

“Residents have been in touch with my office and provided photographic evidence of it.

“I hope you agree with me that, after more than a decade and a half, people in this area have had to put up with too much noise and pollution, without the area being turned into a 4×4 rallying destination.”

Safety

Trefnydd Lesley Griffiths responded saying she would raise the issue with the Minister for Climate Change, Julie James.

She said: “Well, it is very important that a managed end to coal means ensuring our mines are closed safely and restored sympathetically, and I absolutely agree with you that anti-social behaviour in the way you describe is unacceptable.

“I know the Minister for Climate Change’s officials are working with the local authority, and I will certainly ask her to ensure her officials bring this to the attention of the local authority.”

A spokesperson for Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council said: “The landowner, Merthyr South Wales Limited (MSW), is responsible for controlling access into the site and it is our understanding that there is security and CCTV in operation.

“Any safety issues should be directed to MSW.”

Despite making attempts, we were unable to contact site owners Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd.


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