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Concern over ‘unfathomable’ quarry decision

27 Jun 2024 5 minute read
Craig-Yr-Hesg Quarry at Glyncoch, about a mile from Pontypridd

Chris Haines ICNN Senedd reporter

Senedd members urged the Welsh Government to do more to protect people from the impact of quarrying amid concerns about the health and environmental impact.

Heledd Fychan raised concerns about the Craig-yr-Hesg quarry near Glyncoch on the outskirts of Pontypridd during a debate on June 26.

The Plaid Cymru politician accused developers Heidelberg Materials, formerly Hanson UK, of breaking a promise to bring an end to extraction by December 2022.

Ms Fychan said the company put forward two planning applications to extend the quarry and its life which were rejected by Rhondda Cynon Taf council after more than 400 objections.

“The community breathed a sigh of relief,” she said. “But this proved to be short-lived.”

The South Wales Central MS explained that the company appealed and Julie James, then the climate change minister, gave the application the green light.

‘Furious’

Ms Fychan told the chamber: “To say that residents are furious is an understatement.

“They are devastated by the decision and desperate for the Welsh Government to listen to their concerns and take action to bring the life of the quarry to an end.”

She said the quarry – which is near homes, a school, and playing fields – dominates the landscape and one estate is less than 200m away from the expansion plans.

Craig-Yr-Hesg Quarry at Glyncoch.

Ms Fychan said: “Once a week, the community suffers the impact of blasting on the site. For years they have reported distress caused by the loud explosions.

“They’ve also shown evidence that suggests that, on blast day, homes shake, leading to cracks in the walls of properties, both internal and external.”

‘Huge clouds’

Ms Fychan, who lives in Pontypridd and served on the town council, said dust following blasting is a major long-term health concern.

“Huge clouds of dust can be seen travelling over the nearby community,” she warned.

“This leaves a residue on homes and cars, and residents are concerned that the particles within the dust pose a risk to their health.”

Craig-Yr-Hesg Quarry at Glyncoch

She quoted Glyncoch councillor Doug Williams as saying poor air quality has led to higher levels of cancer and poor health in his ward.

Ms Fychan warned that Glyncoch – which is one of the most deprived in Wales – faces a David and Goliath-style battle to compete with a multimillion pound company.

‘Distress’

She said the expansion of the quarry is impacting on biodiversity as she called for quarrying to be paused to assess the environmental as well as health risks.

Ms Fychan said: “For many, seeing the fences go up was the first they knew about the expansion of the quarry, and this has caused a great deal of distress…

“Simply put, the community has had enough and they want to see the quarry closed. They worry that no-one is listening.”

Ms Fychan urged the Welsh Government to revise legislation to ensure companies extracting minerals in Wales are held to the highest possible standards.

She said: “Glyncoch is not the only community in this position. There are other communities fighting similar battles, all desperate to know if they are safe living in their homes.”

‘Unfathomable’

Vowing not to rest until the quarry closes, Vikki Howells, who represents the Cynon Valley, said she has stood shoulder to shoulder with campaigners since being elected in 2016.

The Labour MS said: “Planning regulations identify a buffer of 200m as being a suitable minimum distance between quarries and residential areas.

“But this latest expansion brings the working area within 142m of many houses and just 109m from the nearest property.”

Ms Howells told the Senedd people are having problems selling their homes and pupils at Cefn Primary School are only 164m from the site.

She said: “It is impossible for us, for residents, and, indeed, RCT’s planning committee, who opposed this expansion, to fathom how this can be judged to be an appropriate buffer zone.”

‘Failed’

Joel James shared campaigners’ disappointment at the decision to expand the quarry.

The Conservative MS, who represents South Wales Central, said: “I really feel for the residents living in the village.

“They’ve lost access to much-used and cherished land, their houses are being damaged, and I can’t imagine what they must be breathing in. “

The site before quarrying took place.

Mr James, a former RCT councillor, warned: “Time and time again we stand in this chamber fighting for residents because their voice is just not being heard….

“And the sad truth is the people of Glyncoch are being failed by this establishment and by devolution. It’s not given them the voice that they were promised.”

‘Prejudice’

Jane Hutt, responding for the Welsh Government, told the chamber she was unable to comment on specific planning appeal decisions but stressed: “The decision is final.”

Ms Hutt said once Welsh ministers issue a decision they have no further jurisdiction and it is not possible to challenge it via judicial review in the courts after a six-week window.

She said: “The combined effect of loss of jurisdiction and need for legal certainty means it’s not open to anyone within the Welsh Government to discuss the merits of the decision, the reasoning behind it, or to reconsider the decision.”

Ms Hutt said responsibility for enforcing planning controls lies with the council as she cautioned that Welsh ministers could be called on to determine an enforcement appeal.

Closing the debate, she said: “This possibility means I cannot comment on the planning merits of the site to avoid prejudice to those proceedings.”


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Ap Kenneth
Ap Kenneth
16 days ago

Pennant Sandstone can be found throughout the South Wales Coalfield and the insistence that this is the only site where the rock can be obtained seems strange. Yes the composition can vary but it would seem that no search has been undertaken to identify suitable reserves that could be extracted in areas further from residential properties. Extracting rock by blasting causes damage via vibration and there seems to have been no discussion as to extracting the rock by other methods as a condition of planning – eg hydraulic splitting Why is the rock trucked out when there is a railway… Read more »

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
15 days ago

So Julie James as Labour MS can override the needs and exptessed opinions of the mass of the residents of Glyncoch and their representatives. Such arrogance, typical of the Gething lot. Sod the people whether its quarrying or toxic waste its a free for all. No controls, no accountability , no care for people or the environment. Sickening

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