Councillors ‘may have been excluded from coal tip discussions because they defeated council leader in election’
Two Independent councillors who unseated a council’s Labour leader believe they may have been excluded for political reasons from consultation meetings about the removal of potentially dangerous coal tips.
At the last Caerphilly council election in May 2022, Jan Jones and Janine Reed created a huge upset when they defeated then council leader Philippa Marsden by a landslide in her Ynysddu ward. They had been involved in a campaign against a toxic waste plant that was given planning permission by the council.
Subsequently plans have emerged for mineral workings and the restoration of coal tips at nearby Bedwas. Cllrs Jones and Reed claim they have been kept out of crucial discussions relating to the plans.
In a letter to Caerphilly council’s deputy chief executive Dave Street, Cllr Jones states: “As elected representatives of the residents in the Ynysddu ward, [we] believe we should have been consulted … and that [the council has] breached the code of conduct by not informing [us] and not giving us the courtesy of being consultees.
“In a report to cabinet (not for publication) dated July 12 2023, it states three Bedwas councillors were consultees. Why were Ynysddu councillors not included? [We] had no knowledge of this report, nor any knowledge that the majority of the workings and road haulage for the reclamation are proposed to go through the Ynysddu Ward, causing noise, dust and 17,000 vehicles over a period of five years, through a countryside park and a common, roughly equating to 16 x 40 tonne loads every day.
“It was proposed that the operational infrastructure will be sited on the Sirhowy side of the mountain overlooking Cwmfelinfach and a new piece of road will have to be laid to get down to the A467. This is not an inconsiderable amount of industrial workings and road haulage. [The council] is aware of ward boundaries and would know full well that the [developer] ERI proposals would impact on the Ynysddu Ward. Why was it considered adequate to invite Bedwas councillors as consultees and ignore the Ynysddu councillors.
“Both Cllr Reed and I are concerned with the ethics of Caerphilly council being the landowner of both spoil tips. Caerphilly council is held responsible for these two tips by the Welsh Government and [the council is] in some form of business arrangement with ERI. [The council] will also be the local planning authority [LPA]. Although the LPA can make planning decisions on council owned land, this seems to have the potential for a massive conflict of interests.”
Cllr Jones said consultations on the proposals should re-start with extra consultees including her and Cllr Reed. Cllrs Jan Jones and Janine Reed
Caerphilly council issued a statement which said: “It is important to stress that no permission has been granted for any such reclamation scheme to progress. Indeed, if such a major project was to go ahead, it would be subject to detailed scrutiny and public consultation as part of the formal planning application process.
“A scheme of this significance would also be subject to approval and permissions from a range of other statutory agencies before any work could start. At this moment in time, no formal planning application has been submitted to the council, however we are aware that a developer is currently in the process of undertaking a ‘pre-application consultation’.”
Council leader Cllr Sean Morgan said: “If a formal planning application is received, then appropriate consultation will take place so that all stakeholders in the community have the opportunity to provide feedback, before the matter is determined by the planning committee.
“I hope this helps clarify the current position and please be assured that any such scheme would be subject to robust scrutiny and would also require a range of conditions and control measures to minimise the impact of any planned works.”
Cllr Jones said: “I am very disappointed to read this press release from Caerphilly council. Cllr Reed and I only recently learned of the proposal to haul spoil from the Bedwas tips to the top of the mountain into the Ynysddu Ward, process and extract the coal, and remove it from site using forestry roads on the Ynysddu mountain to the roundabout at Full Moon. Bedwas councillors, cabinet members and officers have all had discussions about the Bedwas reclamation, but despite repeated requests, Cllr Reed and I have not been included, even though all the recovery work is proposed to be done in the Ynysddu ward. I find this behaviour abhorrent by an administration that professes to work for the benefit of everyone who lives within its boundaries.”
Cllr Jones told Nation.Cymru: “I have no doubt that if we were Labour councillors we would have been involved in these discussions from the outset. I think it’s very plausible that we have been kept in the dark because we defeated the former council leader in the election. That wouldn’t be acceptable.”
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