Plans to extend Wales’ only greyhound stadium to be resubmitted following initial refusal
Rhiannon James, local democracy reporter
Plans to extend Wales’ only greyhound stadium will be resubmitted following an initial refusal, its manager has said.
In November, Caerphilly County Borough Council’s planning department rejected a planning application for an additional bar area, a function room, a new judge’s box and a vets surgery at Valley Greyhounds.
Prior to its determination, the application caused controversy, with charities Hope Rescue and Greyhound Rescue Wales starting a petition against it.
The plans to extend the stadium in Ystrad Mynach is part of its aim to obtain a professional racing licence by January 2024. The initial application was refused on highways grounds and due to flood concerns.
According to Planning Portal, if an application is rejected, applicants are able to resubmit it with modified plans within 12 months – free of charge.
Malcolm Tams, 67, who has run the stadium since 2008, said he is in the process of obtaining a flood consequence assessment, and has already submitted a transport assessment to address the council’s concerns.
Mr Tams owned the stadium for ten years before selling it to Dave Barclay, but he continues to run it.
In response to the backlash greyhound racing has faced recently, with 35,000 people signing a petition to ban the sport, Mr Tams said: “Everybody has got their own minds, if you don’t like greyhound racing, don’t come here. It’s the same with any sport.
“People think we don’t care, we do care. It’s not about money for us, it’s about the community we have created.”
Malcolm’s son, David Tams, 44, said: “We would invite people to come down to the track to see how it’s run and then give us their opinion.”
Malcolm Tams, who is originally from Blackwood, said he got into greyhound racing through his uncle who always had greyhounds when he was growing up.
He said: “We loved our dogs. When I raced my first dog, he said to me ‘if you bet on this dog and it loses, don’t blame the dog, blame yourself for not training it properly’.
“He loved dogs and that was his attitude to greyhound racing.”
The dog rescue charities have concerns that the licencing of the track will “intensify” the racing.
Hope Rescue previously worked alongside Valley Greyhounds, but has since called for all greyhound racing to be banned.
Vannessa Waddon, senior head of operations at Hope Rescue, said: “Hope Rescue worked with Valley track for almost three years, taking in their surplus and injured greyhounds through our Amazing Greys project.
“During that time we became increasingly concerned about welfare, particularly the number of dogs suffering serious injuries including broken legs or even dying as a result of their injuries.
After sharing a national petition to end greyhound racing in the UK, we were told we were no longer welcome at the track, and we were concerned as to what would happen to the greyhounds.”
Ms Waddon added: “Whilst the licensing of the track would mean a vet is present, it’s important to note that this doesn’t mean less dogs would be injured – it just means they would receive vet care straight away.
“The intensified racing – up to four times a week – will mean that in fact even more dogs would be injured and killed at Valley.”
In its petition, which was supported by the Senedd’s petition committee this week, Hope Rescue claims to have rescued almost 200 dogs associated with Valley Greyhounds since 2018.
Mr Tams has disputed this, and said: “We have asked them for evidence of the 200 dogs.”
Hope Rescue’s Ms Waddon said: “Not all of these dogs would have raced at Valleys, but came into our care due to their racing owners having links with Valley track.
“This includes over 40 greyhounds that seriously injured themselves racing or trialling at Valley track. We have detailed records for all of these greyhounds including the date they arrived, microchip details, their condition, injury details and racing histories.”
Mr Tams said there are currently 60 dogs racing at the track. There aren’t any dogs living on site, as the dogs live with their owners.
However, in a separate planning application – which is yet to be determined – Mr Tams is proposing to build kennels on the site of Tredomen Football Athletic Club’s former clubhouse.
Mr Tams said he currently employs ten people, but if the track was licenced this would increase to up to 50. He said: “We have put hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of money into the economy here.
“We want to invest in employment here in Ystrad Mynach.”
In the council’s Ystrad Mynach masterplan, which was approved in April 2019, it states: “The greyhound track is claimed to be the only remaining one in Wales.
“It is ideally located to capitalise on the many visitors to the area and there is opportunity to expand and increase the potential of the site as a tourism destination.
“Furthermore, there is opportunity for spin-off between this site and potential hotel and restaurant development on adjacent land.”
Caerphilly County Borough Council’s cabinet member for planning, Cllr Philippa Leonard, said she was against the stadium’s plans to extend.
Cllr Leonard said: “My personal thoughts on it is I would rather greyhound racing be abolished in Wales, but the application is beyond my control and will be down to the committee.
“I’m an animal lover myself and I don’t like the way they are treated after their careers finish.”
Many Senedd Members have supported the ban on greyhound racing publicly, including Plaid Cymru’s Delyth Jewell and Labour’s Rhianon Passmore.
Caerphilly’s MS Hefin David said: “While I’m opposed to the extension, I’m keen to have dialogue with all parties involved.”
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I wonder how many of those who signed the petition enjoy a bacon sandwich from a healthy pig legally suffocated to death by carbon dioxide. Double standards?