Home » Calls for controversial quarrying near Pontypridd to end 
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Calls for controversial quarrying near Pontypridd to end 

Craig Yr Hesg Quarry In Glyncoch (Pic: Google Maps)

CALLS have been made in the Welsh Parliament for controversial quarrying near Pontypridd to end.

The expansion of Craig yr Hesg quarry in Glyncoch to which their has been widespread opposition locally was discussed in the Senedd on Wednesday, June 26.

Plans to extend the time and area of quarrying were initially rejected by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s planning committee after hundreds of residents had objected to them.

But both were allowed on appeal by an inspector from PEDW (Planning and Environment Decisions Wales) in 2022, a decision which the minister supported at the time.

The case made to end quarrying at Craig yr Hesg

Heledd Fychan, Plaid Cymru Member of the Senedd for South Wales Central and former councillor in Pontypridd said that the extraction and working of minerals or depositing mineral waste at the site was due to come to an end on December 31, 2022, followed by a restoration and aftercare programme and that this was a promise made to the local community when that planning application was made but that proved to be a “broken promise.”

She said: “The description of development states the extension would facilitate the extraction of 10 million tonnes of sandstone and allow the extraction of the remaining reserves of 5.7 million tonnes.

“So, we now have a quarry, opposed by the local community, not only still in operation until 2047, but also expanding. 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 dominates the landscape next to the community of Glyncoch and is in close proximity to a number of homes, a school and playing fields with a  a nearby estate less than the permitted 200m away from the boundary of the proposed extension area.

She 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, that they allege have appeared on walls following blasting.”

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Ms Fychan went on to say: “Dust is a major concern. Following blasting, huge clouds of dust can be seen travelling over the nearby community. This leaves a residue on homes and cars, and residents are concerned that the particles within the dust pose a risk to their health. After all, aggregate quarrying, particularly when involving pennant stone, can produce silica dust.”

She added: “Glyncoch is one of the most deprived areas in the country, and is made up of predominantly social housing. How is a community like Glyncoch able to compete with a multi-million pound company?”

Another concern she mentioned are the lorries that operate in and out of the site saying that there are huge lorries that travel off the A470 and over the old bridge in Pontypridd and down Berw Road and that the impact on traffic is considerable, and the road is unsuitable for such heavy traffic.

She said residents are “fed up” of not only the sound and the vibrations from the lorries going past their homes, but also the dust that comes from them, which leaves a residue on doors and windows.

“Residents are also concerned about the impact on their safety as the road is very narrow in parts, and the pavement even narrower, with lorries frequently going onto the pavement to be able to pass through.

“And if all of this wasn’t enough, the expansion of the quarry is also impacting on nature and biodiversity in the area, and has already taken away land that has been used by the community for centuries.

“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. Large numbers of people have now joined a campaign group, and they are involved in raising awareness, petitioning for the closure of the quarry, and also direct action — they have been stopping the quarry vehicles. But, simply put, the community has had enough, and they want to see the quarry closed. They worry that no-one is listening.”

She said that given that Wales has declared a climate emergency in recent years, and given that the Environment (Air Quality and Soundscapes) (Wales) Act 2024 is now in place, the community of Glyncoch is asking the Welsh Government to listen to their concerns and support them in effectively monitoring the impact of the site, and help them either verify or alleviate their fears regarding the impact of the quarry on their health and the environment.

“This means ordering the quarry to pause operation on the site until assurances can be given that the quarry poses no risks to health nor the local environment. The residents of Glyncoch want the Welsh Government to take action and bring the life of the quarry to an end, and insist on the remediation of the site as promised,” Ms Fychan said.

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

“They should be supported in their efforts, and the Welsh Government should revise legislation and regulations to ensure that companies extracting minerals in Wales are held to the highest possible standards to ensure that people and nature cannot be harmed by the extraction of minerals in close proximity to homes.

“I hope that the Welsh Government will engage with communities like Glyncoch and listen to their concerns. They should not be costed out of having their voice heard.”

Support from other Senedd members

Vikki Howells, Labour Member of the Senedd (MS) for Cynon Valley said: “Since I was elected in 2016, I’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with the residents of Glyncoch to formally oppose every planning application to extend Craig-yr-Hesg quarry, and it’s great to have been joined by Heledd since she was elected.

“I believe we’ve formed an exemplary cross-party working relationship on this issue to support our constituents. All of the concerns that Heledd has outlined are made far, far worse by the proximity of the quarry to the village.

“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.

“It’s no wonder that residents are having problems retaining the value of their homes and selling their homes. And let’s not forget the pupils of Cefn Primary School, which is now just 164m from the site. It is impossible for us, for residents, and, indeed, for RCT’s planning committee, who opposed this expansion, to fathom how this can be judged to be an appropriate buffer zone.”

She said that the residents of Glyncoch have her word that she will continue to oppose Craig-yr-Hesg quarry, and she won’t rest until it is closed.

Joel James, Conservative Member of the Senedd (MS) for South Wales Central, said he has spent quite a lot of time speaking with residents and raising this issue with the council and the cabinet cecretary, and that he shares everyone’s disappointment that the decision has been made to expand the quarry in Glyncoch..

“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.

“As has already been highlighted, blast times are not being correctly advertised, giving no prior warning to the community, and on top of all this they have to live with the aftershocks of these blasts.

“Understandably, residents are very concerned that their health is now being impacted, and I truly believe this entire situation could have been prevented if the needs and the voice of the local community had been given greater weight.

“Time and time again we stand in this chamber fighting for residents because their voice is just not being heard by local authorities or by the Welsh Government. 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.”

The position of the Welsh Government

Jane Hutt, the Trefnydd and chief whip, said: “The Welsh ministers allowed two planning appeals on 11 October 2022 relating to planning applications made by Hanson UK Ltd for mining at Craig-yr-Hesg quarry. Due to planning law and established practice, I am unable to comment on those decisions

“A fundamental foundation of the planning system is certainty — certainty for the public so that they know how their areas will develop, and certainty for developers, so that they can proceed with investment decisions.

“For this reason, beyond a six-week period following the granting of permission, it is no longer possible to challenge a grant of planning permission through the courts.

“Once the Welsh ministers issue a decision on a planning application, they have no further jurisdiction in the matter. 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.

“When a recovered planning appeal has been determined by the Welsh ministers, the decision can only be challenged via judicial review within six weeks of the decision, and only on the grounds that the handling of the matter was legally flawed. The opportunity to do so has long passed in this case, and, as set out in planning law, the decision is final.

“I understand residents have raised concerns relating to activities at the quarry, as has been described today. To clarify the position, both appeal decisions are subject to planning conditions that seek to control and mitigate any potential impacts from the development.

“Local planning authorities have powers to investigate potential breaches of planning control. Responsibility for enforcing planning control, including conditions attached to consent granted following a successful appeal, now lies with the council.

“The possibility of enforcement action also means the case may again be presented to the Welsh ministers, this time to determine an enforcement appeal. This possibility means I cannot comment on the planning merits of the site to avoid prejudice to those proceedings.”