CONCERNS have been raised at a council meeting about the closure of a popular mountain path in the Rhondda.
A notice of motion from Treherbert councillors was supported by council on Wednesday, March 8, mentioned the closure of the Pen Pych woodland path by Natural Resources Wales.
It has been closed off to the public due to safety concerns after a landslip following Storm Dennis in 2020 left rock and debris on site.
The pathway is not a dedicated Public Right of Way (PRoW) or a part of Natural Resources Wales’ walking trail network and is therefore not routinely managed or inspected by NRW or the council.
The motion from councillors Scott Emanuel and Will Jones which got the support of full council read: “Unfortunately, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) last week erected signage on the Pen-pych woodland path warning hikers that no public access was permitted due to the route being unsafe through ‘multiple landslips.’
“The Treherbert ward is proudly the home to some of the most beautiful landmarks and views in the county borough of Rhondda Cynon Taf, with the Pen Pych table top mountain being the jewel in the crown.
“Pen Pych is a major tourist attraction and local landmark, attracting thousands of hikers each year, which in turn provides an invaluable boost to our local economy.
“The loss of this pathway is devastating to the local economy and the communities that comprise the Treherbert ward, and as local councillors, we are dismayed that NRW did not seek to engage with us or notify us before taking this action.
“Whilst the safety of residents and visitors is paramount, and it is right to warn hikers not to use unsafe routes, we are disappointed by the absence of communication from NRW in outlining any attempts to make the path safe or their future intentions for the area.”
The motion said that, having already made representations to NRW, local councillors would urge the council to note the significant impact that the loss of Pen Pych will have to the local economy at the top of the Rhondda Fawr and the rest of the county borough, that natural assets are there for all to enjoy and they act as a unique selling point for the county borough and that whilst safety is always the foremost consideration local councillors should always be engaged on such matters where possible.
The motion which, was passed, asked council to urgently request that the leader of the council writes to the chief executive of Natural Resources Wales and the relevant Welsh Government minister to establish the future intentions for the Pen Pych woodland trail and to make representations on behalf of the residents of the Treherbert ward regarding the importance of the site.
Councillor Will Jones, independent councillor for Treherbert, said it’s very important and it’s one of only two table top mountains in Europe.
He said RCT has some of the most beautiful scenery and tourist attractions anywhere.
Councillor Karen Morgan, leader of the Plaid Cymru group, said she has sympathy with local councillors about not being kept in the loop by NRW about issues in their ward but she said the council can also do better on this too.
She said she would have thought that with it being a regionally geological important site that NRW would want to invest in converting this path into a safe registered right of way.
She said they have a duty to open up safe access to the countryside for communities and that they should put this in their forward programme of investment.
She said she thinks NRW have been “short sighted” in not improving the status of the foot path and that hopefully the motion would push Welsh Government to adequately fund NRW.
Councillor Sam Trask, leader of the Conservative group, said RCT’s outside spaces are absolutely fantastic assets and they deserve as much protection as they can possibly give them.
Phil Morgan, land management team leader for Natural Resources Wales, said: “We acknowledge the concerns of councillors and understand their frustration regarding the closure of this path which hasn’t been taken lightly, however public safety remains paramount.
“We are seeking further advice on the future of this section of path and we will update local councillors and all interested parties on the outcome by late April. Indicative costs for making the path safe were estimated to be up to £200,000, which adds to the challenge.
“The signs asking people not to access that section of the trail remain in place at present and I would still urge people not to use that path for their own safety.
“Access to the top of Pen Pych and the top waterfall remains accessible along a public right of way from Pen Pych and Blaenrhondda.”