Craig yr Hesg Quarry to expand and continue to operate for 6 years longer
Written by Gavin on 14th October 2022
Plans to extend Craig yr Hesg quarry in Pontypridd and to allow it to keep going for several more years have been approved on appeal despite objections from residents and the council. Appeals against decisions to refuse the applications have been allowed by an inspector from PEDW (Planning and Environment Decisions Wales), subject to conditions, and the minister for climate change, Julie James, has agreed with the outcomes.
As reported on Wales Online, Hanson UK, which runs the quarry, had applied for a western extension of the quarry in Glyncoch to Rhondda Cynon Taf Council but the planning committee unanimously refused the plans in February, 2020 with more than 400 people objecting to them at the time. The plans involve an extra 10 million tonnes of pennant sandstone being quarried, a screening bund, an extension of the end date for quarrying and an overall restoration scheme.
Hanson also applied for permission to extend quarrying at Craig yr Hesg quarry in Glyncoch until 2028 from the current deadline of 2022 with restoration to be completed by the end of 2030 instead of the end of 2024, and to extend the deadlines to remove all plant and machinery and residual stocks of material and to submit a final restoration plan by six years also. But Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s planning committee voted to refuse it against officer recommendations at a meeting in August, 2021, due to the impact of blasting and dust on people’s health and well-being.
The comments made by the inspector
In the inspector’s report, it said:
“There is considerable local opposition to the proposed development, which is evident from the written representations and the submissions made at the Inquiry, but also sizeable support for the scheme. One of the aims of national planning policy is to strengthen local decision making.
“However, local opposition or support for a proposal is not in itself a grounds for refusing or granting planning permission, unless it is founded upon valid planning reasons. The application therefore falls to be determined on its planning merits.” The inspector quoted Planning Policy Wales which said: “Any effects on local communities and the environment must be minimised to an acceptable standard”, and the inspector said: “Therefore, an acceptable proposal need not necessarily result in no harm, or even no ‘net’ harm.”
The inspector added:
“It is common ground that there would be no material harm in respect of the landscape character and appearance of the area, which is neutral in the final balance. I also found no significant harm in terms of road safety or blasting and vibration. Whilst I found some limited harm to local amenity, in terms of operational noise and air quality, during the construction of the landscaping bund, this would not be a significant adverse risk to be contrary to the LDP. The proposed conditions would adequately limit any amenity impacts to an acceptable standard.
“The overall benefit for biodiversity would be a consideration attracting moderate weight in favour of the proposed development in the planning balance. The increased access to the countryside and provision of Public Rights of Way also attracts substantial weight.” The inspector said the quarry was one of the highest quality sources of skid resistant surfacing aggregate not only in south Wales, but the UK.
“From the evidence before me there is a likely national need for this mineral and this should be accorded significant weight for allowing the appeal and within this I also include the economic benefits. Whilst I acknowledge the need to make greater use of secondary aggregate and that alternative sites may come forward in the future, I do not find that the ‘significant weight’ afforded to the need for the mineral should be reduced. Decision makers must determine planning applications in accordance with the development plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise.”
The inspector added:
“Overall, I find that the proposed developments would accord with the development plan when considered as a whole. For the reasons given above and having regard to all other matters raised in evidence, I conclude that the appeals should be allowed. In reaching these conclusions, I have taken into account the requirements of sections 3 and 5 of the Well Being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.”
In agreeing with the findings of the inspector, Welsh Government Minister for Climate Change, Julie James said in her decision letter:
“The decisions take account of the need to assist in ensuring the supply of a valuable mineral resource, which is used on road surfacing construction and maintenance in Wales and across the UK.” She later added: “The decisions would prevent an under supply of a valuable aggregate, which has a limited geographical distribution, and is important economically through its use on roads and similar surfaces in Wales and throughout the UK.”
Local representatives have expressed their anger and disappointment after the Welsh Government Minister for Climate Change, Julie James, supported the appeal to extend the life of the Craig yr Hesg Quarry, as well as the area to be quarried.
Both Heledd Fychan, Member of the Senedd for South Wales Central, and Dawn Wood, Rhondda Cynon Taf Councillor for Pontypridd Town Ward are also Town Councillors and represented the views of local residents during the appeal hearing earlier this year. Both have also consistently opposed the proposals, with Heledd Fychan speaking at a number of RCT Council Planning Meetings whilst she was a County Councillor.
They share the concerns of local residents who feel strongly that it is time to close the quarry, given the impact it is having on nearby communities. The proximity of the quarry itself to the homes of residents and community facilities, including a local school, is of concern as well as the impact the traffic related to the quarry is having on the residents of Berw Road.
Speaking in response to the news, Heledd Fychan MS stated:
“The views and experiences of residents are real. Over a number of years, they have shared with me their concerns about cracks appearing in their homes after hearing loud blasts and feeling vibrations from the quarry. They have also expressed concerns about seeing large clouds of dust, with residue left on nearby cars and properties, as well as the negative impact the lorries from the quarry is having on their lives.
“Given that we are in a climate emergency, I find it astounding that a Minister for Climate Change can overturn the decision of the local Council so that minerals can be quarried for the building of roads. This decision clearly demonstrates a need to introduce a Clean Air Act in Wales as a matter of urgency, and update our Planning Regulations to adequately reflect the climate emergency as well as the Future Generations Act.”
Councillor Dawn Wood said:
“Given that in Wales, we have a Well-being for Future Generations Act which embeds public consultation as a main objective and a greener, cleaner future for all, this decision by Julie James, the Minister for Climate Change, is shocking. The lived experience of residents is that noise, dust and air pollution as well as the frequent blasts and quakes which leave cracks and voids under properties and constant observation for damage is affecting their mental health and physical health on a daily basis. It is wrong that they will continue to suffer because of this decision.”
Councillor Mike Powell, independent councillor for the Trallwn ward, said:
“I’m obviously very disappointed by the decision having opposed it on highway and emissions grounds which affect the residents of my ward. Hopefully the Welsh Government will now look at funding a cross valley link from Glyncoch to Cilfynydd to alleviate the already dire congestion in the Pontypridd area as a matter of urgency.”