What are you looking forward to in 2009 – some new shoes or perhaps a holiday? Or just the right to breathe fresh air?

The residents of Cefn Cribwr and Kenfig Hill in Wales have been looking forward to the beginning of 2009 for a long time. You might think that 2009 is not particularly different to the beginning of any other new year really, in fact maybe a little less exciting due to the current economic climate. However, if you lived in Cefn Cribwr, Bridgend you might have a different perspective.

Adjacent to these villages is the Margam Open Cast coal mine, an excavation that covers 40 hectares – up to 120 metres deep in some places – a monstrous black pit that is unimaginable in its extent. The coal mine was originally an extension of the Parc Slip Mine which was active between the 1940s and the 1990s and then from 2001 onwards. It was finally due to finish being worked on in autumn of 2008. 2009 would be the first year where noisy and dusty quarrying operations would not blight the local community. Rumour had it that the site might even be restored to something that was recreationally beneficial to the community.

Marga, open cast mine

Margam open cast mine

Unfortunately this happy event now looks like it may not happen for at least another 5 years, if not longer. On Tuesday 3rd February a Planning Inquiry into proposals for an extension of the Margam Open Cast Coal mine is due to start. Current owners Celtic Energy have applied to extend the already giant Margam site and allow an additional 1.7million tonnes of coal to be extracted, around 300 tonnes a year.

You might wonder why the Woodland Trust is taking an interest in this case? Well, the same blight on the local community is also being inflicted on a beautiful area of ancient woodland called Hafod Heulog sited next door to the coal workings (although it was there first!). The extension will cause the woodland to become an island lost in a sea of coal. The resulting impacts on the remaining woodland are severe. Coed Hafod Heulog is a haven for bats, otters and many other special species that flourish in ancient woodland; land which has been wooded since at least the 1600s. Many of the species that currently depend on this habitat will not be able to cope with the enforced changes, seriously threatening the future of the wood.

Ancient Woodland

The tranquil beauty of ancient woodland

So on Tuesday we will defending the fate of Coed Hafod Heulog at the Inquiry, along with the Local Planning Authority and local residents. Let’s hope that the Inspector recognises the serious legacy an extension will leave on this already exhausted part of Wales. We will be outlining the impacts on the woodland should this go ahead, and we hope the Inspector attaches the same importance to the woodland environment as we do. We are confident in our case – however one of the most daunting things about this situation for us are previous results from campaigns against open cast coal. Many have succeeded in persuading the Local Planning Authority to refuse permission, against which the applicant invariably appeals and an Inquiry is held – as is the case here. An Inquiry can uphold the original refusal, or decide to allow planning permission. And with a central Government that seems intent on reviving the coal industry and has the power to over-rule further refusal, the worst may yet happen at Coed Hafod Heulog.

About Alice Farr

Senior Campaigner - ancient woodland
This entry was posted in Conservation, Planning, Wales, Woods Under Threat and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to What are you looking forward to in 2009 – some new shoes or perhaps a holiday? Or just the right to breathe fresh air?

  1. Pingback: 2,500 Home Garden City Planned at former Margam Opencast Mine | Original CAD

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  3. Pingback: Ancient woodland stands in the way of new coal. «

  4. floor jack says:

    This is the first time I comment here and I should say that you provide us genuine, and quality information for other bloggers! Good job.
    p.s. You have a very good template . Where did you find it?

  5. gareth emery says:

    so we all get to geather and fight for nature smash the axe and sow the seed dont cause the oaken heart to bleed all who wold one flower destroy must first cut down this didecoy i am because we are ready to fight to the end just say when

  6. Mr Greer Hart says:

    I am concerned about these destructive open cast mines as my group, The Scottish Tree Trust (SCO11097) owns a raised bog and adjacent woodland in North Lanarkshire. A few years ago, an open cast pit was developed near to our raised bog WITHOUT the legal requirement that we should have been informed. North Lanarkshire Council had ignored our rights to object and also did not monitor a quarrying “development” just up the road which involved frequent explosions and many trucks adversely affecting the locals. It is obvious that vested interests over rule the rights of landowners and people who will be badly affected. This is from a Labour Council that has installed an environmental policy to protect wildlife and diminish the carbon footprint.

    Mr Greer Hart, President of the Scottish Tree Trust

  7. Pingback: No thanks Celtic Energy! «

  8. Colin Campbell says:

    Would it help defend the wood if all the Woodland Trust members wrote in in a petition against it? If it would help I would be happy to add my name to a vote against.

    • Alice Farr says:

      Hi and thanks for your offer of support. I would say that in this instance a petition would probably not have any weight with the decision maker as the case has been going on for a number of years and is now at the Public Inquiry stage. The preferred method of the Planning Inspectorate is for individuals to attend the inquiry and then speak against the development.

      There are however situations where petitions do work and can be effective at highlighting public opinion, for example with the Local Planning Authority when a planning application is first being decided. The Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill, which is likely to come into force sometime in Autumn 2009, gives additional weight to petitions and will be a welcome addition our activities. The Bill will require local authorities to take action in response to petitions and also if the petition has a certain amount of signatures the issue must be debated by the full Council.

      In addition to this one way to make sure your local council listens to your opinion is to ask them to ‘opt in’ to the Sustainable Communities Act.

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