Operators of Merthyr opencast mine told to cease operations

By Anthony Lewis

THE council has told the operators of an opencast coal mine in Merthyr Tydfil to stop mining there.

Merthyr Tydfil Council has released a statement saying that on Wednesday, May 24, following independent legal advice, an enforcement notice was issued to Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd and any other persons with an interest in the land at Ffos y-Fran requiring the end of the extraction of coal from the land.

It also tells them to stop carrying out development at the land under the planning permission granted on May 6, 2011, other than that which completely complies with the approved restoration and management strategy.

The notice will take effect on June 27 as a statutory period of at least 28 days is required unless an appeal is made to the planning inspector before this date.

Once the notice has taken effect the developer has 28 days to comply and failure to do so within this time may lead to a further escalation of enforcement action.

The council said it was in early discussions with the developer to consider a revised restoration strategy.

In April, the council’s planning committee voted to refuse an application to extend the time of operations there until March, 2024.

The company behind the mine said the coal was needed for the steel industry but council planning officials said that Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd failed to clearly demonstrate that the extraction of coal was needed to support industrial non-energy generating uses. They also highlighted the need to decarbonise citing climate change and emission reductions.

Councillors at the meeting heard that “insufficient funds” had been set aside to complete the restoration of the land.

Around £15m was in an Escrow account for this but an officer estimated the funds needed for the current restoration plan were between £75m and £125m.

A Motocross event is set to take place on the Ffos-Y-Fran site this weekend (June 3 and 4) and this temporary use of the land for motor racing falls within, permitted development, which means it does not require planning permission, for a period of up to 14 days per calendar year.

The council said that although it had no control over the event because it was taking place on private land, it is liaising with the organisers to look at it from an emergency services perspective and with the police, ambulance and fire services.

The council said that the organisers were expecting 280 participants and over 500 spectators and that measures were being put in place to avoid any backup of traffic from the site

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