Tourist accommodation planned for abandoned school near Tredegar

PLANS for tourist accommodation at an abandoned school near Tredegar should be approved despite concerns that the development could cause landslides.

At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s Planning Committee on Thursday, September 7, councillors will consider a proposal by Mr and Mrs Ross Hughes for “leisure pods” and associated works at the Old School, Troedrhiwghwair.

The timber-clad pods will be seven metres long and three metres wide, with a living room, kitchen, wet room and bedroom with children’s bunk beds option, and could accommodate a family of four.

Each pod would also have an outdoor decking area and parking provision for one vehicle.

The site is also in the Cefn Manmoel special landscape area.

The tourist development proposal and the impact it could have on the stability of the ground in the area has raised objections and concerns from locals.

In their objections to the council, they point out that the school was closed in the 1970s: “due to the possibility of a mountain slip.”

The residents maintain that this was a reason why residents left the village and is “still a contentious issue” in the area.

The villagers said: “Following the Aberfan disaster on October 21, 1966, the NCB (National Coal Board) re-examined their buildings and spoil tips.

“A study of the mountain areas by Geologists, concluded that: inadequate qualitative safety factors of the stability of the mountainside, will continue to deteriorate and put property in the settlement at hazard.”

They point out that houses were bought in the past under compulsory purchase orders and that villagers were “encouraged to leave.”

They believe that former villagers could “seek compensation” from Blaenau Gwent if this application is approved.

Planning officer Sophie Godfrey said: “The public concerns and objections relate to the stability of the site which has historically led to the closure and demolition of a church, school and a number of residential dwellings.

“The council’s Infrastructure Services Manager and Geotechnical Officer have
been consulted on the application and confirmed that historical reports for the
area identify there have been several landslips reported, the earliest in the
1910s and as recent as the 1970s.

“They occurred because of the geotechnical setting of the area and heavy rainfall.”

She adds that the latest data for the site comes from 1976 which advises that monitoring the hillside should still be done.

Ms Godfrey said: “The council are not aware of any recent movement in the area, and it is no longer monitored.”

She added that a desk top study looking into the risk of landslides is recommended and this would identify whether a coal mining risk assessment is needed.

Ms Godfrey said: “Comments regarding claims for compensation from residents who have historically been moved/displaced from houses in Troedrhiwgwair are not material planning considerations to be considered in this report.

“It is acknowledged that there have been historic landslides
in the area, however the applicant has submitted information to demonstrate
the site is stable for the proposed works, with statutory consultees agreeing
with the findings.”

Ms Godfrey goes on to recommend councillors to approve the application.

A further sustainable drainage application would need to be approved before building work can start.

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