August 28, 2008

Pounds 78m Plan to Make Mining Hazards Site Safer for Public ; Opponents Claim Scheme is ‘Opencast Application’

By Jackie Bow

PLANS have been put forwardtomake safe a site littered with former mine workings - at a cost of pounds 78m.

Landowner Merthyr Village Ltd has applied for planning consent for a scheme to improvethe landwhichhad been earmarked for the pounds 250m Merthyr Village development in Merthyr Tydfil.

The scheme failed to go ahead after it was denied planning permission.

The company is planning to fund the scheme through the recovery of 200,000 tonnes of coal from the site and has applied to the National Assembly for a grant to make up the shortfall.

Objectors fear it is "an opencast application under a different name".

But that claim has been rejected by Merthyr Village director Wyn Holloway.

"We are not opencasting," Mr Holloway told the Echo.

"We were asked by the council toput in an application for remediation.

"It's not an application to extract coal - we don't have a licence. I have not applied for one. I always said I never would and I haven't.

"The site is the most dangerous in the UK. All we have got todo ismake it safe. We cannot chase coal."

Mr Holloway said two thirds of the land would be reinstated as park and farmland. He said the company would not profit from the coal but hoped that part of the site could be used for development in the future and any grant could be repaid.

Public access to the land has been restricted since the Coal Authority determined it was "unparalleled in terms of risk it presents to public safety" due to old mining hazards, including shafts and sink holes.

In January this year a 20-metre-wide hole opened up to reveal a disused mineshaft on the site near Heolgerrig.

The Merthyr Initiative Group is also objecting to the proposals.

Its spokesman Tony Chaplin said: "

Surface features of ecological importance and historic interest will be eliminated.

They say excavation will be up to 25 to 30 metres, although if they encounter any voids below they will have to go below that.

"Aless damaging scheme was turned down by the National Assembly."

Paul Brown, a Cyfarthfa ward councillor and secretary of the Merthyr Anti-Opencast Campaign and the Rhydycar West Regeneration Partnership, said: "It's anopencast application under a different name.

"We continue to vehemently oppose the remediation proposals; there are other ways to make the land safe. "Our reading of it is that they are going down 30 metres in places, and that constitutes open casting."

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