Value of ancient woodland cited in rejecting quarry plan

The Welsh minister for housing and local government has rejected a planning appeal for a quarry in southeast Wales due to the "irreplaceable" loss of three hectares of ancient woodland it would cause.

Image: Ben Salter (CC BY 2.0)
Image: Ben Salter (CC BY 2.0)

Julie James dismissed the appeal in line with the advice received by Welsh Government-appointed planning inspector Clive Nield.

Quarry developer Peakman was seeking to extract sandstone over two decades from an area west of Pontypool known as the Tirpentwys Canyons, an opencast mine until 1962.

This would have required the widening of an access road through woodland for up to 100 heavy goods vehicles to remove roughly 1,000 tonnes of sandstone every day.

Natural Resources Wales initially had no objections to the plans, but Torfaen County Borough Council planners advised rejecting the application due to the loss of almost three hectares of ancient woodland of high biodiversity value.

After the council rejected the application in 2017, the developer appealed, prompting a planning inquiry at the beginning of this year.

In her decision letter, Jones dismissed the appeal, arguing that the extraction of aggregates and construction of an access road would result in the "irreplaceable loss" of the woodland.

To offset the potential harm to the woodland the developer had proposed to create a woodland management plan for 22 hectares of woods for 80 years, some of which was common land, but these were found to provide negligible benefits, Jones said.

The developer now has six weeks in which to decide whether it will seek a judicial review.


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