Prepared to fight: Councillor Jim Jones

A Carmarthenshire County councillor has said that the proposed plans for an open cast mine at Pentremawr near Ponthenri are nothing short of a ‘smash and grab’.

Councillor Jim Jones who represents the Glyn ward on the County council and who is also a Rural Community councillor was speaking after a meeting of Llanelli Rural council’s planning committee on Monday (Jun 5). During the meeting, which was chaired by councillor Sian Caiach councillors heard that London based Draeth Developments had made a preliminary application to extract 210,000 tonnes of anthracite coal from the site, which is located close to at least four Gwendraeth villages including Meinciau, Pontyates, Ponthenri and Pontyberem with villages like Pontantwn, Crwbin, Five Roads, Llangyndeyrn, Bancffosfelen, Drefach and Tumble also likely to feel the impact of such a large scale operation if plans did go ahead.

The clerk Mark Galbraith informed councillors that the planning system had now changed and that there was front loading required by applicants and developers to do preliminary work in consultation with the community before they submit an application. He said: “What we have here is a pre application advice request made to the planning officer for the applicant. I have spoken to the planning officer Mr Boothroyd and he is now required to produce a report for the benefit of Draeth Developments on the general feasibility on this reflecting on all planning matters. In effect after this stage has been completed we are then likely to have a pre application consultation form set before us for a wider community consultation. Then following views taken from that ultimately leading to a formal application for mining activities. There are three stages but there could be more stages. What I have done is included the full copy of the correspondence bundle for the benefit of members and I have tracked down our last response to the application although the application has been modified but it gives members a steer to what we responded to previously as a consultee.

The clerk continued; “They (Draeth Developments) are looking to extract 210,000 tonnes of anthracite over a 4.5 year period and that is around 52,000 tonnes per year divided by 52 is roughly 143 tonnes a day coming out of this proposed open cast site. We don’t know the timing of this operation. It might be seven traffic movements coming in and out over a 24 hour period. It could be a 24 hour job and it could be 2am  in the morning when the lorry goes out. We have to look at the impact of that on village life and the route it takes to get to whichever destination it is going to. They (Draeth Developments) have had consent from National Grid Gas to mine along the pipeline corridor. In the past they did not have this consent. That is something members expressed concern about when the application was put before the committee in 2013. Admittedly the operation has been scaled down. I have asked Mr Boothroyd if it does get to the formal planning stage whether he would attend and brief members and he has agreed to do that.”

Download Draeth Plans here.

Councillor Jim Jones responded by saying; “As the clerk has said, 143 tonnes a day is a lot. It is seven lorries in and seven lorries out. Ponthenri is bad enough now on traffic. Coming back to the gas it says the new scheme includes mining of the National Grid pipeline corridor. If they have had this I would like to know how far they have gone with it. I would like our observations in 2013 recorded again as most of the problems are still there. My phone has not stopped it has been red hot. I am 100% opposing this. I opposed it in the past and I promised the people of Ponthenri today I would do the same again.”

Sharen Davies said: “I go along with Jim. It is concerning. It may create jobs but we have to think of the community who have got to live in this environment. We have to wait to see what the next move is with regards the planning application and the consultation.”

Jim Jones said that he had asked the planning officer Mr Boothroyd to keep him fully informed. He said: “There are more than two community councils involved here.”

The clerk responded by saying: “In terms of a steer, Jim has moved that we respond encapsulating the general observations that we objected to in October.”

Large scale mining: The Draeth Development open cast mine

Sian Caiach said that the mining was going to have  a devastating effect on the landscape the trees the wildlife and the small communities. She said: “It is all very well saying the gas pipeline is not a planning consideration and that the people are happy for it to be mined around but I can’t imagine a gas pipeline being suspended in mid air while they mine around it. There are a lot of questions that are not answered by this brief document. It is meant to be just having an affect for five years but it will be changing the landscape permanently.”

Sharen Davies asked who would be paying for the repair and maintenance of the highways given that the County council had already cut the budget for highways. She asked if there was any idea how long it would be before there was a consultation. The clerk replied that there was no indication as yet but that there would be wide scale consultation if it did affect a number of communities.

Jim Jones said that Pontyberem had had enough of mining. He said that some youngsters would want a job and they would have to look at both sides but that the majority of the community were against the plans.

The clerk said he did not know how long it would be before the next consultation stage but that the message should be consistent and there would be less chance of their concerns being missed.

Sharen Davies asked about the flora and fauna and the clerk replied that they could make a comment on that.

John Evans asked which way the lorries would be travelling. Jim Jones replied saying; “The last time they said they were turning along Myrtle Hill. We worked very hard to install traffic calming measures in the past.

Speaking to Llanelli Online following the meeting councillor Jim Jones said: “This is, lets get the cash, grab it and go. It is smash and grab. There are no other words for it. We worked hard last time and we will work hard this time. I am determined. Both councillor Carol Rees and I worked and stopped it last time. It is a preliminary application at the moment. If it goes further I will definitely call a public meeting in Ponthenri. The Rural Council has expressed their objections historically and they will be revisited and adjusted according to the changes in the application.

Councillor Jones expressed his concerns regarding the dangers of mining near a major gas pipeline. He said: “The gas pipeline is a major concern. For them to say they are going to go around it I am sorry but I can’t see how they can do that unless you put it in the air. I need that explained. The numbers do not add up either. 4.5 years of extraction and a couple of months to put it back. I am told the Managing Director wants to meet me. He knows my views from last time and they have not changed. I had a phone call today from a resident and they said, ‘Thank God you are back Jim because we didn’t know this was coming’.

Councillor Jones concluded by saying: “We have to wait to see what Mr Boothroyd comes back with. The the public and press will be kept informed at every stage.”

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