Campaigners delivered a petition containing 619 signatures and a sample of 280 letters of opinion to the Welsh Government on Wednesday, asking First Minister Carwyn Jones to secure the full restoration of the former Parc Slip opencast mine at Margam.
An additional online petition, which received 459 signatures, appeals directly to the First Minister, whose own constituency of Bridgend will be affected by proposed restoration plans, should they be accepted by both Neath Port Talbot and Bridgend Councils.
Campaigners argue that a water-filled void 120 metres deep and a quarter of a mile wide poses a serious risk of flooding to nearby communities. Current water levels are managed through active pumping conducted by the site owners, Oak. However, pumping is scheduled to end in 2017.
Originally the site was owned and operated by Celtic Energy, and planning consent granted in 2006 included restoration plans to back-fill the void, reinstate roads and footpaths and return the site to greenfield. But no restoration work has been carried out, and the £5.7 million restoration fund ring-fenced by Celtic Energy falls short of the estimated cost of £40-50 million.
Last year the Council voted not to apply an enforcement notice, but to ask Oak to submit an alternative restoration plan to take overflow water from the void and filter it. The alternative restoration plan has been labelled inadequate by local residents, who question its safety and efficacy.
The petition to reinstate full restoration was accompanied by over 280 letters of objection sent in to local planning authorities. Jan Adamson, local resident, said that “people here are almost universally adamant that they want the land put back as promised, they are astounded that it has not yet been done and they certainly don’t want a 120m deep flooded hole on their doorstep.”
She added: “If three governments and two local authorities can’t solve this problem satisfactorily then what is the point of any of them? What is the point of a planning system when imposed conditions are changed at will because the company supposed to comply with them wants the goal posts moved after it has taken the profits and devastated the countryside?”
If deemed admissible the petition will be considered by the Assembly’s Petitions Committee on Tuesday. The Committee consists of four members, one from each political party in the Assembly. The Committee cannot implement what a petition calls for or overrule the decision made by Neath Port Talbot and Bridgend Council. However, it can hold the decision makers and government to account, seek information from them and give petitioners the chance to make their case directly to Assembly Members.