Debate over what to do with tonnes of coal waste from Tylorstown landslide

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Plans to store thousands of cubic metres of landslip material which fell down the mountain in Tylorstown during Storm Dennis last year will be considered by councillors.

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council has applied for what is mainly retrospective permission for the deposit and storage of approximately 30,000 cubic metres of material from the Tylorstown landslip.

On February last year Storm Dennis caused the Llanwonno Upper Tip to fail above the village of Tylorstown resulting in a large landslip followed by a smaller, secondary event.

This led to approximately 30,000 cubic metres of colliery tip material sliding down the slope and filling the valley bottom which filled the Rhondda Fach river diverting its course to the western side of the valley bottom.

The diverted river began eroding the western bank of the river creating a vertically unstable face of approximately five metres which threatened to undermine the Rhondda Fach Leisure Centre car park adjacent to the top of the bank.

The slipped material also seriously damaged and breached a main sewer beneath the leisure centre downstream of the landslide, felled numerous trees in its wake and covered a water main below the former railway line.

There are two applications with one for each respective receptor site with the one involving 22,000 cubic metres on land across from Oaklands Business Park in Ferndale and the other involving 8,000 cubic metres near Station Road in Ferndale.

The deposit and storage of the material includes the formation of stockpiles, material consolidation, drainage and habitat and ecological mitigation measures.

The council said the sites were chosen as they were conveniently located close to the slip and the capacity was considered to be capable of safely accommodating the amount of material required to be stockpiled temporarily.

The application is retrospective because work was started without the benefit of planning consent due to the threat to the local buildings and infrastructure caused by the landslip and extensive scouring from the diverted river.

But the planning report said that the council had sought early advice from both the countryside, landscape and ecology section as well as the planning department and other in-house technical experts before any work had started.

Work to deposit the material on the receptor sites began in July 2020 and is expected to continue until February 2021.

The application proposes temporary storage of this material for no more than three years to allow sufficient time for consultation and monitoring before the submission of a planning application for the permanent scheme.

There was one objection to the plans which criticised the use of retrospective planning and raised environmental concerns.

It also criticised the comprehensiveness of some of the ecological surveys and the limited ecological safeguards as well as the ecological mitigation and environmental compensation strategy.

The objector said there will be an adverse impact on ancient woodland and the work done is one dimensional.

They said proposals will have an impact on low chemical input farming and RCT as a landowner are “notoriously negligent” in allowing invasive species to both flourish and spread to neighbouring lands.

They said approval should not be given whilst the applicant continues to work in isolation and that a collaborative, comprehensive and detailed mitigation and restoration plan should be requested.

They also raised concern about the chemical stability of the material, groundwater contamination and the consequences of the development flooding downstream by the reduction in the flood plain.

Finally they are concerned about the use by scramblers (motorcycles) on council land and a lack of “policing” of activities on it.

But the planning officers at RCT Council have recommended it for approval.

They said: “The development, while largely retrospective, has been necessary to remediate the landslip that occurred earlier this year.

“Fortunately, nobody was injured as a result of this incident, but it was clear that action to remove the material from the river was urgently necessary.

“The proposal represents the most efficient and environmentally sustainable of the (limited) options available.

“While the stockpiling of this material will have some negative visual impact, it is necessary (for safety reasons) to dry out the material before it can be worked and will only be for a temporary period before being removed /remodelled.

“This will be the subject of a separate planning application (to be made at a future date).”

They said: “The impacts (environmental and otherwise) of the works are not considered to be significant and the retention and completion of the earth movements are considered acceptable.

“As the works are largely complete (scheduled to be completed in February) it is not considered that any many additional conditions are necessary other than to define the plans and documents that comprise the proposal (including mitigation) and the duration of the storage of the material (and its subsequent removal/reprofiling).”

If committee decides, at its meeting on Thursday, January 21, to refuse the applications then the material will need to be moved to an alternative location which would likely need the submission of another planning application.



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