Peredur Owen Griffiths, who represents Plaid Cymru, is one of four regional Senedd Members serving the South Wales East region.
It’s 4am on Sunday morning in Caerffili and I’m surrounded by creatures of the night. No, this is not some reminisce of the town’s nightclub scene from a couple of decades ago, but an organised ‘bat watch’ with local conservationists a few weeks ago over at Gwern y Domen.
I’m accustomed to seeing the odd bat or two flying around at dusk but the sight of a large colony, returning to the roost after a night of hunting and feeding, was something to behold. The same can be said of two barn owls I saw in flight on the sunrise towards the end of my visit.
These sights were genuinely thrilling and underlined the uniqueness of the Gwern y Domen site; not just in Caerffili County Borough but across the whole of Wales. It also underlined the need to protect this special area from development.
Regular readers of the Caerphilly Observer will be familiar with the long-running saga involving this large area of land between Lansbury Park and Rudry, which has been described as “unique” by the tv presenter and nature observer Iolo Williams.
Mr Williams, who is also a patron of the Gwern y Domen Conservation group, said on previous visits that it was imperative that all efforts were made to prevent any development due to the presence of barn owls, great crested newts, long-eared bats, lesser horseshoe bats, and wax-capped fungi.
He added: “The combination of all of this wildlife, you just don’t see any more in Wales. When I drive around Wales all I see are green deserts – rye grass.”
You’d think this would be enough to save the area from the bulldozers but it came very close to being built on just a few years ago.
Thanks to tireless work by local campaigners such as Jayne Garland, the application from Persimmon to build more than 600 homes was shelved due to faults found in the Local Development Plan. Campaigners are now anxiously waiting to see what the revised Local Development Plan will bring when it is eventually released.
In the meantime, they are gathering evidence of the rich and varied flora and fauna at Gwern y Domen, ready for a robust challenge to any resubmitted planning application.
Aside from the need to protect our wildlife and our green spaces, my view is that the Caerffili area has had more than enough building work in recent years. It is difficult enough to drive around our congested roads as it is without adding to that problem.
It would also be galling to see a much-cherished greenfield site built upon when there are enough brownfield sites with planning permission waiting to be developed.
Anyone with an interest in protecting our wildlife and one of the most special areas of our beautiful country should be ready to resume the fight against the development of Gwern y Domen. I am sure Persimmon can be sure of a vociferous reaction from the people of Caerffili and beyond if they decide to dust off their plans once again.
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