Support quality, independent, local journalism…that matters
From just £3 a month you can help fund our work – and use our website without adverts. Become a member today
The former Ness Tar plant, near Caerphilly town centre, is highlighted as a potential area for redevelopment on the council’s Caerphilly 2035 plans.
Tar production stopped at the plant in 1985 after nearly 50 years, and since the mid-1990s, the land has been left empty. The site has long been earmarked for development and regularly appears in council development plans.
Earlier this month, the council began carrying out ground investigation works on the site to gauge the extent of the contamination, with a view to building on it.
But residents are worried that any work on the area could result in contaminated and toxic materials from the old tar plant being brought back up.
There is a strong belief among some residents that contamination goes as deep as five metres into the ground at some parts of the site.
An open letter from members of the Nant y Calch group and published below, said the site was “ideally suited and situated for much-needed leisure space, particularly in a post-Covid world”. The letter has been signed by more than 70 residents.
The group said it has had “positive interactions” with the council in the past over the plans to develop the site, but criticised the council’s consultation process, saying residents and councillors were not informed until the day before the investigation started.
They said this was “especially disappointing given the history of the site, known risks associated with disturbing the contaminated ground and the previous interest the group has shown in the development of the former tar plant.”
After finding out about the works, the group wrote to the council’s Chief Executive, Christina Harrhy, who referred the message to Hamish Munro, the project manager.
According to the residents, Mr Munro said the short notice was because the work was arranged at the last minute, with contractors becoming available at short notice.
Plaid Cymru councillor Colin Elsbury, who represents the St Martin’s ward, said he was “fuming” over the over the lack of prior consultation and lack of detail given, describing the matter as a “very contentious issue”.
While Cllr Elsbury said he has “mixed feelings” over plans for the site, he added: “We don’t know how contaminated the area is currently. Personally, I don’t want to see the land overdeveloped because this could lead to development on Nant y Calch Farm.”
Caerphilly County Borough Council has been contacted for comment.
The open letter
The Nant y Calch Group, which is made up of residents representing the interests of the St. Martins ward area of Caerphilly, have recently become aware of the Council’s intention to disturb the grounds of the former Tar Plant, which is located only a few hundred metres from Caerphilly town centre. We are informed, the work taking place is to establish the extent of contamination of the ground to determine the likely costs of remediating the site for potential development. The group has had previous positive interactions with the Council and its plans to develop this site and surrounding land. Given its location, we think it would be ideally suited and situated for much needed leisure space, particularly in a post-covid world. The Council should take advantage of its position, being the first impression a visitor gets of Caerphilly as they enter the town by train leading on to the Council’s proposed landmark interchange, that it estimated to cost between £30m and £40m.
Disappointingly, this work has been arranged without the usual notification or consultation with the St. Martins ward elected representatives. It would seem reasonable to expect the Council to plan and notify our elected representatives, and in turn, the local residents, not least to give notice and make them aware of the potential disruption the work could cause over the period of the project.
However, this is especially disappointing given the history of the site, known risks associated with disturbing the contaminated ground and the previous interest the group has shown in the development of the former Tar Plant.
Caerphilly residents should be reassured that once the group had been made aware of the works which had already started, several of our members wrote to the Council’s Chief Executive Christina Harrhy to ask why it appears the Council has not been open and transparent with the community in its approach to arranging these works and to give reassurance to the residents of Caerphilly that it will be undertaken safely.
Ms Harrhy referred the matter directly to Mr Hamish Munro, the Programme Manager, who confirmed the lack of notification was due to the work being arranged last minute, as contractors had become available at short notice. Mr Munro also provided a Risk Assessment for the work, as requested from the group.
Members of the group immediately raised concerns and replied to him, explaining the assessment did not sufficiently detail the known chemical hazards and was focussed more on the activity and risks to those conducting the work. In particular, it did not include details of contaminants for airborne pollutants, or the protection of the surrounding watercourse and environment, should hazardous, carcinogenic materials be disturbed. Unfortunately, Mr Munro has not responded to these questions.
Whilst the Council has ambitious plans to develop the Caerphilly town area over the next decade, it should never lose sight of
its duty of care to the residents it represents. This should always remain its priority and sadly on this occasion the Council has fallen short. The Tar Plant is in close proximity to residential housing, nurseries, shops and is directly opposite an allotment.The proposed work could release toxic contaminants close to a railway line and to the commercial and office area at the end of Van Road.
Given the public investment and trust placed in the Council to deliver the Caerphilly 2035 project, it is concerning that the planning, consultation and basic safety requirements of good project delivery have not been met from the outset, putting public health and the environment at risk.
The group requests that this work be safely put on hold until the Council responds and provides residents with an assurance these important issues have been addressed.
The Nant y Calch group:
John Arblaster; Tracy Arblaster; Mrs Sue Beacham; Dr Alun Brain; Mrs Laura Brittain; Mr Tom Brittain; Mrs Shân Dawson; Mr Christopher Dawson; Mr Jacob Dawson; Mrs Lin Dodd; Mr Martin Dodd; Mrs Judith Eddington; Mr Clive Elsbury; Mr Anthony Evans; Lindsay Evans; Mrs Sue Evans; Mrs Maureen Fowler; Dr Khairy Gazal; Mrs Lynn Gazal; Mr Alexander Gray; Mrs Carly Gray; Mrs Allyson Hudd; Fiona Hudd; Oliver Hudd; Peter Hudd; Simon Hudd; Mr Adrian Joseph; Mrs Susan Joseph; Mr Anthony Jones; Mrs Linda Jones; Mrs Pauline Jones; Mrs Anne Jugessur-Williams; Mrs Juliet Larsen; Aimee Leacy; Shaun Leacy; Ms K Lewis; Mrs Hilary Lewis; Mrs Kirsty Luff; Mrs Elizabeth Matheson; Mrs Sharon Mock; Mrs Sian Morgan; Mr David Mustow; Nigel Powell; Miss Bethan Pugh; Mr David Pugh; Mrs Helen Pugh; Miss Katie Pugh; Mrs Helen Rabaiotti; Mr Martin Rickard; Mr Calvin Rees; Nick Rutherford; Mrs Rachel Savery; Mr Ivan Simic; Mrs Johanna Simic; Mrs Andrea Thomas; Mrs Elizabeth Thomas; Mr Kevin Thomas; Mr Paul Thomas; Seren Thomas; Mr Graham Towell; Mrs Amanda Wallen; Mr Christopher Wallen; Mrs Wendy Wallen; Mrs Lisa Welsby; Mr David Williams; Jessica Williams; Richard Williams; Robert Williams; Mrs Sabrina Williams
Support quality, independent, local journalism…that matters
From just £1 a month you can help fund our work – and use our website without adverts.
Become a member today