Plan for train testing centre at mine clears first hurdle
A key to unlocking a £100 million investment in turning a surface coal mine into a Global Testing Centre of Excellence for trains has been turned.
Powys County Council’s planning committee approved an application by Celtic Energy Limited to create two looped land form platforms that would provide a “comprehensive, flexible and adaptable land form” across the entire Nant Helen site near Ystradgynlais.
Celtic Energy believe it could support a wide range of future uses including agriculture, woodland, nature conservation, leisure, tourism and employment as well as the rail testing centre. But, concerns have been raised that embankment to be built as part of the development above the village of Cae Hopkin could have devastating consequences.
The concern is that water could seep into the embankments, causing them to collapse and fall down into the valley below and the homes there.
Powys county councillor David Thomas, who called in the application, said: “This proposal is to put a huge embankment on top of what is already sodden and badly drained ground.”
He requested that the plan for the embankment be reviewed and taken away from populated areas.
Councillor Thomas added: “We’re disappointed that the planning committee are not able to visit the site and view these concerns at ground level.”
He added that without a site visit councillors could not make a “clear and informed decision”.
On behalf of applicants Celtic Energy, agent Damian Barry of Ove Arup said: “The proposed earthworks are engineered to be stable in accordance to conventional rail and road embankments. The Welsh Government intends to bring forward its application for a Global Centre of Rail Excellence in the next two months. If you approve this application today it will unlock an exciting next chapter for this site for the local economy and communities.”
Regional mineral and waste planning manager, Hugh Towns, said: “There is still a lot of work required before the embankment is constructed, there are a number of planning conditions proposed to ensure we understand exactly what the ground conditions are before any construction work is undertaken.”
With this assurance the application was approved, with 16 votes in favour and one abstention.