Promoted by Mark Ward-Jones on behalf of the Torfaen Constituency Labour Party at 27 Brunel Road, Fairwater, Cwmbran, Torfaen NP44 4QT.
Lynne Neagle AM last week used a question to the Minister for Natural Resources to voice concerns over resident accounts of payments offered to them if the proposed opencast mining application in Varteg goes ahead.
These payments, understood to be £1000 per household per year for the duration of the scheme, were also taken up by the local AM in her response to the Council’s latest request for comments on the amended application [Closing date Friday 11th March 2016].
Lynne Neagle has previously written to the Welsh Government Minister and understands that whilst such payments (Community Benefits) are not prohibited, neither are they a part of the process nor should they make unacceptable developments acceptable because of them. Separate to S106 agreements, these relatively new payments are typically paid to whole communities such as for wind farm applications in England.
Guidance stipulates that openness, transparency and fairness should be at the core. Lynne Neagle believes further guidance is necessary to uphold these core principles in practice; which she called on the Welsh Government to produce for residents.
Speaking in the Chamber, Lynne Neagle AM said:
“Minister, I have recently written to you to express my concern that some residents of Varteg tell me that they’ve received payment offers of £1,000 per household for the duration of the proposed opencast scheme. Worryingly, when Torfaen council approached the developer, they were unable to obtain confirmation of any offers.
I believe that if such payments are within the law, then they should be made in an open and transparent manner and in discussion with all residents affected. Would you agree with me that making such offers to some residents and not others risks dividing a community and obscuring the transparent planning process? Will you look at issuing further guidance to protect residents in this situation?”
Responding, the Minister for Natural Resources, Carl Sargeant AM, said:
“I thank the Member for her question. Obviously, Presiding Officer, I’m unable to comment on a specific planning application when it’s a live application, but I do pay tribute to the Member who never ceases to seize the opportunity to raise this issue with me.
With regard to the more general point of the application about payments to communities, I would hope that it would be considered to be done in an open and transparent way, and if the Member wishes to write to me with more details, irrespective of the application, I will ask my team to look at it in detail.”