Green light for Maesteg paper mill expansion

(Title Image: WEPA)

Yesterday, one of the first virtual meetings of Bridgend Council took place (the monthly planning committee meeting) via Skype – which you can watch here.

Safe to say there were a few teething problems – people randomly dropping in and out, non-speakers appearing on screen and issues with sound and video quality. That said, at least they’re making an effort and things ran more smoothly towards the end.

There was only one planning application on the agenda (pdf) – WEPA’s proposal to expand their paper mill near Coytrahen.

Few objections, but concerns over traffic and appearance

In the written responses to the application, both Huw Irranca-Davies MS (Lab, Ogmore) and Cllr. James Radcliffe (Plaid, Aberkenfig) offered their support for the project, but not without raising the matter of traffic and road safety problems on the A4063 at Tondu.

During the discussion, councillors were told that WEPA has agreed to contribute towards a feasibility study for pedestrian and cycle routes in the Llynfi Valley – though Cllr. John Spanswick (Lab, Brackla) queried whether the council was getting enough out of the applicant (£60,000) towards the costs (which could be match-funded and include Welsh Government funding).

Cllr. Matthew Voisey (Con, Oldcastle) praised how the application was presented and the level of consultation beforehand. His concern was that a “big white building” in the countryside would look out of place, preferring it to be camouflaged in some way. Cllr. Ken Watts (Ind, Newton) thought for a £100million project it could look better than currently planned.

Cllr. Malcolm James (Plaid, Llangynwyd) disagreed, saying a limited number of properties can see it and you only really notice it when you pass it.

Councillors were informed that there’s little the council could do regarding the structure’s prominence, but they can control the materials, colour and finish to minimise its visual impact.

Cllr. Keith Edwards (Ind, Maesteg West) said the investment would bring much-needed jobs to the area and praised WEPA’s commitment to the workforce. He didn’t see a reason to object on a highways basis as the road used to cope with traffic from the former Cosi/Revlon factory in Maesteg.

Raising concerns about the impact at Tondu junction, Cllr. Mike Kearn (Lab, Pyle) was told that the mini-bypass due to be built for the expansion of the Pentre Felin development needs to be in place before the 156th home is occupied. However, WEPA believes it’ll be easier to transport the new paper machines up the A4063 before that mini-bypass is built.

“Phenomenal investment” in an area that needs it

Cllr. Ross Thomas (Ind, Maesteg West) described it as a “phenomenal investment” in an area that needs an economic boost – though in a written response he called for improved street lighting along the stretch of road.

Cllr. Carolyn Webster (Con, Newcastle) was pleased improvements have been made in the form of tree planting and electronic vehicle charging points, adding that WEPA could consider setting up an education centre in the future.

Cllr. Amanda Williams (Ind, Coity) was happy with the traffic management proposals, but asked about the phasing of construction work and whether the River Llynfi could cope with increased water abstractions due to an increase in paper production?

A planning officer confirmed that construction can’t start without a second access being built beforehand. River abstractions are controlled by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and while there will be extra demand for water, it’ll be licenced by NRW.

In the end, the planning committee voted unanimously in favour of the application.

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