The Heads of the Valley Development Company has withdrawn its application for works on Trefil-Las and Twyn Bryn-March Commons at Rassau, Blaenau Gwent. We were one of the objectors.
Last week the Planning Inspectorate called a public inquiry into the works which were proposed ahead of the prospective Circuit of Wales motor-racing development itself. The company had applied to the Welsh ministers for consent to carry out major works on the common (haul roads, trenches and drains, stockpiles of excavated material and fencing), under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006.
The company is looking for land to offer in exchange for the 340 hectares of common land which it wants to take for the development. It will need ministers’ consent to deregister the common and to register suitable land in exchange, under section 16 of the Commons Act 2006. The company has not yet submitted this application and so the future of the motorsports development remains uncertain—even though it has planning permission.
The company says that it has withdrawn the application for works because Natural Resources Wales does not have the resources to ‘progress matters relating to the submission of information required to discharge conditions attached to the planning permission if they were having, at the same time, to prepare for a section 38 inquiry’.
Instead all the matters will be considered during the public inquiry into the application for exchange of common land.
While we are pleased that there is only to be one public inquiry into the proposed development, we consider that the company should have thought of this sooner. It has made much extra work for small, hard-pressed charities such as the Open Spaces Society, the Gwent Wildlife Trust and the Brecon Beacons Park Society, who had to study the bulky application and submit objections.
We await the company’s application for exchange of common land, but will be surprised if it can find sufficient land nearby where the public does not already have access. The exchange land must be as good as, if not better than, the land to be taken.
There is still a long way to go before the company can proceed with its plans.