Natural Resources Wales (NRW), the Welsh Government’s environmental advisory body, has done a u-turn on the ‘Circuit of Wales’ motor-racing centre at Ebbw Vale. NRW is no longer asking the government to call in the application which was granted outline consent by Blaenau Gwent Council last month. The development is on common land and abuts the Brecon Beacons National Park.
We cannot understand what has caused NRW to cave in to the developers. As far as we can see, nothing has changed. Why could it not reach this agreement before the planning application was submitted?
This is NRW’s first big test and we fear that it has failed. NRW should be defending this common land, not letting it be smothered in development. It should be defending the Brecon Beacons National Park, not endorsing industrial spread right on its doorstep. We are disappointed that NRW is not prepared to stand up to the developers and the government and persist with its objection.
Because of this sudden and puzzling change of heart, we are making a Freedom of Information request to both the Welsh Government and NRW to find out what has been happening behind the scenes. We trust that the Welsh Government will still decide to call this in, since there are many other objections.
The Open Spaces Society was among the objectors who wrote to the Minister for Housing and Regeneration, urging him to call the application in because it is of national significance and contravenes national planning policies as set out in Planning Policy Wales, regarding national parks, sustainability and common land. The Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, the Gwent and Brecknock Wildlife Trust and many others have also objected.
Not only does the development have a national impact on the landscape of a national park, but also it will have a devastating effect on registered common land. The society considers that the proposal cannot go ahead until suitable exchange-land has been provided and approved by the Welsh Government.