The Phurnacite Plant closed in 1991 28 years ago
Posted by Lewis on the 15th March 2019
Ann Clwyd question to the Chancellor yesterday 14 march 1019 asking what funding will be made available to the environmental sector in Wales to help clear up currently unusable land, like the former Phurnacite plant in Abercwmboi in my constituency.
The Phurnacite Plant closed in 1991 28 years ago
Ann Clwyd speaking in 1986 about the Phurnacite said, “the pollution of the environment had to be balanced against the number of jobs provided.”
Phurnacite: Worst Toxic Waste left anywhere in the United Kingdom said Ann Clwyd
123,000 tonnes of toxic waste present on the site to be removed.
“The seemingly relatively straightforward issues that have held up its progress to date”
“The seemingly relatively straightforward issues that have held up its progress to date cannot go on and I urge all parties involved to work together to reach a satisfactory conclusion.
Cynon Valley MP Ann Clwyd has again called on the Welsh Government to urgently take action to enable the redevelopment of the site of the former Phurnacite plant in Abercwmboi .
Former Phurnacite Works Land Abercwmboi
In 1995, the Welsh Development Agency (WDA) submitted a planning application to Rhondda Cynon Taf Borough Council (RCT) proposing the encapsulation of tar contamination in deep, heavily-lined cells on a former industrial site. This was met with fierce local opposition and after a period of almost six years, the application was rejected. It was then, in late 2000, that the WDA approached The Environment Council to convene a stakeholder engagement process to seek resolution and find a mutually beneficial solution. The derelict land covered an area of 58 hectares in Abercwmboi and was formerly used for the manufacture of Phurnacite and Ancit smokeless fuel. The plant comprised two separate processes, with the original one, dating from 1939, having caused the most contamination. Plans for remediation of the now demolished plants had been a matter of debate since the early 1990’s. Who was involved? The Environment Council convened and facilitated a stakeholder group comprising the local community, Bro Taf Health Authority, landowners, officers and members from both RCT and the National Assembly for Wales, Groundwork and the Environment Agency. Stakeholder participation The process began with a series of one on one meetings with individual stakeholder groups to establish whether an ongoing wider dialogue was worth pursuing. Significant interest was expressed, and a main group meeting (a public meeting) was held in September 2001. This was quite a difficult meeting because there was a long history of dispute between those present. Despite this, participants were able to agree to the proposed negotiated settlements and two working groups of about 20 representatives were set up. One group was to begin work on treatment for the contaminated land (Treatment Working Group) and the other had the remit to ensure the wider community was kept informed of progress (Community Liaison Working Group). Some working group members sat on both groups. Phurnacite Dialogue: finding a way forward for the clean up of contaminated land Interview - Facilitate the formation of a stakeholder group - Stakeholder participation may help in finding a mutually beneficial solution - Communicate in plain language that is not too technical, - Dialogue helps to find a way forward.
The community group agreed to employ a community liaison officer who would be the link between the treatment group and the wider community. Tasks included issuing newsletters and delivering them to the whole community as well as holding ‘surgery sessions’ once a month where people could ask any questions they had about the process or give feedback to the group. Part of this was to ensure that communication was in plain English and understood by all (as at times the details became very technical). Eventually the two working groups merged as trust was developed and the community group’s role was taken on by the liaison officer. Investigating the site The treatment group undertook an extensive new site investigation using an environmental consultancy, which was appointed jointly by the whole stakeholder group. This was considered the best way to ensure participants could trust the results of the investigation. From this the group was able to carry out an appraisal of all possible remediation options, which had been tested on similar contaminated sites in the UK, using a generic set of criteria. These criteria included; community perception both locally and at destination, health impacts for the community, environmental risks, effects on local image, cost, technical feasibility and regulatory approval. A remediation strategy The working group recommended that their preferred option for dealing with the tar and pitch material would be reuse/recycling (e.g. reuse as a fuel or as a road tar) if the material could be separated from other waste in the pits. However, it was found that the reuse/recycle option was not viable as current technologies are not available for such largescale treatments for this type of tar waste. Therefore, the second option of moving the 200,000 tonnes of material from the two tar waste pits to specially licensed landfill sites was pursued. This recommendation was for the removal to be by rail although it was acknowledged that transport by road would be acceptable if the implementation of the rail option was too lengthy.
Agreeing the strategy
The working group reported back to the main group at regular intervals throughout their work to check that they were on track. In July 2003, the new remediation strategy was presented at an open meeting in the village and was agreed by all present.
As a result the WDA submitted a new planning application to RCT in
April 2004 for the removal of the tar waste to landfill by road, which was approved in August of the same year. Once this phase of the works has been carried out the next phase of remediation can begin which could include: bio-remediation of the organic contamination if viable after field trials, coal recovery where possible to minimise the risk of combustion and some concrete removal in key areas.
This project demonstrates that it is possible, through public participation, to achieve a positive outcome to a seemingly insolvable problem. Although it has taken over three years and been resource intensive both in terms of money and people’s time it has provided other beneficial impacts which include: - Increased trust and relations between all parties involved - A solution has been found to an environmental and social problem which had caused dispute for over a decade - The solution will benefit the whole valley as an eyesore will be removed and the land will be reclaimed. This will benefit the whole community when it is put to use and may provide income and employment to the area. David Warren, Dialogue Co-ordinator, Stakeholder Involvement Unit The Environment Council, London, UK
Policy NSA 6 -
Former Phurnacite Plant, Abercwmboi
In accordance with Policy CS 3 land is allocated at the Former
Phurnacite Plant, Abercwmboi for 500 dwellings, the construction of
5.9 hectares of employment, a new primary school and an informal area of informal recreation within the Cynon Valley River Park.
Development on the Strategic Site will be subject to a large-scale reclamation scheme
The former Phurnacite Plant is a key brownfield site in a central position
in the Cynon Valley and lies within the Cynon Valley River Park. The site
represents a significant opportunity for major development to take place
in the Northern Strategy Area. Development of the site is significantly
constrained by flood risk.
6.28 The Council’s vision for the Strategic Site is high quality residential and
employment development with informal recreation, set in the lush
landscape of a restored valley floor.
6.29 The site is subject to a number of constraints most notably:
• Significant Flood risk;
• Ground contamination; and
• Sites of importance for nature conservation.
6.30 The Council has assessed the development potential of the Former
Phurnacite Plant in detail and would wish to see a proposal that addresses
the following elements:
a) Employment development – on the existing plateau to complete
Aberaman Industrial Park;
b) Access – the employment access will be via Aberaman Industrial Park;
the recreation access will be from John Street via the existing football
c) Cynon Valley River Park – informal open space on both sides of the River Cynon between the railway and the A4059.
d) Residential development of 500 units including a primary school following removal of contamination and flood prevention works – fronting the retained lakes and centred on the proposed school;
e) Access – the residential access will be from the B4275 Bronallt Terrace between Abercwmboi and Glenboi;
f) Formal recreation provision consisting of a replacement football
ground – northwest of the retained lakes;
g) Development proposals must have regard to the position of the site within the Cynon Valley River Park.
6.31 The phasing of the development will be dependent on the land reclamation scheme and a timely resolution to the significant flood risk issues.