Campaigners say they will continue to oppose a waste processing plant that is currently under construction despite a legal challenge having been rejected. 

Poet and playwright Patrick Jones has adapted the words of the American folk song This Land Is Your Land for a special recording by singer Martyn Joseph. A video has also been made to highlight the campaign, fought by the Lower Sirhowy Valley Residents Group for more than six years, against the plant at an industrial estate in Cwmfelinfach. 

Scroll down to watch the video 

Last month, local resident Dr David Platt had sought to take Caerphilly Borough Council to Judicial Review – to challenge the planning permission given in 2015 for the plant at the Nine Mile Point Industrial Estate – but a judge didn’t allow the application to go forward saying it was out of time. 

The council has said it has instructed senior officers, who were independent of the decision making process, to conduct an investigation of concerns raised in line with its complaints procedure. 

The dispute centres on how the original planning application was handled as the applicant, a firm called Hazrem Environmental Limited, wasn’t required, by the council, to provide an Environmental Impact Assessment with the planning application. 

The National Wales: Residents have formed an action group Picture: Russell ProtheroResidents have formed an action group Picture: Russell Prothero

The firm was granted planning permission for a site that it said could handle up to 100,000 tonnes of waste annually, including sorting and processing for recycling and fuel production, while also burning natural gas in an on-site drier, which would emit nitrogen dioxide. 

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Dr Platt, who has spent thousands of pounds bringing the action, said other avenues to challenge the operation of the plant are being considered: “One is the human rights act as allowing something to go ahead that has not been shown to be safe could be against the right to life. 

“The other is to try and get Welsh ministers to intervene.” 

Opponents fear the emissions could be harmful to their health. Local officials previously highlighted the issue of emissions and the valley’s geography which leads to a recognised weather phenomenon known as 'temperature inversion'. This is when cold air is trapped by warm air above it, which also means pollution cannot easily escape. 

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Natural Resources Wales had denied the plant an environmental permit in 2017, following concerns raised by residents and the local health board. But withdrew its objections later that year, saying it was satisfied by additional information submitted by the original applicants.

The Planning Inspectorate, which held a two-day public inquiry in the same year, then approved the application. 

However residents who formed a campaign group, and who say 400 people attended a recent protest staged as construction work started, say their concerns haven’t been properly addressed. 

The National Wales: Residents at a protest held outside the plant that is currently being built Picture: Russell ProtheroResidents at a protest held outside the plant that is currently being built Picture: Russell Prothero

Among them is mathematician Dr Platt, who says he was motivated to get involved and use his own money to pay for the Judicial Review, out of concern about the impact on his grandchildren. 

“My daughter lives at the bottom of Wattsville with my son in law and two grandchildren, aged four and 14, and I don’t want them exposed to any environmental risk," said Dr Platt. 

“My wife and I are in the fortunate position we could afford to challenge it. It’s money we could have spent on something more pleasant, but felt we had to put our money where our mouth is, though my barrister Harriet Townsend has been absolutely brilliant and worked below commercial rates. 

“It’s not necessarily about stopping the plant but we want it to be properly assessed. If after that assessment there’s no problem, great, off we go. 

“It’s trying to drive home the fact there should have been an environmental impact assessment. 

“But I don’t want some big question mark hanging over us that could take years to identify and all the time it is causing damage to my grandkids and everybody else’s. 

“I don’t want to be breathing smoke but I’m more driven by the kids as their lungs are still forming and still growing, they are probably more vulnerable than those of us in our 60s.” 

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Poet Patrick who has lived in the area for 22 years, and is the older brother of Manic Street Preachers bassist Nicky Wire, said the residents group was keen to get involved when he suggested a campaign song.

He then asked former Sony Records recording artist Martyn Joseph, from Penarth, to sing the adapted version of the famous Woody Guthrie protest song. 

“The campaign group liked the idea and it has given us a bit of a lift and lots of people know Martyn and it has been quite galvanising,” said Patrick. 

He said many residents thought the plant wasn’t going ahead after NRW’s initial refusal and only become aware of the later permission as building work has started. 

“At our protest a couple of weeks ago 400 people turned up, so the strength of feeling is pretty immense. 

“The idea for the song came off the top of my head as I was going up the mountain and was looking out and could see where the plant is being built. It made me quite sad and I was looking across the valley and the Woody Guthrie song came into my head. 

“I came up with some words and I immediately thought of Martyn Joseph who has been around for 30 years and he’s an icon of Welsh folk. I wrote to him and he got straight back to me and said let’s do this. 

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In the video, filmed by Jason Bartlett, Martyn sings “but something’s changing and what they’re building here will destroy this place for you and me”. 

The National Wales: Martyn performing at the protest at the construction site Picture: Russell ProtheroMartyn performing at the protest at the construction site Picture: Russell Prothero

The famous chorus has also been adapted to reference local places with Martyn singing: “This land is your land, this land is my land. From the miners’ lodges to the river Sirhowy. Wattsville to Wyllie to the streets of Cwmfelinfach, this land was made for you and me.” 

Caerphilly Council has said the operators must still seek a permit from Natural Resources Wales and said its officers have meet with the agency and the owners of the site. 

Council leader Philippa Marsden, who is also the ward member for Ynysddu where the industrial estate is located, said: “As a resident of the area myself I want to establish the facts. I am also extremely keen to ensure that the development is subject to the necessary environmental control measures.

"It is also important that all activity at the site remains closely regulated and monitored by NRW.” 

The site is now owned by a firm called Hywel NMP which was only incorporated in January this year and only has a correspondence address at The Shard in London. 

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