Around 200 people gathered last night to share their opposition to plans by Dŵr Cymru / Welsh Water to build a new water treatment plant on farmland to the north of Merthyr Tydfil

Last month, The National exclusively reported how the community had been taken aback by Welsh Water's plans for a 100-acre water treatment works to be built on land at Pontsarn which has been farmed by the Parry family of Gurnos Farm since 1950. 

The National Wales: A drone shot showing the scale of the proposed Welsh Water development. Photo: Eye in the SkyA drone shot showing the scale of the proposed Welsh Water development. Photo: Eye in the Sky

Welsh Water intends to replace the smaller Pontsticill, Cantref and Llwyn-on treatment works with one larger facility because it says the three are "ageing and have become increasingly difficult to maintain". 

It maintains that the Pontsarn site is the most appropriate location for the new works.

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However, the community do not see it that way and there was standing room only at the first public meeting of the Protect Pontsarn campaign group held at Cefn Coed RFC. The campaigners met at the rugby club to discuss their concerns about the impact Welsh Water's development may have.

The group was originally set up on Facebook at the beginning of April and has quickly grown to more than 2700 members since then.

The National Wales: The Protect Pontsarn campaign held a public meeting at Cefn Coed RFC. Photo: Siriol GriffithsThe Protect Pontsarn campaign held a public meeting at Cefn Coed RFC. Photo: Siriol Griffiths

The National Wales: Chair of Protect Pontsarn, Fran Bevan. Photo: Siriol GriffithsChair of Protect Pontsarn, Fran Bevan. Photo: Siriol Griffiths

The meeting was led by the Chair of Protect Pontsarn, Frances Bevan, while presentations were given by several other members of the campaign group. 

Attending the meeting was Professor Sir Mansel Aylward, one of Wales' leading public health physicians and academics. 

Sir Mansel was the very first Chair of Public Health Wales NHS Trust from 2009 until 2017. He is currently Chair Emeritus of the Bevan Commission and Non-Executive Director of Life Sciences Hub Wales. 

The National Wales: Professor Sir Mansel Aylward addressed the Protect Pontsarn public meeting at Cefn Coed RFC. Photo: Siriol GriffithsProfessor Sir Mansel Aylward addressed the Protect Pontsarn public meeting at Cefn Coed RFC. Photo: Siriol Griffiths

Sir Mansel stood up to address the room and described how he was "appalled" at Welsh Water's plans, and promised to do everything in his power to oppose them. 

"This is such a deliterious project for this area and others," Sir Mansel told the meeting. 

"We cannot let this project go ahead. We've got to be militant. We've got to be decisive. We've got to get the message across.

"If you think back to your childhood, you may very well, like me, have wandered the pleasant fields and mountains which surround Merthyr Tydfil, albeit there were still scars from the coal pits, and we don't want that to happen again. 

"We were extremely non-resilient back in those days. We took what people told us to do. We can't do that now. 

"Our land was scarred by coal. Yes it brought jobs at the time but we can't do it again. We must stand up and say 'we are not putting up with this'."

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Liz Shankland is from Merthyr originally, and told The National she was compelled to get involved with the campaign due to the strength of feeling she has for Pontsarn: “I grew up in a small terraced house in Merthyr. All my spare time as a teenager was spent at Pontsarn. 

"It was like our Barry Island. This is where we would come because there wasn't anywhere else. It was our green space. We paddled in the streams and used it as a base for all our adventures. 

"Over lockdown it became even more important for the local community... vital even. 

"Nowadays, even though I've moved away, I still bring the dogs up here a couple of times a week. It's heaven.

"We must protect Merthyr’s only green space at all costs, and we will.”

The National Wales: A view of where the water treatment works would be situated at Pontsarn. Photo: Siriol GriffithsA view of where the water treatment works would be situated at Pontsarn. Photo: Siriol Griffiths

Dŵr Cymru / Welsh Water has said that is "committed to engaging with the local community about the plans" and maintained that it had "completed a 6 week non-statutory consultation period to provide the local community with an opportunity to view our initial plans and provide comments". 

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It is aiming to start construction in 2025, with a plan for the new facility to be in operation five years later. 

The National Wales: The nearby disused Vaynor Quarry north of Trefechan. This was originally Welsh Water's favoured option and Protect Pontsarn say this brownfield site should be reconsidered. Photo: Alan Hughes CC BY-SA 2.0The nearby disused Vaynor Quarry north of Trefechan. This was originally Welsh Water's favoured option and Protect Pontsarn say this brownfield site should be reconsidered. Photo: Alan Hughes CC BY-SA 2.0

In a statement, Dŵr Cymru / Welsh Water said: "We are currently reviewing the comments received to assess how these can be incorporated into the plans for the works.

"The next step will be for us to hold the statutory consultation with the local community ahead of us submitting the planning application to the local authority.

"During the statutory consultation process, we will again engage with the local community and provide them with opportunities to come and view our plans and provide feedback."

Protect Pontsarn are now raising money to pay for legal representation. 

Meanwhile, an online petition has gathered more than 1500 signatures.

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