On 23rd June, for the Open Spaces Society, I attended a site visit on Eglwysilan Common. The Inspector visited following the application for an access across the common for the wind turbine at Castell Llwyd farm at the Nelson end.
The access is along the important and popular byway Heol Las which runs, from Nelson in the north all the way to Caerphilly in the south, across the large common. As a statutory consultee, Open Spaces Society had no objection subject to proper tidying of the site, which had been a mess in January (below left) and is much improved now (below right).
Public and commoners’ rights to access and use common land are protected. Work on common land – especially where hard surfaces, fencing or obstacles to access are involved – require consent under Section 38 of the Commons Act 2006. Applications are considered by the Planning Inspectorate Wales. On Eglwysilan Common, the public also have the right of access for air and exercise under Section 193 of the Law of Property Act 1925.
This application under Section 38 was retrospective, regrettable although there was the excuse of needing to act quickly on permissions before tariff changes for renewables.
In January, the access track along the Heol Las byway was in a poor state and attracting flytipping.
Applicants Clean Earth Energy have now completed separation and removal of soil and the byway is improved with compacted clean local stone. They agreed to re-seed more and have removed rubbish.
In this case, proper procedure and a positive outcome should be secured, unlike problems on other parts of the common. Clean Earth have also linked a commoner to the grid for the first time. It’s a stunning common for air and exercise, on foot or on horseback, with views over the Valleys.
On the way through Nelson, I stopped at a greengrocers at the old General Picton Inn (one of many closed inns listed in “Drinking Pubs”. Owner Bobby regularly runs on the common and chatted between customers while his dog slept by the door. I bought broad beans and nectarines – good too.
The Picton closed decades ago – it was a farmers’ pub when Nelson was a market town. At the Dynavor Arms next door, he said, I could see the rings to tie the horses up, and, sure enough, there they were. I could imagine the horses waiting patiently, then carrying the farmers home across the common at night.