SARN HELEN ROMAN ROAD - BANWEN TO ABERDULAIS
This byway open to all traffic is regularly used by equestrians, walkers, mountain bikers, off-road motorcycles & 4x4 vehicles. The route has some quite unique features including, the Roman Road itself which runs along the ridgeway of Hirfynnydd, (translates as 'Long Mountain'), near Glynneath. From the triangulation point, it enjoys some spectacular views including, to the South, a panoramic view of much of West & Mid Glamorgan, the Bristol Channel & the coast of Devon. The view to the North is the vista of the Black Mountains running into the Brecon Beacons. It presents a challenging drive for off-roaders with the fabulous views from the summit as an added bonus there are few byway roads left where this level of access can be enjoyed by motorised vehicles and which are so rewarding in terms of driving experience & views. The 7 mile long mountain is set in amongst some spectacular rolling hillsides and thousands of acres of forestry.
This amenity has also proved to be very popular with disabled 4x4 drivers as it is a route which can be negotiated in a suitable vehicle. Disabled motorists would lose this amenity if the TRO is extended as, unlike many other members of the public, they aren't going to be able to use a disability scooter to get up there, they won't be able to walk up there & in all probability won't be able to ride a horse or cycle up there.
This area is criss-crossed by public footpaths, bridleways, byways, etc. There have been frequent access problems over the past couple of years with byways being illegally obstructed on numerous occasions, as well as ongoing attempts to intimidate legal users of the bridleways & footpaths in attempt to erode use of these routes. There is a currently 7 month closure period in place - a TRO detailing a seasonal prohibition of driving. The landowner, (Walters Mining Ltd), is requesting an extension of conditions on the TRO to extend the closure period & to include all linked byways with the erection of locking barriers. Officials in Neath, Port-Talbot Council seem to be giving their unofficial backing to these extended TRO conditions.
It is apparent that the landowner is antagonistic towards public use of public rights of way over this large parcel of mountain & forestry. Locals believed that the landowner is trying to erode public access until the only vehicles that can get onto the land are those prepared to pay to use the Walters Motorsports Complex. Neath, Port-Talbot Council appears quite prepared to allow this to happen. The need for extendeding the TRO are cited as;
Improvement of the amenity through which the byways pass.
To prevent damage to the road-surface by 4x4s & off-road motorbikes.
The landowner, is seeking to enhance the amenity of the area by erecting several wind-turbines, installing a waste-recycling plant generating 100+ heavy lorry movements a week & running regular motor events here.
The landowner is helping to preserve the road-surface by running Rally's, off-road events for 4x4s, off-road training for motorcycles as well as driving Plant through to their quarrying operation - 14 ton JCBs, tracked diggers, etc. It seems that off-road motorcycles & vehicles are not to be excluded by this TRO as paying for the privilege of using the facility appears to negate any of the damage that might be caused. This, on a road, which does not appear to have benefited from any maintenance work by the local authority for very many years - despite regular promises to do so.
A number of individuals from local communities have decided to unite to form an alliance to fight the gradual loss of rights of way on Hirfynnydd. R.O.W.A.N. (Rights Of Way Alliance Neath) has the primary aim of protecting ALL Public Rights of Way at Hirfynydd for use by EVERYONE.
This amenity has always been very well used by members of local communities. Due to the extremely attractive nature of the route, visitors from across the UK enjoy coming to walk, ride or drive the Sarn Helen. This extended closure order isn't about improving the amenity or preserving road surfaces - it's all about a wealthy corporation making more money at the expense of others, increasing land values & the Councils lethargy, (or worse), that is helping it happen.
We are convinced that if the Sarn Helen is lost, access to the bridleways & footpaths will be gradually eroded over time until these are also lost. This would be tragic if allowed to happen and future generations would be the losers - this on a road which has been in public use for the better part of 2 Millennia.
This TRO extension request is being put out for consultation. The Councillors on the Committee which will make the decision have already looked at the issues & are justly concerned.
If you are able to help us in this fight to stop this TRO from being extended we would be very grateful. There is to be a consultation period before this TRO request is considered again by Council. If you have enjoyed using this road or if you plan to use this route in the future - please back up our opposition to this TRO extension request. The stronger the level of opposition, the more likely we are to stop it happening. Contact details are below;
If you haven't yet experienced the delights of Sarn Helen, please make the most of it - in case we do lose it!
Details for sending objection;
(please DO NOT forward this email as part of your objection)
To be received by 27th July - pls try to get them in sooner if you are prepared to help us out.
Ref: Proposed Traffic Regulation Order Sarn Helen
Neath, Port-Talbot County Borough Council
Civic Centre, The Quays
Brunel Way, Baglan Energy Park
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