AN OFFICIAL investigation is to be launched into cancer fears surrounding a cement factory.

Assembly health minister Edwina Hart has said she will look at health risks from the dust fall-out zone of the Hanson Cement factory in Padeswood.

Councillors and members of the community claim cancer rates are higher among people living close to the plant, but the firm, formerly Castle Cement, has said it would welcome a study as a chance to prove the claims are unfounded.

Mrs Hart’s decision was welcomed by community leaders including Penyffordd community councillor Colin Bithell.

He told the Leader: “Penyffordd Council is extremely pleased with the response and the careful consideration Edwina Hart has given to the problem.

“She has appointed people to look at the long-term health risks of the cement factory. Hopefully we will get an answer to the potential problems we have been worried about.

“This is something that may affect not only people now, but also in the future. Children who are in primary school now may have problems when they grow up.

“It has been a huge concern of councils in this area for some time.

“We are delighted with the professional response given by Edwina and will work with her and the experts she has put in place.”

In a letter to Penyffordd Community Council Mrs Hart said: “Public Health Wales in collaboration with Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and the Health Protection Agency acknowledge the health concerns that you have raised and would like to work with people in, and representatives of, the local community to gain a better understanding of them.

“I think that this is a sensible way forward and will provide an opportunity for all stakeholders to engage in dialogue about emissions at the site and to discuss your concerns of ill health of residents around the Padeswood plant.”

David Weeks, spokesman for Hanson Cement, said: “This is good news and we would like to play a part in the process. We will open our doors to any investigation.

“If we can provide any information to the process to reassure people they have nothing to fear we will be very happy to do so. We have open doors on this.”