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LAON's February Review of English Opencast Sites

Steve Leary | 03.03.2013 11:03 | Climate Chaos | Energy Crisis | Social Struggles | London | Wales

This review details the latest development on known actual and potential opencast sites in England, plus providing additional information on Air quality Issues and Opencast Mining, the Welsh Varteg Petition, Derelict and Unrestored English Sites and news affecting Hargreaves Services and UK Coal.


2013 SERIES: No 2.1

From June 2012 to January 2013 a monthly review was published that grew to cover the whole of the UK, and by January it had reached 35 pages and was becoming unwieldy and imposing a strain on meeting the end of month deadline by which all information on all the sites had to be checked. The decision was taken to split the review into three parts, one covering England to be published on or just after the 1st of the month, the Scottish part to be published on or just after the 10th of the month and the Welsh part to be published on of just after the 20th of each month.
On the date this review was published this was the number of opencast sites under consideration that LAON knew about :

(Approved for 2 yrs)

ENGLAND 13 0 13
SCOTLAND 12 3 15
WALES. 7 0 7
TOTAL 32 3 35

On the date of this review was published, this was the number of derelict or mothballed or unrestored opencast sites LAON knew about in the UK
WALES 0 0 0
If you have any information about derelict Mothballed or unrestored opencast sites please send your information to

This is the way to read each entry on potential or actual opencast sites:
Site Name, Location, Planning Authority, Position in the Planning System (either Scoping Inquiry, Application Submitted, Application Approved), the name of the Applicant / Operator and the size.


BIRKLANDS, (nr .Marley Hill, Gateshead), (Gateshead: Reference No DC/11/00687/MIN) (Application) (Hall Construction Services) (275,000) (34.8 hectares)
On 8th February local objectors were informed by Gateshead Council’s Case Officer dealing with this application
“.....that I anticipate the submission of the additional information I requested in August 2012 within the next four weeks. This will be re-advertised for a period of 28 days in accordance with the relevant regulations.

I would anticipate a 3 month lead in to write the report. The matter will be likely to be reported to the committee meeting in June although there is no specific date for this meeting at this time....”.

‘Opencast, the threat returns’ (local action group) (no date)

Not a news story, but an on line petition that can be signed to show opposition to open casting at this proposed 275,000 tonne site. See

BRADLEY (nr. Consett) (Co Durham) (Judicial Review due in June) (UK Coal) (500,000) (68 hectares)

‘Review to continue despite sale of opencast site’ (Northern Echo, 19/2/13) @

Hot on the heels that the Hoods Close site had been sold prior to planning permission being granted comes this news that the Bradley site has been sold under similar circumstances to the same Company, Strawsons, fee and date of sale undisclosed. No one will know until June what the final decision is going to be on this site when the Judicial Inquiry is set to start.

COMMENT: Speculation runs rife – but all those groups who thought they were dealing with Coalfield Resources / Harworth Estates / UK Coal Surface Mining as the owner of the land UK Coal Surface Mining are mining or are intending to mine, should check with their Case Officer whether there has been or there is likely to be a change in ownership of the land.

Thanks go to Val Fairbairn Barnes for alerting me to this news story

DEANFIELD (West of New Sharlston, Wakefield) (Wakefield) (Scoping Inquiry) (UK Coal) (1.180,000 tonnes) (138 hectares)

Last news 25/11/12

DEARNE LEA, WEST CLAYTON (S.E. of Huddersfield) (Kirklees Council: Reference No. 2012/62/9113/ED) (Application) (George Harrison Ltd) (190,000) (18.8 hectares)

Last news 28/7/12

To contact the Skelmansthorpe Communituy Action Group see:

For more details on the Application and the possibility to make a comment go to:

FERNEYBEDS, WIDDRINGTON STATION (8 miles NW of Ashington) (Northumberland County Council) (Application) (Banks Group) (750,000) (95.6 hectares)

Last news 22/1/13

FIELD HOUSE, WEST RAINTON (c 4 miles NE of Durham) (Durham County Council / Sunderland City Council) (Pre Scoping Inquiry) (Hargreaves Services) (500,000) (52 hectares)

‘Row over Pittington Opencast Plan’ (Northern Echo, 13/2/13) @

Bill Kellett, Chairperson of Pittington Parish council has withdrawn an invitation for Hargreaves Surface Mining to address the council at a full Council meeting, after the Company made it clear that it wanted to brief the Council at a private part of the meeting that excluded the public:

“Now the council has withdrawn the invitation to address the meeting. Chairman Bill Kellett said: “If they’ve got nothing to hide, they could have come to an open meeting.
“I’m not willing to exclude members of the public.” “
In response, Hargreaves claimed

“ public meetings intimidate many people and public exhibitions were the best possible vehicles in which to engage meaningfully with local residents.
“We have nothing to hide – as will become evident at the exhibition events,” he added....”
“The exhibitions will be held at Pittington Village Hall on Saturday, February 23, and Jubilee Hall, in West Rainton, on Saturday, March 2, both from 10am to 2pm.”

COMMENT: Interesting tactics here. It raises the question as to how much of this kind of activity goes on behind closed doors, out of the Public Eye. Do the Coal Operators have a manual of some kind, of how to influence local opinion formers or get training in how to win friends and influence people? Full credit to Bill Kellett for not excluding the people he represents from any discussion that affects their future.

The above article also appeared in The Advertiser on 13/2/13, ‘Row over Pittington Mine’ @

‘Detailed opencast coalmine plans revealed’ (Northern Echo, 24,2/13) @

A report that the first exhibition on this proposal has taken place, with Hargreaves explaining that the site will be worked for 3 years an d then Mr O’sulliven from Hargreaves claimed that

“We aim to bring back the site’s existing characteristics and also enhance it considerably, with new tree and shrub planting, the creation of a network of ponds and ditches, hedgerows and grassland, all complementing agricultural after-use."

More information this site from Hargreaves Services Surface Mining Field House @

Public Consultation Leaflet on the Field House Proposal @

GREAT OAK, AUDLEY, STAFFORDSHIRE (Staffordshire County Council) (Scoping Inquiry) (UK Coal surface Mining) (450,000) (84 Hectares)

New Public Exhibition date for local people added : Talke Pits Village Hall
High Street
Talke Pits
Wednesday 6 March 2013
2.00pm – 5.00pm


Leave Audley & District Community Centre ST7 8DH at
• Leave Audley & District Community Centre Car Park at 9.30am
• Turn Left and follow the B5500 down New Road,
• Along Ravens Lane,
• Over the mini round-about at the Plough Inn
• Up Bignall Hill past the blue Miners Memorial Wheel on to a stile on the left-hand-side, where there will be someone to guide you over the stile
• Then on to the Monument following the dedicated paths at all times.. Expected time of arrival 11.30

‘Campaign against Gt.Oak Coalmine plan is launched’ by Bignall End villagers (The Sentinel, 9/2/13) @

A news report that the Campaign Against Great Oak Opencast has been launched. It is to hold two meetings on Monday 11/2/13 to discuss how to prevent a planning application from being submitted.

‘Campaigners unhappy over opencast mine’ ( Signal 1 Radio 102.6fm, 11/2/13) @

This is a radio interview Claire Hansbury made for a local radio station before the 4/2/13, before the recent Public Exhibitions, but which was broadcast today. In an email to her supporters Claire wrote

“Hi all, hope I did ok, have a listen on link below -it was over a week ago now so fitting for the time I think...of course we have moved even further on since then and major progress and headway is being made, as will be confirmed at our meetings today...look forward to seeing you all there and thanking you for all your support.
Claire Hansbury.Chair,CAGOO.”

‘Crowds attend mine meeting’ (The Sentinal, 14/2/13) @

It is worth copying the whole article

“HUNDREDS of people turned up to a residents' meeting to talk about how to stop a mine being built on their doorsteps.
UK Coal wants to extract 450,000 tonnes of coal over 15 months from a site at Great Oak, Bignall End, near the A500.
The Campaign Against Great Oak Opencast hosted two meetings on Monday to discuss the company's plans to submit planning applications later this year.
Orgnaisinger, Claire Hansbury of the Campaign Against Great Oak Opencast, said: "It was fantastic. We literally had people queuing outside wanting to join the campaign." “

‘Opening Bignall End mine is like digging up a grave’ (The Sentinel, 18/2/13) @

More on the reaction of local people to the prospect that UK Coal want to opencast a site very near to where 77 people lost their lives in a mining disaster caused by flooding in 1895. A direct descendants of those who were killed voices her concerns.

‘’Plan is an Insult to fallen miners’ (The Sentinel, 19/2/13) @

This appears to be a letter from P A Ball expressing strong feeling about the threat posed by UK Coal to the last resting place of those killed in the Diglake Disaster.

‘Opencast mine at Bignall End ‘will ruin children’s play area’ (The Sentinel, 23/2/13) @

Local residents in Bignall End argue that the proposed site of the Gt Oak open cast mine will be 100m away from a popular children’s playground and that the proximity to the site will mean that it was no longer safe to use:

“ The parents fear that heavy industrial vehicles, noise and dust will mean the youngsters will have to stay indoors or play elsewhere.”

HAGUE FARM (?) off Hague Lane nr Renishaw, Derbyshire (no estimate of size)
UK Coal has put this site up for sale. The particulars indicate that they are seeking a partner to help ‘develop’ (work the site as a surface mine) within 5 years. Site particulars are available here @

HALTON LEA GATE (c 5 miles SW of Haltwhistle) (Northumberland County Council) (Judicial Inquiry) (HM Developments) (140,000) (75 acres)
To contrite to the cost of fighting a Judicial Review, please make cheques payable to
North Pennine Protection Group, Account no:01014587, Sort code: 40-23-06 and send to: 5 High Midgeholme, Brampton, Cumbria. CA8 7LT

To sign an e petition to the Government, started by a Halton-Lea –Gate resident, opposing similar applications, please sign the ‘STOP OPENCAST MINING NEAR RURAL COMMUNITIES petition

Last news 28/9/12

HILLTOP PROJECT (nr. Clay Cross, Derbyshire) (Derbyshire County Council) ( Scoping Inquiry) (Provectus Remediation) (130,000) (30 hectares)
Last news 5/9/12

Provectus Remediation have indicated that they are intending to submit a plan to mine 130,000 tonnes of coal from a 30 hectare site over a 30 month period.
To keep in touch with the protest campaign, go to

HOODS CLOSE Whittonstall (Northumberland County Council) (Application) (UK Coal) (500,000) (208 hectares) (Ref No C/10/00255/CCMEIA)

UK Coal hopes to extract 2.2m tonnes of coal and 500,000 tonnes of fireclay over a seven year period. The Scoping Inquiry state began soon after August 2009 with an application following in 2010. This is still a live application.

‘Determination of controversial opencast application on Durham / Northumberland county boundary is put back a month’ (Northern Echo, 4/2/13) @

The date for a decision on this application has now been postponed from 5/2/13 to 5/3/13.

Whittonstall: ‘War of Words over Mine Support Letters’, (Hexham Courant, 6/2/13) @

Up until January 7th Northumberland County Council had received 2 letters in support of the application and 449 letters against. In the following week – the week before the Public Meeting on the application organised by Northumberland County Council this happened
“ Over the past few days, Northumberland County Council has been swamped by 226 letters of support for the application – the majority coming from UK Coal workers across the country. Fewer than 10 of the identically worded letters – viewed by the Courant this week – came from addresses in Tynedale.”
“UK Coal denied orchestrating the influx of letters, but said it was common practice for employees and contractors to show support for applications in this manner
UK coal director Simon Taylor said the letters were no different from a petition and were the “easiest way” for employees to express their view.
“The most common question employees ask me is when is the next site coming up. They are happy to do what it takes to show their support.
“I don’t see how someone writing to oppose at the last minute is any different from writing to support it now or six months ago.
“We respect everyone’s right to object. People should respect our right to put the scheme forward.” ”

COMMENT: So, UK Coal has had nothing to do with this influx of 226 letters which all arrive within 7 days of each other and 216 of them at least are identical letters? It is of course no coincidence that they also arrive at a critical psychological point in the campaign, just before the big public meeting. Simon Taylor may be right in that UK Coal has not orchestrated this directly, but I would not put past UK Coal to have paid a public relations company to do exactly that – orchestrate a letter writing campaign. If that is the case, it shows to what length UK Coal will go to get this application passed.

Val Fairburn Barnes from the Whittonstall Action Group has this added comment to make

“Having seen the letters on Monday, they HAVE been orchestrated by UK Coal. They fall clearly into one of 3 categories: a) proforma sheets where employees have simply added their address and signature; b) again, proforma sheets beginning 'I am a member of a family with a UK Coal employee (or words to that effect); c) letters from individual suppliers of UK Coal. In the case of a and b categories, they were received by NCC in batches. The ones from suppliers were all addressed to UK Coal direct and then forwarded (again in a batch) from UK Coal.”

‘Whittonstall: Opencast timetable’ (Hexham Courant (letters) 6/2/13) @

A letter from Dr Colin Argent which challenges UK Coal’s description of how long the site, if approved, will impact on the local people. He contrasts UK Coal’s claim that coaling will last 6 yrs 7 months. But at the public meeting held on the 17th January the following time periods emerged:
Application period so far 3 years
Site preparation 1 year
Coaling 6 years 9 months
Site restoration up to 1 year
Post care period 10 years
Already Dr Argent notes, the proposal has had a negative effect on the local economy which could continue for a lot longer if the plan was approved.
COMMENT: The period quoted for site preparation could be longer than that, partly depending on when in the year planning approval is granted. The site would not be prepared during any bird nesting season or when restrictions are imposed because of the breeding period for Great Crested Newts if they are present on site. Then they would not be soil stripping in the Autumn / Winter period to avoid compacting the soil too much. There is the general weather to consider for example – if it is too dry they cannot soil strip then either. The same considerations may apply to the timetable to restore the site as well I should have thought.

‘Pub Landlord fears closure over opencast plan’ (Northern Echo, 7/2/13) @

This time the owner of the Feathers Inn voices the same concern as Rhian and Helen in the story below. He adds the following observations:
“The earth mounds surrounding the site will obliterate the sweeping country views from site, will lead to loss of tranquility and enjoyment of the local countryside.
“An opencast site may ultimately affect the sustainability of the school and communities in Whittonstall and neighbouring villages”

‘Feathers Inn owners fear for future if Whittonstall opencast goes ahead’. (Journal 8/2/13) @

Rhian Cradwick and Helen Greer fear for the future of their business, the award winning Feathers Inn at Headly on the Hill 11/2 miles from the proposed site. Over the last 6 years they have established the Inn’s reputation for food and currently employ 25 staff. However:
Last night, she (Helen) voiced fears that the development would destroy the area’s “beautiful” countryside which attracted them to the pub, as well as bringing noise, dust and heavy vehicles, which would deter people from visiting.
Ms Greer elensaid: “This business we have created, this tourist attraction, I do not see how that is possible with lorries and trucks and explosions and dust. With this scar in the landscape, this big hole, it is going to look awful.
“The business cannot survive something like that. It is not like we can just sell it and move somewhere else. Who is going to buy a pub in that situation?

Whittonstall Action Group Press Release , (Personal Communication, 13/2/13)

“The actual timing of the land sale gives rise to a great deal of speculation and deep concern. Misgivings surrounding UK Coal’s short to mid-term business strategy and financial viability were expressed at the recent public meeting at Snods Edge on 17 January. Now the sale of Hoodsclose further reinforces these concerns. At this public meeting, UK Coal did not disclose that Hoodsclose would be sold within days of the meeting. Following the Hoodsclose sale on 25 January, WAG considers that there is now an even more urgent need for Northumberland County Council to insist upon a watertight financial bond so as to guarantee full restoration of the site following coal extraction.
Why UK Coal has chosen to sell the land just a few weeks before the planning committee convenes remains a mystery. As WAG understands it, if planning permission were granted, the value of the land would increase due to the royalties to be paid to the landowner.
For UK Coal to have sold the land at this point in the planning application process would suggest that that UK Coal has very serious cash flow issues, which force it to sell the land at whatever price can be negotiated rather than wait a few more weeks in the hope of permission being granted.
This increases the need for a restoration bond and assurance that the ‘new’ landowner will honour the restoration and aftercare plan and will not submit a new application for the land to be used for other purposes namely biomass, willow crops, house building and/or industrial storage.
WAG will be asking Northumberland County Council who will be accountable for restoration now that UK Coal is no longer, it would appear, the landowner. The Action Group is not privy to the contract between the new landowner and UK Coal and of any conditions placed on the sale. It assumes however, that Northumberland County Council has been, and is being kept fully informed of these latest developments. As a matter of emergency, WAG will be seeking assurances that this is the case.”

COMMENT: This is the reaction of the Whittonstall Action Group on learning that on the 26th or 27th of January, that the Hoodsclose site had been sold to a third party. It acts as a warning to any other group in the Network, faced by a UK Coal Surface Mine application where Coalfield Resources or one of its subsidiaries (most likely Harworth Estates), currently owns the land to check with their Case Officer whether they have been notified of a change in who owns the land.

‘Confusion as UK Coal sells land ahead of Whittonstall opencast hearing’ (Journal, 14/2/13) @

The Journal makes public the latest development in the Hoodsclose saga , revealing publically that the site has been sold. The article stresses that

“The Whittonstall Action Group (WAG) claims that if permission is granted, the value of the land would rise due to royalties to be paid to the new owners, while the move also heightens worries over UK Coal’s business strategy and financial viability. Now WAG wants Northumberland County Council to press for a “watertight” financial bond to guarantee full restoration of the site at the end of the dig, should permission be granted next month.”

Thanks go to Val Fairbairn Barnes for sending me this information

‘Opencast mine fears / Opponents say opencast would scar Northumberland landscape’ (Tyne Tees ITV News, 15/2/12) @

A news crew film the reaction of local people to the prospect of having an opencast mine as a neighbour and discuss what its impact might be on a local business, the Feathers Inn. Richard Cory, from UK Coal tries to allay fears about the impact the mine would have on local people.

COMMENT: WAG members are well pleased with this news coverage and it is a piece of film to cherish. However, it is a moot point as to whether it will encourage more people to write in to Northumberland County Council to oppose this plan or join in the campaign to oppose this application after the lack of public response to previous T.V exposure about protest campaigns at both the Minorca and Halton Lea Gate sites. We shall see.

‘Opencast plan still stands despite sale of land’ (Northern Echo, 17/2/13) @

The Northern Echo’s take on the story of the sale which stresses that a subsidiary of Coalfield Resources, Harworth Estates, has sold the Hoodsclose proposed opencast site to an agricultural company. This transaction was on January 25th, days before Northumberland County Council (NCC) were originally set to determine this application on February 5th. Around the same time, NCC postponed the date of the Determination Meeting for another month, so at the time of writing this up (18/2/13) it is not known whether, when this transaction took place, the two parties knew about the date being postponed.

COMMENT: I know, from personally talking to UK employees at the recent public exhibition for the new Great Oak site, that UK Coal Surface Mining are keen to stress that the Company’s past weak financial position is all behind them after the Company has gone through its restructuring process. Then this news story breaks. At this stage we do not have sufficient information to know if:
Coalfield Resources are still experiencing cash flow problems
The parties concerned were expecting to gain planning permission on 5th February
The Pension funds now controlling Coalfield Resources want to play down the degree of debt they have inherited by any means possible.
Other reasons are possible.
What is known, is that this site was put up for sale in 2012, then WAG were informed that the site was no longer for sale, and there was no mention of the possibility of the site being sold made at a recent public meeting, organised by NCC with UK Coal in attendance, to discuss the planning application on 17/1/13. The other known fact is that back in 2011 900 acres of land was sold to the buyers of this site, Strawsons Group Investments and Omnivale Ltd Special Pensions Scheme. (See ‘UK Coal sells agricultural land, Insider Media Ltd, 16/7/12 @
For more information on Strawsons see

‘Former Great British Pub Awards winner faces losing pub over coal mine plans’ (Morning Advertiser, 21/2/13) @

The Morning Advertiser, the trade paper for Publicans, publishes a plea by the licencesee of The Feathers Inn for other publicans to write a letter of objection to Northumberland County Council approving the Hoods Close application in order to save The Feathers from the threat of closure.
You can find further information and make a make a comment here:
You can also contact the Whittonstall Action Group here:

MARLEY HILL COLLIERY RECLAMATION (Sunnyside, Gateshead (Co Durham also affected), (Application) (UK Coal) (c1.0m) (118 hectares)
Last news 13/5/12

MINORCA NORTH (Leicestershire, Leicestershire County Council, UK Coal, Amount of estimated coal reserves not published, Stage: Exploratory Drilling) (no estimate of size)
Last news 10/11/12

SCHOOLHOUSE LANE off A692 nr Marley Hill , Co Durham

It now seems that this site has been sold in the last month. This is a 2,952 acre site with 6.8m tonnes of coal, opposite where the Bungalow is on Schoolhouse Lane. For more information see these particulars from the Fisher German website:

‘School House Lane, Marley Hill, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Durham, NE16’ @

SHORTWOOD FARM (Trowell, nr Nottingham, Nottinghamshire) (Application) (UK Coal) (1,275,000) ) (130 hectares)
UK Coal has applied to mine 1,275,000 tonnes of coal over a 5yr period on a Greenfield site.
Last news 16/11/12

To send a letter opposing this application, go to:

There is now a local group formed to oppose this application, the Shortwood Farm Opencast Opposition. It is contactable via

To find out more about the Application see:

WELL HILL FARM, STANNINGTON (nr Morpeth) (Northumberland County Council) (Judicial Review?) (130,000) (Hargreaves Services)

English Derelict Sites

KEEKLE HEAD (Cumbria) Last news item on this unrestored site

‘Radioactive dump plan for West Cumbria rejected’ (BBC News Cumbria, 9/5/12) @

DENTON FELL (Ref no 1/89/0866) (Cumbria) An enforcement notice was issued in 1999. The unrestored site featured on BBC’s Countryfile programme broadcast on September 30th 2012.

(Thanks go to Jeremey Ackertill for forwarding this information)

English Unrestored Sites

PEGSWOOD MOOR (Northumberland County Council) (Banks)

This is the Saga of the Leaking Lake. On ceasing coaling at this site in 2004, Banks was to create a Country Park with a 12 acres lake suitable for boating and sailing. However by 2006 it was clear that the lake was leaking. In 2011 Banks started a public consultation exercise on their plans to now restore the site, without a lake using a landfill operation that would result in 40 to 80 lorries a day entering the site. Latest news:

‘Controversial landfill proposal for leaking Pegswood Lake’ (Journal 27/2/13)@

News that, yet again, Banks are planning to solve the problem of the leaking lake by infilling it with 1.0m tonnes of construction and demolition waste over a seven year period.
Yesterday, Peter Coates of Longhirst, who chairs the group (a working party made up of parish councillors from Pegswood, Longhirst, Hebron and Morpeth) , said: “We want to keep the lake as the significant local asset we were promised in the first place. That is what we agreed to and we believe Banks can do that within 12 months.
“We don’t want this in-fill scheme, which is going to take seven years, when we are already many years behind the site restoration programme.” Pegswood Parish Councilor David Woodard said: “We expect Banks to do the decent thing and give us something very similar to what we were promised in the first place.”

For previous news stories on this issue see:

‘Pegswood landfill lake plans sunk by Leak’ (Journal, 16/3/2011) @

NEWS EXTRA THE JAMES BRIDGE COPPER FOUNDRY / PHOENIX 10, WALSALL (Walsall Metropolitan Council / Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership) (Expression of Interest) (Parkhill Estates).)(34 Acres)

Information about the possibility of this site, alleged to be one of the most contaminated sites in Europe appeared in the first and third issue of this News Review. Then, the suspicion was that in order to make it economic to decontaminate the site and make it fit for redevelopment, it would be open casted. The site is on land which is heavily contaminated, near residential areas between junctions 9 and 10 of the M6 in The Black Country. The site has again been in the news recently.

‘Jobs ‘disaster’ as Walsall Council regeneration project falls through’ ( Birmingham Post, 25/1/13) @

A proposed deal between Walsall council, Parkhill Estates and the Homes and Community Agency to sell the site to Parkhill Estates for £18m has fallen through, a victim it is alleged of cuts in public expenditure. It had been expected that if the site had been successfully decontaminated that as a prime site location it could be developed to give rise to 4,000 new jobs and be a central cog in the economic regeneration of Walsall. A new report on a way forwards is expected to be presented to Walsall Council in March.

‘IMI, we need answers but we also need proof’ (The Mushroom, 1/2/13) @

The Mushroom, a Walsall blogger who was the first person to make public the possible intention that the site could be surface mined, has also commented on these latest inconclusive developments.

‘Phoenix 10 regeneration scheme back on track after collapse’ (Birmingham Post 18/2/13) @

This is the latest twist in the story about regenerating this site. Now Walsall Council is now taking the lead on the regeneration project and will be working with the Government back Homes and Community Agency to decontaminate the site, redevelop it and provide 3,000 jobs.

COMMENT : I have to thank William Ellens and George Makin for sending me this latest information on these developments. What is interesting from the Birmingham Post articles is that coal does not get a mention – hence the possibility that the site might be the subject of surface mining is not mentioned either. It seems that it’s all now back in the melting pot. In the meantime, local residents live next to one of Europe’s most contaminated industrial sites where there is a suspicion that the vegetables they grow in their garden may not be safe to eat! (see The Mushroom, ‘Cabbages and Kings, 25/4/11 @

LAON will keep watching for any new developments associated with this site in case moves are made which would lead to a plan to surface mine the site.

‘UK public fully on board with renewable energy mission’ (Edie Energy, 5/2/13) @

“Generating electricity, fuel and heat through the use of renewable energy is supported by 79% of the UK public, with just 4% opposed, according to a government survey published today.”
This survey of public opinion was undertaken by the DECC. Other findings:
“ Of the various renewable energy sources, solar energy was found to have the highest levels of support at 82%, followed by offshore wind at 72% and wave and tidal at 71%. Looking into other sources of energy generation, responses from the survey revealed that 37% of people support the use of nuclear energy to generate electricity in the UK, with 25% opposed. “
The actual results of the survey can be accessed here by following this link:

COMMENT: This evidence about the state of public opinion in favour of renewableS may be useful evidence to be put into any objection being written that challenges the ‘Need for Coal’ arguments put forwards by Coal Operators.

NEWS EXTRA : VARTEG (Torfaen Council), (Public Inquiry), (Glamorgan Power) (325,000 tonnes)

‘Campaigners vow to carry on fight over Varteg opencast plans’ (Sth Wales Argus: Gwent, 14/2/13) @

The result of a Public Inquiry into an appeal over a refusal for permission to mine on this site has now been published. The Inspector, Clive Neild has recommended to the Welsh Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development, John Griffiths, that the appeal be upheld. The Minister has now written a letter which suggest that he “is minded to approve” the application.
Local civic leaders and the local campaign group are to continue their campaign to prevent the application from being approved. One of their main concerns is that the perimeter of the site as planned will be within 120m of Ysgol Bryn Onnen School. As such, it clearly breaches the Welsh Government’s planning guidance that no such development should normally occur within 500m of human habitation.

COMMENT: If the appeal is upheld, it will set a new case law precedent for Wales that drives a coach and horses through the existing planning guidance policy. It could be used as a precedent on all future Welsh opencast mine applications. This is why Welsh groups in the Network should use all their contacts to lobby the First Minister for Wales not to uphold the appeal. This is advice from the person leading the local No Campaign. Groups in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland should follow suit. English groups because any weakening of the Welsh policy would undermine the English / Northern Irish case for a 500m Buffer Zone policy to be implemented. For Scotland, if the appeal is upheld, it would give further encouragement to the Scottish Government not to support their own planning policy guidance of having such a zone, something which they have been prone to do of late.

A National Petition “Make the MTAN Law” has been started by the local campaign group. You can sign the petition up to the 16/4/13 by following this link:

‘Tracks destroyed by a pit spoil heap’ (The Star 18/2/13) @

‘Many weeks to fix moving spoil heap’ (Selby Times, 18/2/13) @

‘Stainforth mayor says landslip could have been ‘another Aberfan’ (BBC Sheffield and South Yorkshire, 14/2/13) @

These are three of the many local and regional news items on this event, which uses dramatic pictures to show the degree of danger posed by this movement of a spoil heap. It happened next to Hatfield Colliery which is run by Hargreaves Services on behalf of the 2CO Energy Company. The cost of stabilising the landslip and removing the spoil is likely to be met by public liability insurance.

COMMENT: This is all bad publicity for what remains of the UK Coal Industry. It is rather ironic that this should occur here, as the 2CO Energy Company was meant to be about coals clean bright future as an energy source. Their intention is to build and install a CCS ready power station next to the mine, when it can raise the money, as part of the ambitious Don Valley Power Project. I do have more information on this if anyone wants it, but here is a link to 2CO’s web site:

‘Surface Mining Update, Prince of Wales Colliery Site, (Moving Mountains no 19, Winter Edition, Hargreaves Services). @

Hargreaves, in their house magazine announce that they are intending to undertake joint venture with UK Coal to remove 2m tonnes of coal finings (coal particles with a maximum particle size usually less than one-sixteenth inch and rarely above one-eighth inch) at the above site. UK Coal gained permission to extract 1m tonnes in 2009. Public Exhibitions in support of this new proposal were held just before Christmas according to Hargreaves.

‘Air quality concerns raised over dust from recycling plant’ (Bolton News, 27/2/13) @

Campaigners in Horwich Bolton who are critical of a local recycling operation have found an ally in Dr Bill Sammonds
.......Dr Bill Sammons, a paediatrician from Massachusetts, reportedly said he had “real concern” about exposure to dust.....”
“......However, Dr Sammons claimed people living near the plants could be at risk from breathing dust particles.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also said levels of emissions lower than those allowed in the UK can cause health problems.
It says average concentrations of the smallest pollution particles, called PM2.5, should be no more than 10 microgrammes per cubic metre, but UK standards allow up to 25.
Levels measured outside the Armstrongs are 8.8 microgrammes per cubic metre.
An Environment Agency spokesman said: “During the time in which monitoring was undertaken, levels were not found to be exceeding air quality standards set by the European Union.....”

COMMENT: Those opposing opencast mine applications have an equal amount of concern. I’ll try to make contact with this group and Dr Sammonds.


‘Its’ the EU against the Government in day of judgement for air pollution’ (Telegraph, 1/3/13) @

Air Pollution, it is estimated, kills 29,000 people across the UK prematurely and one of the main constituents of that air pollution is Nitrogen Dioxide. However, a major legal case is to determine whether the UK Government has to enforce its legal obligations is about to be heard in London.
A court case to be heard this week will decide whether the jurisdiction to implement E U Regulations only lies at the E U level or whether UK courts can insist that E U Regulations are implemented. The issue before the Supreme Court on Thursday is Air Pollution. The ClientEarth legal organisation is appealing over a High Court decision. This is a summary of what has happened so far:
“Ministers freely admit that they are breaking the law, and are in effect daring the European Commission to take legal action. Indeed, it could take Britain to the European Court and have it massively fined. But this would take years, during which the pollution would continue.

It has, however, long been established that national courts should also enforce European directives, since they become part of each country’s laws. So ClientEarth, a green legal outfit, tried just that, taking ministers to the High Court a little over a year ago.

Extraordinarily, however – while agreeing that the Government was breaking the law – it decided “this is a matter for enforcement at European level, rather than domestic level”. And in May the Court of Appeal effectively agreed.”

COMMENT: Nitrogen Dioxide is one of the Nitrous Oxides emitted from coal fired power stations. It is, as the article says, a scandalous situation that implementing these directives has been ignored by successive UK Governments. However, this may be a statistic to put before all planning committees who are considering whether to allow new opencast applications and, it would seem, to make them feel culpable in promoting premature deaths.

Steve Leary
- e-mail: infoatlaon'

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