Coal producer UK Coal appears twice on the agenda of Leicestershire’s Development Control and Regulatory Board meeting on June 17th for controversial reasons.
Firstly the Minorca Opencast Protest Group (MOPG) will be presenting their petition asking for a decision on the Minorca Application when Phil Owen and Bob Walsh complete their trek to County Hall on June 17th. It will be explained to the Board that July 3rd will be the first anniversary of UK Coal submitting their planning application for the proposed Minorca Opencast mine and that MOPG argue that any more delay in making a decision whilst we wait for UK Coal to complete their application would be unreasonable.
Secondly a report of work in progress on getting UK Coal to restore their Lounge Disposal site just outside Ashby de la Zouch will be presented. This derelict site, for which UK Coal only had temporary permission to use as a mineral site for the purpose of distributing coal from local opencast mines that were worked from the 1980’s to 2004. As planning permission for mineral use then expired it should then have been restored as agricultural land. But, despite the findings of a Public Inquiry and being served an Enforcement Order by Leicestershire County Council, by March 2010 no such restoration work had been undertaken.
Pressure to restore the site was initially brought by Ashby Civic Society who was already lobbying LCC to take action over the state of the site early in the year. Then MOPG published its independent report on UK Coal, “UK Coal : An Alternative Report”, the last section of which included a series of case studies on local controversies caused by the actions of UK Coal in Lancashire, Yorkshire and at the Lounge site in Leicestershire. The report is free to download from our web site: http://mopg.co.uk/
At the March meeting of the Development Control and Regulatory Board the decision was taken to consider taking court action over UK Coal’s disregard of their planning obligations in not restoring the site. As County Councillor Rob Fraser is reported as saying
“They (UK Coal) can’t be allowed to make a mockery of the planning system”.
This agenda item updates the Board on what subsequent action has been taken, including having to threaten to use powers under the Town and Country Planning Acts in order to gain UK Coal’s ‘cooperation’ in order to make any progress on the issue.
Steve Leary, MOPG’s Spokesperson said
We are grateful to the Ashby Civic Society for insuring that this matter was discussed in public at the March meeting of the Development Control and Regulatory Board and bought to the wider publics’ attention.
This example of UK Coal disregarding legal obligations to restore the Lounge Site and its recent lack of cooperation with LCC as detailed in the report to the Council next week , shows that where it suits the company to act in such a cavalier manner it will do so. It seems that some extreme pressure had to be exerted on the Company before it began to cooperate with the Council.
On the whole our petition has been signed by those opposing the application. A very few have signed it to speed up the area gaining from the proposed benefits that may come to the area if planning approval is granted. We would suggest that all those in favour of the application should take the time to go and look at the Lounge site to see what may be in store for the Minorca site.
This is easy to do – just take a short car journey up to Ashby, turn right on to the A511 to Coalville and stop just before a concrete bridge goes over a single track railway line. If you look south, over the large derelict site, you are looking at the Lounge site.
This should acts as a warning to all as to what might happen to the Minorca site if UK Coal gained temporary permission to extract the coal and clay. We could face a similar problem in the future, if UK Coal, after they start extracting the coal, decides that they can more profitably develop the site for uses other than restoring it to agricultural land. Then the Company, planners and politicians could deliberate for years over whether to grant planning permission for a change of use. In the meantime the site could lie derelict. This is the dilemma currently facing people in Bolton as UK Coal have indicated that they no longer want to honour the restoration conditions as agreed to for working the Cutacre site as explained in our “UK Coal : An Alternative Report” document.
From our point of view the best way to avoid such a prospect is to get Leicestershire County Council to refuse planning permission for Minorca as soon as possible so that local people do not face the risk of this happening on their doorstep.“
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