‘THE ITCH THAT WILL NOT GO AWAY – COMMUNITY OPPOSITION TO OPENCAST MINE APPLICATIONS IN ENGLAND’ PR 2012-1 8/6/12
Today, the Loose Anti-Opencast Network publishes its first review on the number of opencast sites under active consideration at present in England. A previous review on Current and Potential English Opencast Sites was published early in 2011 by The Minorca Opencast Protest Group, in support of Andrew Bridgen’s Private Member’s ‘500m Buffer Zone’ Bill, so this review can be seen as the first stage of updating that information.
However it is timely. Whilst public attention has been focused on problems associated with ‘fracking’ for Shale Gas as the new energy issue, Coal Operators in England including relatively new big operators such as Hargreaves Services, have been quietly clocking up new expressions of interest and actual applications. The current estimate is that the 11of the 12 sites listed here indicate that over 7m tonnes of coal extraction by opencast methods are actively under consideration in England at present. Below is a list of current sites under consideration.
There is also evidence that a further site is under active consideration as well in Walsall. It is mentioned here, but a separate note will be published on the background to this site as it is located in an Enterprise Zone and any development will be governed by a Local Development Order and not by the planning rules that apply to the other sites.
Opencast Coal is the itch that will not go away in the planning system as long as sites can be proposed that come so close to where people live. The evidence of this is here. Of the 12 sites included here (and there is no claim that this is an exhaustive list) evidence already exists that 10 of them have provoked opposition to the plans. This is inevitable, as the evidence produced by MOPG in favour of the need for a 500m Buffer Zone between such sites and where people live shows. Reproducing figures first published by Coal Pro, the industry body promoting coal mining in Britain, it showed that of the estimated reserves of 516m tonnes of surface minable coal, between 250m and 500m tonnes of coal or between 48 and 97% of known surface mine coal reserves in England, would be sterilised if such a measure was passed. (1)
This list also hides the extent to which the announcement that sites are under consideration have an impact on local communities. For example, those living close to the Bradley site in Co Durham have now been waiting for a decision on this application since 2007, whilst those near the Halton Lea Gate site in Northumberland are opposing the third application in two years. Lastly those close to the George Farm site in Derbyshire not only have to contend with this site, but live in close proximity to the Lodge House Surface Mine site. Plans to work this site were first proposed in 2004 leading to permission being granted in 2008, followed by the site being extended in 2011. All have suffered from degrees of planning blight during this time as even the hint of a proposal has a negative effect on local house prices. However, what people fear most is the consequence of planning permission being granted, leading to people finding that they live in close proximity to an industrial site working for 12 hours a day during the working week, with all its associated noise, dust and increased local heavy traffic movements. Until people in England enjoy the same degree of protection as those living in Scotland and Wales enjoy, where the planning policy guidelines do include the provision of a 500m Buffer Zone, the itch will continue to irritate.
THE SITES CURRENTLY UNDER CONSIDERATION
The way to read each entry (except for the James Bridge Copper Foundry site) is as follows:
Site Name, Location, Planning Authority, Position in the Planning System (either Scoping Inquiry, Application Submitted) and the name of the Applicant.
• BIRKLANDS, (nr .Marley Hill, Gateshead), (Gateshead) (Application) (Hall Construction Services)
‘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) (UK Coal)
The latest news I have on this site is that the Planning Inspectorate has yet to make a decision on whether it will defend its decision to reject UK Coal’s Application to extract 556,000 tonnes of coal after a Public Inquiry.
• DEARNE LEA, WEST CLAYTON (S.E.of Huddersfield) (Kirklees Council) (Application) (George Harrison Ltd)
‘Bretton Hall plans at risk?’ (Wakefield Express, 2/6/12)
Wakefield Council is opposing plans submitted to Kirklees Council to extract 190,000 tonnes of coal and 90,000 tonnes of fireclay. This is because of its potential to have a negative impact on the Yorkshire Sculpture Park at Bretton Hall. See
For more details on the Application go to:
• FERNEYBEDS, WIDDRINGTON STATION (8 miles NW of Ashington) (Northumberland County Council) (Scoping Inquiry) (Banks Group)
‘Updated plans for proposed Ferneybeds surface mine going on show at public exhibition’, (Banks Group Web Site, 23/4/12)
‘Revised plans for Widdrington go on show’, (The Journal, 24/4/12)
Revised plans for this 750,000 tonne site go on display. See
• GEORGE FARM (nr. Smalley, Derbyshire) (Derbyshire County Council) (Application) (LEM Resources)
‘Smalley still fighting against Open Casting’ (Coal Action Scotland, 30/5/12)
A report posted on the Coal Action Scotland web site on the continuing campaign by the Smalley Action Group to prevent a 2nd local opencast mine from opening in close proximity to the Lodge House site. This would be for 400,000 tonnes See
For more details on the Application and the possibility to make a comment go to:
• HALTON LEA GATE (c 5 miles SW of Haltwhistle) (Northumberland County Council) (Public Inquiry) (HM Developments)
‘New Halton Lea Gate Public Inquiry Begins’, (The Journal, 16/5/12)
Local residents are fighting to oppose the 3rd application in two years for a 140,000 tonne site. The Inquiry, which began on May 15th, is expected to last for 3 weeks. See
• HILLTOP PROJECT (nr. Clay Cross, Derbyshire) (Derbyshire County Council) ( Scoping Inquiry) (Provectus Remediation)
‘Hundreds turn out at Clay Cross open casting exhibition’, (Derbyshire Times, 31/5/12)
Report on the Hilltop Project Exhibitions held on 29-30/5, as Provectus Remediation gauge reaction to its plans to mine 175,000 tonnes of coal. See
To keep in touch with the protest campaign, go to
• HOODSCLOSE Whittonstall (Northumberland County Council) (Application) (UK Coal)
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. You can find further information and make a make a comment here:
You can also contact the Whittonstall Action Group here:
• THE JAMES BRIDGE COPPER FOUNDRY / PHOENIX 10 (Walsall) (Walsall Metropolitan Council / Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership) (Expression of Interest) (Homes and Community Agency / Parkhill Estates).
This site has a complex history which will be the subject of a separate note. This is a relatively small site, 35 acres situated on land which is heavily contaminated, near residential areas between junctions 9 and 10 of the M6 in The Black Country. In February 2011 Walsall Council issued a press release ‘Major scheme set to start’, (Walsall Council, 22/2/11) which stated that a total of £18m was to be invested in the site, £12m by Parkhill Estates who were about to drill on the site. Meanwhile it was revealed, due to the diligence of a local blogger, The Mushroom, that open casting for coal could happen here, as this could fund the remediation and restoration of the site. (Coal not Oysters 21/2/11)
Subsequently Walsall Council have used new powers to create a Local Development Order, (LDO) a new planning device which covers the Darleston half of The Black Country Enterprise Zone, an area which contains this site. This allows Walsall Council to devise its own planning system covering this area in order to operate a ‘business friendly’ planning system once the LDO is approved. However, the Order, which was approved by Walsall Council in April 2012 specifically states that if any mineral extraction is proposed, then the controls existing under the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act would apply. (Black Country Enterprise Zone – Local Development Order, Walsall Council Cabinet Meeting, 4/4/12).
At the time of writing more questions have now been put to Walsall Council covering a range of issues from the expected tonnage of coal reserve on the site to who is to be consulted if the site is developed.
i) ‘Major scheme set to start’, (Walsall Council, 22/2/1)
Walsall Council’s announcement that test drilling to examine the state of the ground is due to take place. No mention of drilling to see if surface mine coal is there. See
ii) The Mushroom’s Blogs on The James Bridge Foundry Site
‘Coal not Oysters’, (21/2/11)The first bit of public news about the possibility of open casing on the James Bridge Copper Foundry site @
This is the first of 15 blogs on this issue by The Mushroom which appear over the next year and reveal more information about the site.
iii) Black Country Enterprise Zone – Local Development Order, ( Walsall Council Cabinet Meeting 4/4/12)
Details of the Local Development Order – 78 pages long. Appendix iii contains responses to points made by consultees. The Environment Agency sort clarification about the rules to be applied for any mineral extraction in the Enterprise Zone:
“Particularly, we note that under Schedule 2 (item 8) it states that ground reclamation works including mineral extraction, landfilling and waste deposition are not permitted under the Order. We assume this means these activities are still subject to the regular planning controls under the 1990 Town and Country planning Act. This is especially valid for the works we are involved with for the land now known as Phoenix 10 (the former IMI site.”
Walsall Council’s comment in reply was:
“It is confirmed that, activities not permitted by virtue of the Order will still be subject to the regular controls under the Town and Country Planning Act
1990.” (Reference ,p 68 -69 of the Order and p 21-22 of Appendix iii) “
• SHORTWOOD FARM (Trowell, nr Nottigham, Nottinghamshire) (Application) (UK Coal)
‘Villagers turn out to oppose mining plan’, (Ripley and Heanor News, 29/5/12)
Report on a 2nd Public Meeting held in Awsworth Parish Hall to oppose UK Coal’s application to mine 1.25m tonnes of coal organised by Awsworth Parish Council and Anna Soubry MP. See
To send a letter opposing this application, go to:
• MARLEY HILL RECLAMATION (Sunnyside, Gateshead (Co Durham also affected), (Scoping Enquiry) (UK Coal)
‘UK Coal Holds Public Exhibition at Marley Hill in Gateshead to Gauge Opinion on Opencast Mine’, (Sky, Tyne and Wear, 30/5/12) (Pre Scoping), UK Coal).
Report on a recent Public Exhibition on the above possible proposal for a c1m tonne site. Cllr Jonathan Wallace, (Wickham and Sth Sunnyside), voiced some opposition. See
• WELL HILL FARM, STANNINGTON (nr Morpeth) (Northumberland County Council) (Application) (Hargreaves Services)
‘Hargreaves looks to open surface mines in the North East’ (Hargreaves Web Site, 15/2/12)
Hargreaves has submitted plans for its first English Opencast site. It plans to extract 130,000 tonnes of coal. See
However the application is meeting some opposition as reported in the Morpeth Herald. See
‘Opencast bid next to exclusive estate’ (Morpeth Herald, 13/10/11)
For more information on this application and the possibility of making a comment go to
© List compiled by Steve Leary for The Loose Anti-Opencast Network
1) All the information about the background to the ‘500m Buffer Zone’ Bill can be found here @
The figures about the proximity of surface mine coal reserves to where people live can be found in Briefing Note 5 ‘Climate Change and the 500m Buffer Zone Bill, p3, available through the above link.
The Loose Anti-Opencast Network (LAON) has been in existence since 2009. It functions as a medium through to oppose open cast mine applications, through which any person / group can communicate ideas, information, requests for information and possibly concerted actions if we find a target. In addition feel free to invite any other person / group who oppose opencast mining applications, to join the network so that it grows. At present LAON links individuals and groups in N Ireland, Northumberland, Co Durham, Leeds, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Walsall.
If you have information about any other prospective opencast site in England then please send your information to email@example.com
Enquiries about LAON can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org