LAON's January 2013 Review of UK Opencast Sites



 2013 SERIES: No 1                                                                               4/2/13

The way to read each entry is as follows:

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)

Last news 8/11/12

‘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

You can read this application and still make comments here:;jsessionid=DE0DA6F1C3739817D51414835242B0FC?action=firstPage

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

No news on if and when the Judicial Review will begin. The Planning Inspectorate has yet to decide on whether it is to contest the Judicial Review.

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

UK Coal : Deanfield Newsletter @

This provides an outline of the plan for the proposed site

“Objectors vow to fight plans for Wakefield opencast mine” (Yorkshire Evening Post, 10/1/13) @

 ‘UK Coal’ has now submitted a formal planning application to develop this site. They also report that Stop Opencast at Sharlston will oppose the application.

‘Fight goes on against Sharlston opencast mining plan’ (Wakefield Express, 13/1/13) @

This is another news item on the local reaction to the application for planning permission being submitted. Petitions opposing the application have already been distributed.

 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)

This is a late news item which does provide an update on this application

‘Heritage Group objects to Clayton West Mine Plan’ (Huddersfield Examiner, 27/12/12) @

A news report that even though Gordon Harrison have revised their restoration plan, English Heritage, along with other groups including Skelmanthorpe Action Group, Wakefield Council and West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service are objecting to this proposal.

To contact the Skelmansthorpe Community Action Group see:

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

NEWFIELD HOUSE, WEST RAINTON (c 4 miles NE of Durham) (Durham County Council / Sunderland City Council) (Pre Scoping Inquiry) (Hargreaves Services) (500,000) (52 hectares) ‘Residents gear up for opencast fight’ (Northern Echo, 31/1/13) @

News that Hargreaves Surface Mining (a subsidiary of Hargreaves Services), is to hold two public exhibitions on its proposal to opencast for coal on the Field house site between Low Pittington and West Rainton. Already, some local residents led by Cllr Bill Kellett, Chair of Pittington Parish Council have announced that they will oppose such a proposal. When, two years ago it seemed that a planning application was likely to be submitted, 1,000 local residents signed a petition against any such proposal. The proposed site crosses the boundary of the parliamentary constituencies of Dr Blackman-Woods (Durham City) and Bridget Phillopson (Houghton and South Sunderland). Dr Blackman-Woods made the following initial comment on this proposal:

“: “We may not want this site at all, but if we have to have it I will be working to ensure there is a minimum 500m buffer zone so as to at least reduce potential impact on residents and businesses.

“This buffer zone is a legal requirement in Scotland and I see no reason why we should not enforce the same protection here.”

The Public Exhibitions will be at Pittington Village Hall on Saturday, February 23, and Jubilee Hall, in West Rainton, on Saturday, March 2, both from 10am to 2pm.

FERNEYBEDS, WIDDRINGTON STATION(8 miles NW of Ashington)(Northumberland County Council) (Application) (Banks Group) (750,000) (95.6 hectares) ‘Application submitted for new surface mine in Northumberland’ (Mineral Planning, 13/1/13) @ This item describes aspects of the application plus plans for a site visit. ‘Local Parish Council backs planning application for new Northumberland surface mine (Banks Group, 21/1/13) @ Banks own press release, on the decision of local parish councils to back their mining proposals. Versions of this press release are repeated below.  ‘Parish council gives backing to plans for surface mine’ (News Post Leader, 22/1/13) @ Widdrington Station and Stobswood Parish Council indicate their support for Bank’s three year project to surface mine at Ferneybeds. The chair of the Parish council said:  “Our community is used to surface mining and has sometimes been let down by other companies that haven’t lived up to the promises they made, but right from the start of the consultation process, Banks were up-front, explaining what was planned, listening to what we had to say and making changes to the plans in response to the concerns we expressed.” ‘New Surface Mine Wins Support’ (BQ Magazine, 22/1/13) @ Another news item which gives publicity to the local parish council supporting Bank’s plans for Fernybeds. COMMENT: This is a quote about the aim of BQ magazine “ provides the inside track on what drives our leading businesses, business people and entrepreneurs, offering a unique and refreshing mix of business news, commentary from leading business people and profiles of our most inspirational entrepreneurs. With a unique style and attitude, our aim is to get to the heart and soul of our most successful business people to find out what drives, inspires and motivates them towards their ambitions.” ‘Backing for Banks Surface Mine Proposal’ (Insider Media Limited, 22/1/13) @ Another business news story on two parish councils backing Bank’s plan ‘Widdrington Parish Council backs mining firms opencast plans’ (Journal, 23/1/12) @ Similar news item to that in the News Post Leader – but this one adds the information that the Widdrington Parish Council is also unlikely to oppose the scheme. 

“Yesterday Val Seddon, who chairs neighbouring Widdrington Village Parish Council, said it will not be opposing the Ferneybeds scheme, while stopping short of formally supporting it.

She said: “We feel this is a relatively benign application, compared to the two wind farm schemes we are faced with here, and won’t be objecting to it. However, we are not actively supporting it either, but taking a neutral stance.

“This opencast will be in a defined area and of a very short duration. However, there are still other mining proposals in the pipeline here so we feel we can’t come all out in support of it.” “

‘Revised mining plan gets nod of approval’ (Morpeth Herald, 25/1/12) @ This is another news item on groups either giving approval to the application or not opposing it d why:

“Widdrington Station Residents’ Association is also backing the scheme, while Widdrington Village Parish Council has not raised any objections.

Chairman Valerie Seddon said: “We have decided not to write a letter of support for this, but we are not opposed to it.

“The reason why we aren’t objecting is because it is going to be of short duration and the land will be restored.

“Considering that we were against the recent approval of two windfarms that are going to be in our village for 25 years, we felt that this proposal compared with that is much better.”

NEWGREAT OAK, AUDLEY, STAFFORDSHIRE (Staffordshire County Council) (Scoping Inquiry) (UK Coal surface Mining) (450,000) (84 Hectares) UK Coal Surface Mining has published details of their intention to surface mine this site. There are three Public Exhibitions about their proposals;  Monday 4 February, Audley Methodist Church, 4.00pm to 8.00pm Thursday 7th February, Butt Lane Community Centre, Lower Ash Road, next to Kidsgrove Fire Station, 4pm – 8pm
Friday 8 February, Red Street Community Centre, 2.00pm to 6.00pm The web page can be accessed here: ‘MP warns over opencast mine comeback’ (Paul Farrelly MP, 15/1/13) @ The local MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme, Paul Farrelly, via his website, warns local people about UK Coal’s proposal and also reports that he has already written to UK Coal about his concerns over the proposed development and that UK Coal should respect local concerns. This headline is repeated in another version of Paul Farrelly’s statement, published by the Signal 1 Radio Station on the 17/1/13 @ ‘ Concerns over A 5000 opencast mining plan’ (The Sentinal, 17/1/13)  @ Brief report on initial reactions to this proposal, including comments from local people and  Paul Farrelly MP ‘More opposition to mining plan’ (The Sentinel, 23/1/13) @ Members of Kidsgrove Council will formally object to UK Coal’s proposal to surface mine the Great Oak site when an application is submitted. Two Kidsgrove Councillors are mentioned in the article as being opposed to the scheme, Cllr John Taylor and Cllr David Stringer. A  blog  on this news item indicates that a Facebook group has been  formed. To join it ,make a friend request to Claire Hansbury at Hanbury Holistics. It seems that a local campaign group is being formed which has the name Campaign Against Great Oak Opencast 

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 has 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

HOODSCLOSE  Whittonstall (Northumberland County Council) (Application) (UK Coal) 2,200,000) (208 hectares)

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.

UK Coal’s Non Technical Revise Summary Document @

‘Meeting to be held on Hoodsclose opencast’ (Journal 10/1/13) @

Northumberland County Council to hold a public meeting on the Hoodsclose proposal at St Johns Church Hall, Snods Edge, Shotley Bridge.

‘Public meeting to discuss Whttonstall opencast (Northern Echo, 14/1/13) @

More coverage on the proposed public meeting. Article claims that:

“ Previous proposals to work the same site were rejected in 1978.

Members of the community in Whittonstall and surrounding villages, including Ebchester and Hamsterley Colliery, on the County Durham side of the boundary, are united in opposition to the latest scheme.”

 ‘Northumberland Council row over Tory leaders opencast comments’ (Journal, 14/1/13) @

An internal Tory party row over opencast mining spills over into the public sphere. The Tory Leader appears to be backpedalling over a statement he allegedly made concerning the Tory Group opposing the Hoodsclose application and that the decision had been made prior to the determination meeting. Potentially,

Opponents say the comment suggests the group has pre-judged the UK Coal application, meaning Conservative members of the planning committee will not be able to determine it in an unbiased way as individual councillors.”

‘Opposition mounts against Whittonstall Opencast plans’, (Journal, 15/1/13) @

News article about the forthcoming public meeting on the 17th. It reviews the case for and against the application. For the application, the following points are made; it provides 76 full time and 21 seasonal jobs, it will benefit the local school by making a £850,000 grant and £400,000 for community grants. Arguments against; 63 wagon movements a day, eight and a half years disturbance and 350 written objections have been made.

‘Making a case for coal mining in the countryside’ (North West Evening Mail, 23/1/13 – although this is dated 23/1/13, Val Fairburn-Barnes of the Whittonstall Action Group assures me that it was published in paper from before the Public Meeting on the 17/1/13) @

Simon Taylor, Director of UK Surface Mining and Andrew Macintosh, Communications Director argues that surface mining activity is compatible with living in the countryside. Their argument is that modern extraction techniques are less intrusive and more strictly controlled than before so that

“The company insists that it’s not until someone has lived near a modern mine operating at full tilt that they understand what scale it operates on – with former objectors even becoming supporters in some instances.”

Above all, they argue, is the need for coal. Simon Taylor argued that;

i)              Currently 30 - 40% of our current electricity needs are supplied by coal

     2))  80% of the coal used is imported

     3)    Renewables only meet 9% of our current electricity needs       


     4)    In 2020, the demand for coal will still be substantial, 50 - 60% of the current level of demand

     The article also points out that this may be part of a wider public relations exercise

With just a few weeks to go before the Hoodsclose application is considered by Northumberland County Council, the company has gone on the public relations offensive, sharing its views on future of mining and the changing face of its industry.

COMMENT: Only time will tell if this attempt to persuade local people that their interest and UK Coal’s interests are compatible. As I read this article first after the m public meeting on the 17/1/13, in this instance, the answer is a resounding no.

However, this article is significant for a number of other reasons. The most notable one is the shift in UK Coal’s stance in its’Need for Coal’ argument. Hitherto, and this has been the case with all other opencast applications that I have seen since 2007, Coal Producers have never seen the need to defend their ‘Need for Coal’ argument. It has always been sufficient for them just to quote from the most recent Energy White Paper or a statement from the Energy Minister on the Need for Coal to justify their case as to why their latest planning application should be approved. At the recent Halton Lea Gate Public Inquiry, this was the most important overriding factor that led to the Planning Inspector granting the Appeal. Here we can see a ‘Chink in the Armour’ of that argument – that UK Coal acknowledge that the demand for coal for power generation purposes is to drop by 40 - 50-% over the next 7 years i.e. during the proposed life time of the Hoodsclose operation, nearly 7 years). Both WAG and LAON have evidence that Mr Taylor’s prediction about coal use is over optimistic. We have figures from the DECC that predict that by 2020, 13.32m tonnes of coal will be needed for power generation purposes, compared to the 40.57m tonnes used in 2011, a drop nearer to 70% rather than the 40-50% Mr Taylor is putting forwards.

As for the other comment about former objectors becoming supporters, I know of one instance where this is true (The Loongmoor site in Leicestershire). Here the nearest property to the site was c500m from the site boundary and was owned by UK Coal. Since that site was worked (2007-2010), boundaries of proposed sites have moved ever closer to where people live, 30m in the case of Minorca (a UK Coal site), 17m (Halton Lea Gate) and 10m ( Well Hill Farm). This is the nub of the problem.

‘February decision on Whittonstall mine’ (Hexham Courant’, 16/1/13) @

Another article advertising the public meeting and predicting that a decision will be made in February. In the article, this comment is made by Simon Taylor on the distance between a receptor point and a site boundary

“But one of the proposed mine boundaries is just 200 yards from Whittonstall First School, raising concerns about the social and health impact on pupils.

Mr Taylor argued that this was the ideal distance for the planned visual screening mound and that moving it would reduce the amount of coal that could be dug out.”

COMMENT: All those facing an application from UK Coal Surface Mining should quote this article and item back as an objection, if UK Coal Surface Mining is proposing a distance between their site and a receptor point of less than 200 yds. (219 m) Others groups opposing other company’s applications may also find it useful.

‘Whittenstall Open Cast Meeting is tonight’ (Guy Opperman MP’s blog, 17/1/13) @

Guy Opperman confirms that he will be attending the public meeting. He states that although there are some who favour the application that:

 “.......everything I have seen and heard, thus far, indicates that the vast majority of the population locally are against this application. 

For my part I am satisfied that there are potential legitimate objections based upon planning grounds, concerns as to the viability and intentions of the applicant, further concerns as to the impact on the green belt, and a real issue as to whether this is sustainable and appropriate development, given the two contrasting decisions by inspectors in relation to the Bradley decision [planning refused] and the Halton Lea Gate decision [planning granted].”

‘Opencast meeting last night’ (Guy Opperman MP’s blog, 18/1/13) @

Guy is impressed by the turn out for the meeting it seems. He makes the following points on his blog:

.......Whilst the feelings were high, and the opposition to this plan is clear, the meeting was well conducted, albeit so many people came that they were literally queueing in the street to get in.
The large majority spoke against the scheme........

 I spoke briefly near the end, briefly making the points that:
Of the more than 100 people who had made representations at public meetings in the Anchor or at surgeries, to me as their MP, at least 95% were against and barely 5 people were broadly in favour, 
The (NCC) committee need to take on board the cumulative impact of this and other energy projects that are already up and running.
There are massive similarities between this proposal and the Bradley decision just over the border in County Durham
The Energy Bill 2012 and other documents make it clear that coal use in this country must reduce not expand in the years to come.
There remain for me significant possible environmental impacts and the transport proposal will see a massive increase in HGV traffic on the roads - both these issues need to be addressed going forward.”

‘Villagers join forces to fight Whittonstall Opencast Plan’ (Journal, 18/1/13) @

This is  fullest report of last night’s public meeting on Hoodsclose,  which was attended by hundreds, including people from half a dozen villages near the Co Durham / Northumberland border. Evidently, little was said by local people in favour of the application and the local MP Guy Opperman, speaking against the proposal.

‘Village opposes big opencast plan’ (Northern Echo, 18/1/13) @

Another news report on the meeting held on 17/1/13, which demonstrates the depth of local opposition from people living in two counties to the scheme.

 ‘Whittonstall opencast would harm our sick boy, says father’ (Journal, 23/1/13) @

The parents of a six year old boy who suffers from bronchiectosis, claim that either their child’s health will be harmed if planning permission is given for the Hoodsclose site and he continues to go to the Whittonstall First School or that his educational and  social development will be harmed if they are forced to remove him from the school . Mr Oxley is the child’s father:

“But Mr Oxley said: “We are talking about a child’s life here. Why should a commercial operation change our child’s life?

What price do they put on a child’s health?.......

...... Mr Oxley warned that if the opencast mine is given the go-ahead “we shall have to remove Daniel from the school where he is happy and has made many friends”.

“And where would he go?” he asked. “This is a remote area and there are not many other schools to choose from.......

...... Mr Oxley added: “With so much heavy machinery and vehicles going to and from the opencast site, even if the dust levels are increased by just 10% it will have a detrimental affect on Daniel.

“Daniel is very happy at Whittonstall First School and one of the great things about the village for him is the clean air that blows across the open fields.

“But if opencast goes ahead, that will be lost.”

‘Whittonstall school governors underline opposition to opencast’ (Journal, 24/1/13) @

In order to avoid any misunderstanding that may have arisen in the past, the Whittonstall First School Governors make it clear that they are opposed to the Hoodsclose  application, despite the offer of £850,000 for a school extension which would also provide a local community facility.

COMMENT :This is a significant statement from the School Governors on where they stand and it may turn out to be a turning point in favour of opposing this application.

‘Whittonstall Tells Mining Giant to Get Out Of Village (Hexham Courant, 30 /1/13) @

Another report on the recent public meeting, The news item’s headline sums up the tone of the news report as local residents, owners of local businesses and various political representatives spoke against the proposal.

You can find further information and make a make a comment here:;jsessionid=2BC579DC2A201F65967E36E99DD92B3A?action=firstPage

You can also contact the Whittonstall Action Group here:

MARLEY HILL COLLIERY RECLAMATION (Sunnyside, Gateshead (Co Durham also affected), (Scoping Enquiry) (UK Coal) (c1.0m) (118 hectares)

‘Coal firms opencast plans lodged’ (The Northern Echo, 27/1/13) @

A rather belated Northern Echo story, which I think is on the Marley Hill Colliery Reclamation site, though this is not clear. If it is referring to this site then the news is over a month out of date.

COMMENT: This news item over relies on UK Coal’s information. It give a UK Coal view which implies that all the site is contaminated land, whereas according to last month’s Journal article, only 2 of the 118 hectares were contaminated.

‘UK Coal opencast plan lodged’ (Steel Guru, 29/1/13) @

Another article on the application, mainly based on the above Northern Echo article.

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

Last news 4/12/12

SCHOOLHOUSE LANE   off A692 nr Marley Hill , Co Durham

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 @

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.

‘Anna Soubry MP urges further responses to Shortwood Farm Open Cast Application’ (Anna SoubryMP Local News, 23/1/13) @

‘Protestors get 2nd chance on mine plans’ (Nottingham Post, 26/1/13) @

People have until 11/2/13 to lodge new objections to UK Coal’s revised application for the Shortwood site because Notts CC wanted more information on mitigating noise, restoring the site and the level of proposed community benefits. Anna Soubry MP is still opposed to the proposal

‘Give views on opencast plan’ (Ilkeston Advertiser, 30/1/13) @

Another news item, warning local people that they only have 2 weeks to raise objections to UK Coal’s Supplementary Planning Application.

 “ To have your say visit /planningsearch/ and search for application ES/2569.”

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)

This site last appeared on this list in September edition of this review, when we reported that Northumberland County Council had given planning permission for this site. It now seems that some local residents are planning to seek a judicial Review over this decision. See the following news story for more information on this:

‘Opencast campaign moves forward’ (Morpeth Herald, 23/1/13) @


BENBAIN REMAINDER, CHALMERSTON SURFACE MINE COMPLEX, DALMELLINGTON (East Ayrshire, Application No 12/0093/PP) (Application) (Scottish Coal) (1,200,00 tonnes) (Total size of the site, 723 hectares of which 55 hectares ‘will be disturbed’ by this application.

As at 3/2/13, 350 comments supported the proposal and 140 objected.

For more information on this proposed development see:


(Dumfries and Galloway?) (Exploratory Licence), (Buccleuch Group / Kier Minerals) (no estimate of size)

Last news 3/12/12

CAULDHALL, ROSEWELL(Midlothian) ( Scoping Inquiry)(Scottish Coal) (10m tonnes) (495 hectare site)

Last news September 2012

For more information on this proposed development see:

‘Scottish Resources Group, Cauldhall Surface Mine’ @

This contains some detailed information about the proposal, including the Scoping Report

GALAWHISTLE  (SPIRESLACK EXTENSION),GLENBURN nr MULKIRK (East Ayrshire) (Application) (Scottish Coal) (3.500,000) (Total size of the site 725 hectares, but this application refers to 108 hectares)

As at 3/2/13, there were 10 comments in favour of this proposal.

For more information on this application see:

HYNDSHAW FARM,CARLUKE (Sth. Lanarkshire)(stage not known) (A G Land Purchase) (36,000 tonnes)(size not known)

‘Lorry fears for Carluke Farm opencast site’ (Carluke Gazette, 5/1/13) @

A local councillor, Pat Lee is critical of plans to opencast this site because of the extra traffic it would generate

RUSHA  EXTENSION , NEAR BREICH (West Lothian Council) (Planning Application) (Banks Group) (140,000) (154 hectares)

Last  news 8th edition of the Opencast Review

Information used at the Public Exhibitions on this development:

NEWST. NINIANS EXTENSION, KINGSEAT (3m north of Dunfirmline) (Fife Council / Scottish Government) (Planning Application) (Scottish Coal) (3,400,000 tonnes)(269 hectares)

This has been a long drawn out saga which started in 2010 when Scottish Coal announced its intention to extend its existing St Ninian’s site. This would include draining Loch Fitty. This application has just sprung to life again via an article in the Scottish Sunday Herald (see below)

Edinburgh Gazette Notice: 10 (Issue: 27038) Environmental Protection Scottish Coal Company LimitedWATER  ENVIRONMENT AND WATER SERVICES (SCOTLAND) ACT 2003WATER ENVIRONMENT (CONTROLLED ACTIVITIES) (SCOTLAND) REGULATIONS 2011


This is a formal notice of the decision which sets off a number of media stories to do with this site later in the month.

‘Fife Council notes final draft of a legal agreement for St Ninians mine extension’ ( Mineral Planning, 11/1/13) @

“A schedule of conditions and heads of terms for a legal agreement relating to an extension to St Ninians surface mine have been presented to Fife council for approval”. The article also provides a bit of history about the application, including the fact that in August, Fife Council had indicated its willingness to grant permission if further conditions were met. These additional conditions have now been presented. 

‘Watchdog under fire for allowing loch to be drained for coal mine’ (Scottish Sunday Herald, 27/1/13 @

Scottish Coal needed to get the approval of the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) if its plans to extend the St Ninian’s site, was to gain approval. It now seems that it has done so according to this news story. This decision still may have to be approved by Scottish Ministers and the WWF Scotland and the Kingsseat Community Council are hoping that their approval will not be forthcoming.. The area has already had 14 years of opencast mining and now faces the prospect of 6 more years of it.

COMMENT: However you look at this, for SEPA to give its approval looks preposterous, especially if changes were made to the environmental standards expected as the news story implies. People have chosen to live by the loch because it is already a pleasing ‘landform, which needs no human improvement. If this is approved here it can happen elsewhere in the UK.

I have blogged on this story in a personal capacity and the blog has been published. It raises questions about whether there is a need for this coal in Scotland and the financial probity of Scottish Coal.

‘Locals fight plans to drain Loch Fitty’ (The Courier, 29/1/13)@

An informative article which provides more information on why the Kingseat Community Council did not engage in the consultation exercise conducted by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) prior to SEPA ‘s report being published which recommended the draining of Loch Fitty in order to allow Scottish Coal access to the site for which it already has planning permission. The news item also states that Kingseat Community Council is raising a fighting fund to help them contest this decision and is asking for the whole application to now be called in by the Scottish Government.

For more information on this application see:


WELLSGREEN(Fife Council / Levenmouth Area Committee) (Application) (Hall Construction Services) (800,000)


THE BRITISH IN TALYWAIN,(Torfaen) (Pre Scoping Inquiry)(HSBC ) (No public estimate of coal reserves)

There is now a petition about the redevelopment of this site. Some local people now fear that the plans for redeveloping this site will now be changed to include housing rather than the whole site being used for leisure, tourism and recreation. You can sign the petition here:

Last news 5/10/12

BRYN DEFAID, LLWYDCOED (Rhondda Cynon Taf Council) (Scoping Inquiry) (Celtic Energy) (1.2m tonnes)

Last news 20/12/12

A local action group has now been set up to oppose this application: Llwydcoed Action. If anyone wants to join this group let me know.

EAST PIT, BRYNAMAN  (Neath Port Talbot County Council) (Oak Regeneration (Application) (tonnage unknown) (800 hectares of which 80 are currently operational)

‘Gwenda Thomas AM raises concerns about East Pit resort Plan’ (BBC News South West Wales, 11/1/13) @

Welsh Assembly Member Gwenda Thomas has asked John Griffiths, The Environment Minister for the Welsh Government to call in the proposed development of the East Pit site because of its impact on the local community :

“ "Given the site's proximity to the Brecon Beacons National Park, the proposals are likely to have a significant effect on a landscape of natural importance," she said.

"This is particularly so in relation to the proposals for the restoration of the site, which the applicants hope will create a development that will act as a gateway to the national park."

She said the proposals had created controversy locally and this was likely to increase.

Reasons for this included the effect on nearby communities and speculation over the "feasibility of the restoration of the site", she said.

The scheme is at an early stage with outline plans submitted to Neath Port Talbot council before Christmas.”

NANT HELEN  REMAINDER  ( Onllyn, Neath- Port Talbot) (Powys Council) (Application) (Celtic Energy), (1.9m tonnes)

No recent news on this site

Surface miner Celtic Energy want to mine on this site for a further 4.5 years, on a site they have been working since 2002.

‘Our Proposals for the Nant Helen Remainder’ (Celtic Energy)

‘Western extension to Nant Helen surface mine for the purposes of coal extraction along with completion of coaling at existing site and associated ancillary development including restoration and subsequent aftercare of the full development site’ (Powys County Council: County Planning Committee Report, date not known) @

Report to a meeting of Powys County Council’s Planning Committee that recommends approval for the Application, even though this application is within 500m of where people live. At the time of writing (4/2/13) the decision of the Committee is not known.

NANT LLESG, GWENT(Gwent) (Scoping Inquiry) (Miller Argent)

Last news 24/7/12

A local group, the Green Valleys Alliance has already been formed to oppose any application.

You can keep up with the campaign via their web site:

MARGAM PARC (PARK) SLIP EXTENSION (again) (Neath Port Talbot) (Pre Scoping Inquiry?) (Oak Developments) (1.5m tonnes)

Last news 11/10/12

A new residents group has come into being to oppose this development, the No More Opencast at Parc Slip / Margam Group, who have set up a Facebook type page here

 However, I’ve no contact with this group as yet..

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

‘Still no decision on Varteg opencast mine plan’ (South Wales Argus, 3/1/13) @

No date has been set for announcing the outcome of the Public Inquiry held into Torfaen Council’s rejection of Glamorgan Power’s application, a year after the Public Inquiry ended.

NEWS EXTRA: HUNTINGTON LANE (Little Wenlock, nr Telford, Shropshire) (approval) (UK Coal)

‘Early finish for controversial Wrekin mine work’ (Shropshire Star, 4/1/13) @

‘Wrekin coal mine to close in 2013’ (BBC News Shropshire, 4/1/13) @

Work on restoring the controversial Huntington Lane site is to begin 6 months earlier than expected after 800,000 tonnes of coal have been extracted.

UK Coal mining policy manager Craig Ball said that while UK Coal had hoped to mine 900,000 tonnes of coal from the site, the final total was likely to be a little less.”(Shropshire Star)

In all, 35 jobs had been created on site. The site is being restored to agricultural land with hedgerows and woodland.

COMMENT: The planning application was bitterly resisted. What Craig Ball from UK Coal calls a “little less” is a short fall of 9% in the expected amount of coal to be produced. However there does not seem to be a reduction of the £500,000 to be awarded for community benefits. It would seem that working this site was less profitable than expected. Note the small no of jobs associated with working this site.


‘Sheffield residents anger as coal scheme approved’ (Selby Times, 9/1/13) @

News that the Sheffield Council’s West and North Planning Board has given approval to Recycle  Coal’s plans to extract 395,000 tonnes of coal and restore the site of this spoil tip. The vote in favour was 6-2, despite the site boundary being within 44m of where people live.

Another take on the decision:

‘Coal firm’s plans joy’ (The Star, 9/1/13) @


‘Lochinvar “Advancing a Major New Coking Coal Project” Investor Presentation’ (New Age Resources, December 2012) @

New Age Resources pitch to new investors. This presentation indicates that they expect to confirm that between 310m and 410m tonnes of high volatile coking coal are present. Outline of a timetable for the development also presented. Expect a Scoping Study by Q4 2013. They make it clear that this project is about developing a metallurgical coal resource for use in the Steel Industry. Already claim

“Strong local, council and Government support”

‘New Age Exploration Limited: Commencement of Drilling at Lochinvar Coking Coal Project UK (4 Seasons, 21/1/12) @

News that New Age Exploration are now prospecting this site in earnest to prove the extent of the coking coal reserves prior to any further development. They are to drill down to 600m. Previous National Coal Board drill holes indicated that 7 coal seams existed between 272 and 346m below the surface. 


‘Plans for massive expansion of opencast coal’ (Rob Edward’s Blog, 27/1/13) @

This list (see below) has been published by Rob Edwards, the Environmental Editor for the Scottish Herald, who broke the story on the decision by SEPA not to object to Loch Fitty being drained at the St Niniian’s Site Extension (see above). On his own blog, he has followed this story up by publishing a list of new proposed opencast sites for Scotland, which I’ll incorporate properly in next month’s list of sites. Some of these we already know about, but many are new to LAON:

Opencast coalmines planned for Scotland

  site / company / coal reserve (tonnes)

Auchencorth, Scottish Borders / Scottish Coal / 400,000
Glenmuckloch ‐ The Knowe extension, Dumfries and Galloway / ATH Resources / 325,000
Glenmuckloch eastern extension, Dumfries and Galloway / ATH Resources / 500,000
Rigg, Dumfries and Galloway / Aardvark TMC / 1.3m
Rigg north, Dumfries and Galloway / Aardvark TMC / 945,000
Greenburn ‐ Carsgailoch Hill extension, East Ayrshire / Kier Minerals / 4m
Greenburn ‐ Wellhill Farm extension, East Ayrshire / Kier Minerals / 750,000
House of Water Burnston, East Ayrshire / Scottish Coal / 2.6m

For more information on this site see:

Skares Road eastern extension, East Ayrshire / ATH Resources / 60,000
Chalmerston Benbain, East Ayrshire / Scottish Coal / 1.2m
Lanehead, East Ayrshire / Scottish Coal / 1.1m
Broken Cross northeast extension, South Lanarkshire / Scottish Coal / 1m

For more information on this site see

Broken Cross south extension, South Lanarkshire / Scottish Coal / 3.25m
Glentaggart east, South Lanarkshire / Scottish Coal / 4m
Headless Cross east, North Lanarkshire / Scottish Coal / 1.1m
Greenhill, Falkirk / Chartmount / 191,000
Rusha extension, West Lothian / H J Banks / 140,000
Cauldhall, Midlothian / Scottish Coal / 10m
Muir Dean, Fife / ATH Resources / 750,000

For more information on this proposal see :

Muir Dean Surface Mine Annfield Extension Non Technical Summary @

St Ninians southern extension, Fife / Scottish Coal / 3.4m

Wellsgreen Farm, Fife / Hall Construction / 744,000

COMMENT: This is great work by Rob. I have made two comments on his blog one which may be adding new sites to his list and the other, which asks the question where is all this coal going to go if we either close power stations because they are too polluting or convert the remainder to burning biomass. This list will be fully integrated when the next Scottish review of sites is published (see below)


‘A Fresh Legal Approach to Improving Air Quality in Member States’ (EU News / Wired Government, 28/1/13) @

The article reviews the success and failures of attempts by the EU to reduce the level of air pollution, especially PM10’s across member states:

“The problem concerns tiny particles known as PM10s, which can cause respiratory problems, lung cancer and premature death. Poor air quality is a direct threat to citizens exposed to pollution from fine particles (PM10), which originates from sources such as road traffic, industrial activity and domestic heating. According to the latest research, a majority (56 %) of Europeans believe that air quality has deteriorated in the last 10 years”

The article also provides links to other sources of information and to specific people to contact if anyone has any further questions to ask about this.

COMMENT: The UK is not highlighted as a country which breaches this legal requirement. However the issue of PM10’s is something all those familiar with raising objections about opencast mine applications become acquainted with. It will be useful for someone in each campaign group to read up on this, using this information and quoting what the EU say about the health risks associated with PM10’s are.


A documentary series of 8 programmes which documents some of the issues behind planning decisions and introduces you to the way planners view their job. It is being broadcast on BBC 2 on Thursday nights from 31/1/13. Here is a link to more information @





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©  Steve Leary