Future opencast site applications by UK Coal plc, including the Minorca site may be driven by the strategic location of the site, not just for the value of the minerals it contains but also by its potential longer term vale as a site ‘ripe’ for property development.
In future groups opposing UK Coal’s plc’s plans for new opencast mines will have to explore the possibility of ensuring that the local mineral authority insists on a bond which would be forfeited if UK Coal plc sought to change the determination of the land before restoration of the site according to the original planning conditions had been completed. Or, alternatively, they sought a condition which would block any attempt to change the determination of the land for a fixed period after the land had been restored.
The strategy apparently being pursued by UK Coal plc is likely to create more conflicts with local communities and mineral planning authorities in areas where it operates in the future.
SECTION 5: CASE STUDIES ON CONFLICTS CAUSED BY UK COAL plc USE OF THE PLANNING SYSTEM
The three case studies which follow, Cutacre in Bolton, Lounge by Ashby de la Zouch and Rossington near Doncaster are examples of what UK Coal plc does with sites that the company alleged to be either brown field sites, or partly green field.
Cutacre is a 900 acre site, due to produce a total of 1.5m tonnes of coal, began production in 2005. The application had been vigorously fought up to a Public Inquiry, but permission was granted in the teeth of fierce opposition. Nevertheless, as John Booth, a member of the Cutacre Liaison Committee wrote in The Bolton News on 15/9/09
“However upwards of 60 conditions had to be met by the mining company”. 1
These included restricting the amount of business development on the site to where a spoil tip was to be removed and that local residents expected the bulk of the site would be restored as a new country park. According to a ‘This is Lancashire’ report
“This restoration would, according to a detailed report, include extensive woodland, wetlands, conservation areas, species rich grasslands, hedgerows and agricultural land” 2
The site was in a Green Belt area. Indeed UK Coal’s own Annual Report for 2005 confirms that the site was initially called Cutacre Agricultural, with only 50 acres devoted to employment development. In the 2005
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