Ann Penny, Over Hilton Community Group chairman, whose group opposed the LDF is reported as saying
“The decision is not democratic because Labour councillors appeared not to have been given a free vote. Some of them said they supported us individually, when they walked in, but what does that mean. It’s supposed to be a free vote” 7
The relevance of this to local people around any opencast site UK Coal plc proposes is that it provides evidence that UK Coal plc may have longer term plans about what is to happen to the site once they have extracted the minerals. If they start playing the role of being a property speculator, as they seem to have done at Cutacre, then they will suggest changes to the Local Planning Framework that affect the sites restoration. This will concern the designation of the land for planning purposes, which if agreed by the local planning authority could change the temporary use of the land into permanent use for a new purpose. Indeed at Cutacre, UK Coal plc seemed to show that they were capable of starting negotiations that could lead to a change in the restoration plan whilst the coal was being extracted. Cutacre is an example of their method of working, that such secret negotiations that led to the suggestion to change the way the site was to be restored were withheld from the Cutacre Liaison Committee despite constant requests for UK Coal plc to answer questions on this issue 1.Such an approach is in keeping with their strategy outlined on the company’s web site where they report
As part of the development of Project Worth, the planning team runs regular reviews of the UK Coal portfolio to identify development opportunities and to establish a development strategy for each site in order to maximise value.
This involves the long term promotion of land through Regional Spatial Strategy review and at Local Development Framework level.” 8
The Lounge Disposal site is evidence of a different kind of threat that might happen when UK Coal plc attain temporary permission to use land, then alter their policy about restoring it because they have other plans. The outcome, at the Lounge site near Ashby de la Zouch in Leicestershire, is a site, lying derelict and officially labelled an “eyesore” by a Planning Inspector because the local planning authorities want the site restored and UK Coal Plc want to build on the site. The outcome is a stalemate that has already lasted years. The conflict is over the kind of land this is. Although publically UK Coal plc classify the Lounge site as a ‘brownfield’ site thus implying that it is ripe for redevelopment in fact in official planning terms, as UK Coal plc well know, this is a green field site and should have been restored as such years ago.
UK COAL plc: AN ALTERNATIVE REPORTPAGE 24