According to a report made to Director of Community Services at Leicestershire County Council (LCC) in 2005 9 this story began in 1986 when temporary permission was given for the construction of a rail-connected coal preparation and disposal point for removal of coal from the Lounge Opencast site, expected to be completed in 5 years. After this completion the site was to be restored to agricultural and woodland within 18 months. Extensions of usage time to use the site were granted to the sites owners, who eventually became UK Coal plc, in 1989 for the Lounge Extension, and 1996 because of the 1st unsuccessful Minorca opencast application and later the unsuccessful 1998 Thorntree opencast application. 10
Then, before a restoration scheme was finally approved by LCC permission was granted to extend the time that the site could be used for coaling purposes because of UK Coal plc’s successful application for the Hicks Lodge opencast site in 2000. Permission for this use was extended to July 2004. According to the report
“This permission requires the subsequent phases of the approved restoration scheme (i.e. the removal of the rail facility and the remaining associated brick buildings, the replacement and grading of stored overburden and soils and landscaping of the site) to be implemented within 12 months of the cessation of the use of the facility”. 9
By 31st July 2005 accordingly, this site should have been fully restored to agricultural / woodland use after being a temporary site associated with opencast coal mining for 19 years. But UK Coal plc had other ideas.
They first gave evidence of their new plans when they submitted a speculative plan that would make the site a permanent industrial / distribution site in 2001. This application was withdrawn. In 2005 UK Coal plc again tried to get a deferment of its obligation to restore the site for a further 3 years in order to try to persuade North West Leicestershire District Council that the site offered redevelopment opportunities and should be re-designated as employment land. As this land had been used for mineral purposes this application was determined by Leicestershire County Council. This proposal was opposed by North West Leicestershire District Council, Ashby-de-la-Zouch and Coleorton Parish Councils among other objectors. The application was refused on the 17h October 2005.9
Notwithstanding this, UK Coal plc pressed ahead with their alternative plans for the site, which, at their 2006 Property Portfolio Presentation on how they planned to develop ‘brownfield’ sites across the country in 2006, included Lounge, now calling it the ‘Lounge Distribution Park’.11 This presentation misrepresented the Lounge Disposal Point as a brown field site, as in planning terms it is technically a green field site. In 2007 a Public Inquiry was held into the refusal of LCC to extend the time in which UK Coal plc could explore alternative uses for the site. The County
UK COAL plc: AN ALTERNATIVE REPORTPAGE 25