Council’s argument that these attempts to find alternative uses for the site should not prevent UK Coal plc from carrying out its obligations to restore the site were accepted by the Planning Inspector and the appeal was dismissed.12
The Inspector, John Woolcock, was scathing in his assessment of the state of the site which he called “derelict” and an “eyesore”. However it was accepted by all parties that a full restoration of the site according to the scheme approved in 1998 would not now be appropriate as the ecological character of the site had changed. It was felt that an amended restoration scheme should be implemented 10.
By 2007’s Annual Report of UK Coal plc, it appeared that the company had no intention of complying with the Inspector’s decision. Now a new proposal for Lounge, for a distribution hub called ‘Park Distribution Development’ was included in its list of proposed developments, it’s estimated worth being put at £7.5 -£10m by UK Coal plc.13 An application along these lines was submitted to North West Leicestershire District Council (NWLDC) in 2007 14 and in 2008 they were optimistically reporting on the proposed development.15 Unfortunately for UK Coal plc this site was not allocated as land suitable for a distribution point in November 2008 when NWLDC published its Core Strategy Further Consultation document “A Strategy for Growth and Change” . 16 This was also the year when UK Coal plc was served with an Enforcement Notice to again restore the site.17 However it is understood UK Coal plc and its partner Gazeley are still actively promoting the site as being suitable for a distribution or manufacturing centre to NWLDC.18 It has been considered as a possible site for assembling the new fleet of Agility Trains to be built by a Hitachi led consortium. 19 The application is classified by NWLDC as pending.
Ironically such has been the length of time taken to restore the site that Great Crested Newts have now taken up residence on part of the site, possibly much to the delight of UK Coal plc!. The Great Crested Newt is a European Protected Species. These unlikely tenants have now made the process of proceeding with site restoration even more drawn out. In order for progress to be made in restoring the site Natural England has to issue a licence before any action can be taken that will affect the species or its habitat. In order to decide whether a license should be issued Natural England has to carry out a number of tests. The results of these tests are not yet known. Another issue is that Natural England would be reluctant to have to move the Great Crested Newts twice if UK Coal plc had to restore the land and then, later, were granted planning permission to develop the site, hence the stalemate.10
In 2010 this site is still in a derelict state, it is still an eyesore and it is a very potent local lesson for those opposing UK Coal plc’s other opencast
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