LOOSE ANTI OPENCAST NETWORK (LAON) press release 30 July 2013
ARE THE PROMISES MADE TO THESE COMMUNITIES GOING TO BE HONOURED BY UK COAL?
Much recent media attention was recently devoted to the consequences of UK Coal Mine Holdings and UK Coal Operations going into administration, the consequent loss of jobs following the closure of Daw Mill and the saving of 2,000 mining jobs.
However there are still unresolved issues arising from this bankruptcy, and communities across England are still waiting to see what the consequences of saving these jobs will be on communities which bear the brunt of having to play host to the often unwelcome spectacle of opencast mining, after the Pontefract and Castleford Express ran a small news item on the 15th July entitled ‘RSPB closes nature park visitor centre’ This report indicated that work to fully restore the St Aidan’s opencast site in preparation to it being handed over to Leeds Council had come to a halt since the two companies collapsed and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds was expressing concern. The news item said:
“The RSPB has temporarily closed its visitor centre and car park at the new St Aidan’s Nature Park after landowner UK Coal went into administration.
“The park will remain open, but Peter Robinson, RSPB regional director, said it took the decision as a result of legal uncertainty.
He said: ‘The footpaths and bridleways will remain open, and RSPB staff and volunteers will continue to be present on site, to ensure visitors are still able to enjoy this wonderful place.’
“The RSPB has no legal tenure and cannot continue to operate the car park and visitor centre on the basis of goodwill alone.
“UK Coal, the current landowner, went into administration on July 9 which has created significant uncertainty over when the handover to Leeds City Council, and the subsequent lease to the RSPB, will be in place.”
To gain planning permission to surface mine for coal, UK Coal entered into agreements to restore the land after the coal had been quarried and then manage the land for up to ten years afterwards. For those sites currently being worked, they are meant to generate sometimes substantial benefits for the local community as well.
This means that the Wakefield and Castleford Express story does not just affect the St Aidan’s site in Leeds, many more sites could be affected, if UK Coal is allowed to behave in the same way elsewhere. The Loose Anti Opencast Network suggests that a further 19 sites are in the post restoration stage, in various locations, Ayrshire, Barnsley, Bolton, Co Durham, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Northumberland, Rotherham, and Wakefield, In addition, UK Coal are currently working six more sites in Co Durham, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Northumberland and Telford in Shropshire.
Because of the uncertainty created by the St Aidan’s story, the Loose Anti Opencast Network wrote a letter to Kevin McCullough, Chief Executive Officer of the newly formed UK Coal Production, on Monday 22/7/13, asking him among other issues, the following:
“ It is with some alarm that members of groups included in the Loose Anti Opencast Network read about doubts being expressed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds over whether the consequence of the Pre Packaged Administration deal, which has resulted in the creation of UK Coal Production Ltd, will result in any applications to Local Authorities to vary any of the planning conditions to lower the cost of site land management post restoration, site restoration post coal extraction or the cost of any community benefits agreed on when planning permission was granted at the sites for which the Company is responsible.”
The letter went on to say
“……I do hope you can understand why such a news item causes alarm. So far there has not been any information provided by your Company on whether it will honour these obligations it has entered into in full. Local groups who are part of our network and who face current and prospective opencast applications from your Company at the following sites; Bradley, Hoodsclose, Deanfield, Marley Hill and Great Oak and possibly Minorca would view any attempt to review such obligations as evidence that the word of UK Coal Production could not be trusted and that this is further evidence, that despite this latest reorganisation, financial problems still beset the Company…….”
As yet, even though an acknowledgement of the emailed letter being received was requested and there has been a follow-up phone call as yet UK Coal Production has not replied to the letter.
Steve Leary, for the Loose Anti Opencast Network said
“There is a lot of unfinished business here. The UK’s Coal Industry is going through a crisis at present caused by low coal prices. This has meant that in Scotland, two major opencast companies have recently gone bust, leaving the Scottish Taxpayer looking at a bill last estimated to be £74m to restore opencast sites. We do not want to face the same prospect in England.
“When seeking planning permission for new sites UK Coal treats the local communities as ‘Stakeholders’ who will have a financial interest in the site should planning approval be given. That relationship does not end if one company is succeeded by another – the financial interest is still there, long after the coal has been extracted. It’s time UK Coal Production came clean on whether it will or will not honour the commitments it has made to all 26 sites to restore them, manage them afterwards and provide the community benefits promised.”
SEE THE APPENDIX FOR THE LIST OF SITES AFFECTED.
INFORMATION ABOUT LAON
The Loose Anti-Opencast Network (LAON) has been in existence since 2009. It is a UK and Northern Ireland wide network of local community groups opposed to local opencast mine proposals / operations. It functions as a medium through which to oppose open cast mine applications and works with groups where local people feel that such a development is inappropriate.
Steve Leary, LAON’S Co-ordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel 05601 767981 or 07711501215
You can now follow LAON on twitter @ http://twitter.com/seftonchase
GROUPS IN THE LOOSE ANTI OPENCAST NETWORK:
Coal Action Network; Whittonstall Action Group, Northumberland; North Pennine Protection Group, Northumberland; Pont Valley Network, Co Durham; Pittington Residents Group Co Durham; Newton Lane Action Group, Leeds; Residents Against Birklands, Gatshead; Cowley Residents Group, Sheffield; Skelmansthorpe Action Group, Kirklees; Shortwood Farm Opencast Opposition, Nottinghamshire; West Hallum Environment Group, Derbyshire; Smalley Action Group, Derbyshire; Hilltop Action Group, Derbyshire; Minorca Opencast Protest Group, Leicestershire; Campaign Against Great OakOpencast, Staffordshire; Stop Opencast at Sharlston, Wakefield; Alumwell Action Group, Walsall; Just Say No to Lignite, N Ireland; Coal Action Scotland; Saline Parish Hub, Fife; Stop Cauldhall Opencast, Midlothian; Green Valleys Alliance, Rhymney Valley; Merthyr Tydfil Anti Opencast Campaign, Merthyr Tydfil; Llwdgoed Action, Merthyr Tydfil and Varteg Protest, Torfaen.
SITES SUSPECTED AS STILL BEING IN THE POST RESTORATIVE LAND MANAGEMENT STAGE IN THE FOLLOWING AREAS:
FERRY MOOR, LOW BAROUGH
ELDON DEEP, SOUTHFIELD, STONY HEAP
ARKWRIGHT FORGE, MONUMENT PARK, BROOK, SHIPLEY WEST
HICKS LODGE, LONG MOOR
MAIDENS HALL, STOBSWOOD
GRANGE FARM, MOORHOUSE
This list of sites has been derived from records kept by the British Geological survey and past annual reports of UK Coal plc. It does not claim to be a definitive list. All the local authorities listed may be creditors who can lodge claims with the liquidators of UK Coal Mine Holdings and UK Coal Operations.
In addition, coal extraction is still going on at the following sites:
Co Durham – Park Wall North and Potland Burn
Derbyshire – Lodge House
Leicestershire – Minorca
Northumberland – Butterwell
Telford – Huntington Lane
LOOSE ANTI OPENCAST NETWORK (LAON) press release 30 July 2013