Just to reassure everyone, Hilltop Action Group has not gone away. The committee is still holding regular meetings, planning our strategy and researching probable objections. However, until Provectus make a move and submit a planning application there is little we can do. Continue reading
We are still waiting for Provectus to make up their mind about submitting a planning application for the Hilltop Opencast scheme.
We understand that they have had discussions with the Derbyshire planning officers over the last few months and still have a large number of issues to resolve. It looks like it will be some months before they make a decision about submitting an application – so much for their original intention of putting in an application last autumn.
With County Council Elections coming up on 2 May 2013 we have organised a Hustings Meeting to give the two candidates for Clay Cross North Division an opportunity to give us their views on the Hilltop Opencast proposals.
Friday 26 April 2013
7pm for 7.30pm start
Holmgate Community Centre
A good turn out at this meeting will remind Provectus that we are still here and ready to mount a strong opposition to any planning application they may submit.
We took a break over the Christmas holiday period as it seemed unlikely that much was going to happen. The Hilltop Action Group is now back holding regular committee meetings.
Back in November Provectus told us they were contacting the Mineral Planning Authority with a pre application submission that would outline the proposal and provide them with an update on the findings of the environmental assessment work conducted to date. They said that they anticipated a response early in the New Year and would let us know when it arrives. We are waiting to hear from them.
The newsletter delivered by Provectus over the New Year period was therefore a bit of a surprise. [If you didn’t receive a copy, you can read it here on the Provectus website.]
The first two pages of the newsletter just tell us that at last they are beginning to understand the complexity of the planning process.
The final paragraph on page one says it all:
We would have liked, and originally planned, to conclude the evaluation this Autumn but this would not have been possible without taking short cuts, and that would have been unacceptable to all concerned.
Surely an admission that they embarked on this project last spring without any real understanding of what was required or how long it would take. Were they originally planning to take short cuts?
The paragraph about noise (top of page 2) shows that either they haven’t read the National Planning Policy Framework Technical Guidance (paras 30 and 31) or are hoping that the Planning Authority will relax the restrictions. This guidance is quite clear about the permitted noise levels, but I am sure most of us would find them far from acceptable.
Since Provectus first announced their proposed scheme, they have always maintained that the site would be restored to agricultural use. Yet, in this newsletter, they are proposing not one but two tourist attractions on the site!
Their steam railway proposals would include a shunting yard complex, along with a combined workshop/storage shed for locomotives, coaches and railway wagons, an educational visitor centre with museum, restaurant, shop, and classroom facilities – and let’s not forget the car and coach park.
Alongside this, they want a robotic dairy cattle unit with an educational farm centre. The cattle unit itself will require large sheds to house the cattle in winter, feed silos and large slurry tanks. The visitor centre would mean further buildings and parking areas.
Put these two developments together and there won’t be much grazing land left!
The whole site is only about 75 acres and each Holstein/Friesian dairy cow requires approx 1 acre of grassland. A single robotic milking unit can support about fifty cattle so this might just about be feasible. However, robotic milking units are usually only considered financially viable for much larger herds (200+ cows). Also between ‘milkings’ the cows need to graze relatively close to the robotic milking parlour in a stress free environment if they are to be trained to successfully visit it 4 or 5 times each day. Two visitor centres and a steam railway running through the middle of their pasture makes this sound like a recipe for disaster.
I’ve just read through the last few paragraphs and realised that all this is irrelevant – neither the railway nor the dairy plans require the prior removal of 200,000 tonnes of coal from 100ft beneath the site.
Finally on the back page, it’s good to see that they are consulting widely with the local community – if you happen to be a Holmgate resident. What about all the other people living close to the site – Derby Road, High Street, Clay Cross, Peters Avenue estate, Ashover Road, Woodland Way estate, etc? When are they going to be consulted?
And just remember: currently the ‘going rate’ for community benefit funds is about 50p per tonne of coal extracted – that’s at most £100,000 which won’t go far.
Use the Have your say page to let everyone know your concerns about these open cast mining proposals.
THE PROCESS DRAGS ON
We have received a statement by email from Bryn Hopkinson of Provectus which he also published today (29 November 2012) on their website. [see the bottom of this article for the text]
It has now been 7 months since we received the first Provectus newsletter telling us about their opencast proposals. At their Public Exhibition they said that they intended to submit a planning application this autumn with a view to starting work in spring 2013. Now they say they won’t be ready to submit an application until spring/summer 2013. It would appear this company embarked on the project with little understanding of the scale of work involved in preparing an Environmental Impact Assessment.
If a planning application is not submitted before summer 2013, it is unlikely that a planning decision would be made until early 2014. Given that topsoil stripping and hedgerow removal cannot take place between March and September the earliest work on the site could start would be October 2014 with completion 3 years later in October 2017.
As they actually kicked-off this project with unauthorised exploratory drilling in October 2011, even if there are no further delays, we will have this blight hanging over us for at least 6 years.
It is intolerable that local communities can be subjected the distress and worry caused by this scheme dragging on over such a long period.
We have always made it clear that we would not proceed with an application for planning consent for this project unless and until we were satisfied that the works could be conducted in an environmentally acceptable manner.
To demonstrate our commitment to that principle and notwithstanding the costs involved, we have opted to cooperate to the fullest extent with the pre application engagement procedures operated by the Mineral Planning Authority [MPA ] of Derbyshire County Council. To this end we shall, in the course of the next few days, be contacting the MPA with a pre application submission which will outline the proposal and provide them with an update on the findings of the environmental assessment work conducted to date.
This is a sensitive matter and before making the final decision on an application it is appropriate to take account of the views of the MPA whose response will, we hope, highlight whether the principle of the development is supported by the prevailing planning policy context and comment upon the key issues on environmental acceptability.
It is in the interests of all concerned that were an application to be submitted that it is based upon evidence which is sound, comprehensive and produced on the basis of best practice.
The response of the MPA to our submission will obviously be considered with great care . We would anticipate receipt early in the New Year and will let you know when it arrives.
I would say at this point that it is likely that a planning application will be submitted at the conclusion of the environmental evaluation excercise provided that we do not identify any significant constraints over the final few months of that process. Subject to this we anticipate that an application will proceed Spring /early Summer 2013. Again we will keep you informed.
To the extent that delay has occurred in any part of the process to date it is correct that the exceptionally wet Summer has made it difficult to obtain a representative picture of the baseline air quality of the site. I know that air quality is a matter of particular concern to you. To achieve a proper result one needs a monitoring period of at least three months duration that includes periods of dry and windy weather when dust generation can be expected to be greatest.. Any dust/air quality assessment which does not have sound baseline monitoring data will be flawed and we cannot countenance this. This is important to you and we take it seriously.
Please let me know if we can assist you further at this stage.
Last week there was one letter in The Derbyshire Times from an anonymous ex-miner expressing support for the Provectus opencast mining proposals.
This week eight letters opposing the plans! All from people living close to the site, some ex-miners.
I think this pretty much demonstrates the level of local opposition rather than support for the scheme.
A number of the letters also put pay to the myth that there will be lots of jobs created – Provectus themselves say there will only be about twelve jobs.