On Thursday 29 January 2015 there was a debate in the House of Commons about the restoration of open-cast coal sites. Our local MP made an impassioned contribution, citing the mess left behind by Maximus on the old Biwater site.

The full transcript of her speech is given below. (Taken from Hansard, the official record of House of Commons Debates)

Natascha Engel (North East Derbyshire) (Lab): I hope to speak for much less than six minutes, because I have only one and a half examples to cite, although I want to ask the Minister some very specific questions about them.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon) for initiating the debate, because it is very important. It concerns a legacy in coalfield areas that already contain some of the most deprived communities in the country. To be hit again after all these years makes things even worse for those communities.

I want to talk about a 204-acre site near Clay Cross, which was very toxic. An exciting plan was submitted by a company called Maximus, which proposed not just to restore the site, but to excavate the coal and build 1,000 new homes, as well as sports fields and changing rooms for which there was a large amount of section 106 money. People were very excited because there would be plenty of affordable homes. However, after the coal had been extracted, not 1,000 but 100 very high-end houses were built and sold for a great deal of money, and then the company went into voluntary administration. About 200 of the 204 acres are still uncapped, and the site is an enormous eyesore. Grey shingle has just been left on the ground, and, because the site is very high up, it is very visible from every angle.

To add insult to injury, the company—under a different name, Provectus—moved a mere few metres down the road to the neighbouring village of Tupton, and submitted another planning application for a very similar development. It will take ages for that application to be put together. The local residents, all of whom live very close to the site, are aware of it. Derbyshire county council is in a terrible bind, because it is having to spend a lot of time and money on offices and lawyers. The company itself is much wealthier than the residents. Meanwhile, house prices have dropped, people cannot move, and they are very worried about an increase in traffic. There is a 2,000-pupil secondary school right on the doorstep. People are very worried about this. Once the planning application goes to the county council, even if it overturns it the applicants will appeal, and it will go to the national Planning Inspectorate and the chances are that it will be overturned.

That would disregard the feelings of local people, and it does not take into account what these people have done only metres down the road. I want to know from the Minister what can be done to stop these people, who can only be called cowboys. They are going to do exactly what they have done in Clay Cross in Tupton. This is a big issue for local residents, and they are really worried about it.

As the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith) just said, we are looking at other sites beyond our borders and seeing what is happening there. It is very alarming to hear what is happening in Wales, and this pattern is being replicated up and down the country. The worst thing about it is that it is the people who are living on the doorstep who are having to suffer all the air pollution, the lorry-loads and everything else. And who ends up paying for capping off those open-cast sites? It is the local taxpayers. I would therefore like to know what the Minister is planning to do about this.

(Contains Parliamentary information licensed under the Open Parliament Licence v3.0.)

January Update

We have certainly been giving the Planning Authority plenty of work. So far there have been over 200 objections sent in by local residents opposed to the scheme.

Although the published deadline for sending in objections was 12 December 2014, the planning website says ‘The County Council will take into account all representations which are received up until three days before the proposal is considered for decision.So, if you had meant to send in an objection but just didn’t get around to it, there is still time.

Hilltop Action Group Committee has also been busy sending in objections – 12 so far.  We have still got a few more to complete and send in.

The ones submitted so far are (over 60 pages in total):

  1. Validity of Noise Assessment Report
  2. Accuracy of Mineral Application Form
  3. Communities Affected by the Hilltop Scheme
  4. Noise
  5. Geological & Hydrogeological Issues
  6. Inconsistent & Missing Drawings
  7. Water Attenuation Lagoons & Water Discharge
  8. Public Rights of Way
  9. Air Quality
  10. Health Impact
  11. Transport Assessment
  12. Ecology

The full text of these can be found from the menu on the left.

At the moment we have no idea when the Planning Committee meeting, which will make the decision on the application, will be. Scheduled dates for the next few Planning Committee meetings are: 9 February , 9 March , 20 April , 11 May , 8 June, 13 July, 10 August and 7 September. We will probably only get about five days notice.

More Objections Submitted

We have submitted four more objection documents to the planning authority today.

  • Geological and Hydrogeological issues
  • Inconsistent and missing drawings
  • Water Attenuation Lagoons and Water Discharge
  • Public Rights of Way

The full text of these objections can be found under Hilltop Action Group Objections in the menu on the left.

We hope to get more sent in before the official deadline for submissions on Friday 12 December 2014.

Have you sent in your objection yet?

Don’t forget, the more personal objections that are sent in, the better our chances of getting this scheme stopped.

For advice on writing your objection and how to send it in click on WRITING YOUR OBJECTION in the menu on the left.


A group of sterling volunteers is visiting every house within 1km of the Hilltop Site to collect signatures on a petition to be sent to the planning department.

The Derbyshire Times

There was another article in The Derbyshire Times this week in which Natascha Engel MP expresses her opposition to the plans and gives her support to the campaign to get it stopped.

Don’t forget to use the Have your say page to leave your comments 


We have just submitted our fourth objection.

The noise from a fleet of heavy plant working twelve hours a day within 50m of some houses and always within 500m of a residential property will be intrusive and definitely unwanted.

  • The Hilltop Action Group objection covers the following topics:
  • Interpretation of National Planning Policy Framework Guidance
  • Choice and suitability of Noise Sensitive Properties
  • Relevance of planning decisions offered as precedents
  • Northern haul road at entrance to processing area
  • Effect of noise on neighbouring communities
  • Effect of weather on noise propagation

This planning application by Provectus Remediation Ltd clearly breaches the guidelines as the anticipated noise levels are environmentally unacceptable. Furthermore, no national, local or community benefits have been demonstrated which would clearly outweigh the likely impacts.

On the grounds of unacceptable noise levels alone this application does not justify the grant of planning permission.

You can read the full details of the objection here or by selecting it in the Objections menu.

Don’t forget to use the Have your say page to leave your comments

Public Meetings

The two public meetings on Friday and Saturday were well supported by local residents who came along to find out how they could submit their own objections to the Hilltop Opencasting Scheme.

Local Parish, District and County Councillors expressed their unreserved opposition to the proposals and support for the Hilltop Action Group campaign.

Natascha Engel (MP for NE Derbyshire) has expressed her support for our campaign. She is holding a meeting on Wednesday 19 November 2014 at 7.30pm in Clay Cross Social Centre to tell us why she is against the proposals.

Come along to listen to what she has to say. Hilltop Action Group will be there to give an update on the campaign

| e: | t: 07549 608 066 |


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