New Year Update 2013

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.