All posts by John Gregory

Provectus have not given in

As we feared, Provectus do not see HM Planning Inspectorate’s decision to refuse planning permission as the end of this matter.

This evening they posted the following on our Have your say page:

Provectus PR
APRIL 16, 2018 AT 7:55 PM EDIT
Updates are provided at Provectus’ Hilltop Project website. The intent is to see what outcome the pending High Court action in May against DCC has and then we will consider options available to us. We are in no doubt that the way in which the Inspectorate gave weighting to possible noise impacts whilst choosing to ignore expert opinion was inappropriate.

The update on their website is:

Appeal Decision Update
Provectus is naturally disappointed at the negative outcome from the Planning Inspectorate.
Notwithstanding this, we have sought high level legal advice to the effect that there are serious errors in the Inspector’s ruling. This is particularly with respect to her findings on noise impact – which ignored the experts opinions before her – and which gives us very firm grounds to mount a challenge.
At present, we have decided not to take this route but rather to consider other options.
Provectus have taken High Court proceedings against DCC in regard to the return of the original planning fee in the context of their failure to process the application in accordance with statutory time limits. Those proceedings will be heard in High Court in London and resolved next month . Once the ruling is made we will decide how best to proceed.
It is a great shame that DCC failed to deal with the application expeditiously in the first instance, and that HAG failed to adopt a more pragmatic approach. Had they done so and had the project proceeded then it would be done and dusted by now, the process of restoration would be well advanced and the uncertainties which have troubled local residents would have vanished. The young people of Holmgate would be enjoying a MUGA funded by the project.

So it appears that they are mounting one or more legal challenges in the High Court and we must endure further uncertainty about the future of the Hilltop site.

We will keep you informed once we know more.

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Planning permission refused

The decision of HM Planning Inspectorate has been announced today (Monday 5 March 2018)

Decision

The appeal is dismissed and planning permission is refused for a surface coal mining scheme with restoration to agriculture with nature conservation benefits.

 

You can read the full report from H.M. Planning Inspectorate here.

Once we have had a chance consider the Inspectors report in detail we will provide more information.

It has been a long 6 year battle but well worth it.

Public Inquiry decision delay

In the last post we said the H.M. Planning Inspectorate decision was due on Monday 12 February.

They have now moved the date back to Monday 5 March 2018.

I’m afraid we have got to wait another three weeks before we know the outcome of the Public Inquiry.

As soon as we know anything we will announce it here.

 

Public Inquiry now closed

The Public Inquiry by HM Planning Inspectorate into the Hilltop Opencast Mining proposal by Provectus Remediation Ltd ended on Thursday 7 December 2017.

The Inspector has now gone away to write her report and make her decision about whether planning permission should be granted.


H.M. Planning Inspectorate have said the decision will be issued on or before Monday 12 February 2018


Hilltop Action Group would like to thank all those who attended the Public Inquiry and took the opportunity to speak against the plans.

Particularly:

  • Lee Rowley – MP for NE Derbyshire
  • Ted Mansbridge – Clay Cross Parish Councillor
  • George Stevenson – Kenning Park Community Group
  • Anne Harris – Coal Action Network

Many local residents were in attendance throughout the 7 days the Inquiry was in session. They were able put their concerns to HM Inspector and to ask searching questions of the appellant’s expert witnesses and planning consultant after they had given their evidence and been cross examined.


 

Public Inquiry Final Day

Day 6 of the Public inquiry into the Hilltop Opencast Mining Application by Provectus Remediation Ltd has just finished.

The Public Inquiry is the result of an appeal by the applicant to HM Planning Inspectorate on the grounds of non-determination. The inquiry is being held at the Donut Creative Arts Studio, Springbank Road, Chesterfield, S40 1NL

Tomorrow morning, cross examination of Richard Hunt, Planning Consultant for Provectus Remediation Ltd by Richard Kimblin QC for DCC will be completed.

Final summing up by the barristers for Provectus Remediation Ltd, St Modwen (opposing the appeal) and Derbyshire County Council (opposing the appeal) will take place tomorrow afternoon.

We do not expect the Inspector’s decision to be delivered until some time after the end of the Public Inquiry – likely to be a number of months!

This outcome of this Inquiry will have important consequences for local communities and the Clay Cross Regeneration Scheme.

Don’t forget…
Venue for the Public Inquiry:
Donut Creative Arts Studio
Springbank Road, Chesterfield, S40 1NL

 

Please make every effort to come along and ensure a good turn out  to hear the final summing up

Autumn 2017 Update

The Public Inquiry

The Public Inquiry into the Hilltop Opencast Application is now only a few weeks away. The dates and venue have now been fixed.

10am Tuesday 28 November 2017
Donut Creative Arts Studio
Springbank Road, Chesterfield, S40 1NL
(Estimated number of sitting days: 10)

We understand that the Inspector is prepared to grant time for local residents to address the Inquiry – possibly on the first day. More details about this once we have confirmation.

The Appeal Reference is APP/U1050/W/16/3166227


New Documents from Provectus

Provectus Remediation Ltd has recently provided additional information that was requested by the Planning Inspectorate under Regulation 22 of the Environmental Impact Assessment regulations 201. They have also voluntarily submitted a new landscape and visual impact assessment and a greenhouse gas statement. These new documents are on the Derbyshire County Council website. (Links to documents below)

Anyone who wishes to make representations about this information should do so in writing before 19 October 2017, to Derbyshire County Council, or by use of the facility on the County Councils Website (www.derbyshire.gov.uk) or by email addressed to: planningrepresentations@derbyshire.gov.uk.

All representations received will be forwarded to the Planning Inspectorate.

Hilltop Action Group are preparing a response which we will publish on this website once it has been submitted to DCC.


Links to documents recently submitted by Provectus


 

Planning Inquiry date announced

The date for the Planning Inquiry into the Hilltop Opencast Scheme has been announced by HM Planning Inspectorate.

The Public Inquiry will commence on Tuesday 28 November 2017 .

It is scheduled to take 10 days (not including weekends and not normally Mondays) so this means the last day of the inquiry will probably be Wednesday 13 December.

The venue has not yet been announced but we understand it will be local – probably Chesterfield.

Details of the Inquiry can be found here on HM Planning Inspectorate’s website.

DCC supports refusal of planning permission

At today’s Regulatory Planning Committee members voted unanimously to accept the Planning Officers report and it’s recommendation to refuse Planning permission.

There was also a vote on the Head of Plannings recommendation for a full public enquiry for the appeal to be heard by HM Planning Inspectorate. This was also passed unanimously.

It was noted that, although Provectus attended the meeting, they chose not to speak in support of their application.

We must now wait for HM Planning Inspectorate to announce the date and format of the Planning appeal.

We’ll let you know as soon as we find out anything.

Planning Department Report Published

The Report of the Strategic Director – Economy, Transport and Communities was published on the Derbyshire County Council website this morning.

[Click here to read the full report]

We have had a quick read through it and make the following comments:

  • The report strongly recommends REFUSAL of planning permission
  • Most of the objections raised by Hilltop Action Group and local residents are upheld by the Strategic Director’s report.
  • The report will be presented to the Regulatory Planning Committee at 10am on Friday 17 March 2017 in the Council Chamber, County Hall, Matlock.
  • The following extracts from the report explain what will now happen:

Purpose of Report (Page 2)

To enable the Committee, on behalf of the County Council as Mineral Planning Authority (MPA), to express a view concerning the application, which may be referred to in submissions for the appeal application which the applicant has made under Section 78 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 against non-determination of the application.

Appeal Submission (Page 8)

In December 2016, the applicant, on the basis that the application had not been determined within the time allowed for under regulations, made an appeal submission to the Planning Inspectorate with a statement of case and supporting documents.

In a subsequent letter on behalf of the Council to the Inspectorate, the Inspectorate was asked to consider whether any appeal should proceed, since officers believed that, as a consequence of its October 2016 request for further information and Regulation 22, the Council at the time of the submission was unable to reach a determination of the application. However, a message of 3 March 2017 from the Inspectorate has indicated that the applicant does have a right to appeal at this time.

Consequently the the committee will not be making a final decision at this meeting. This will be determined by HM Planning Inspectorate at some future date.

Reality Check

It appears that Provectus might be loosing their grip on reality. A number of assertions were made in the statement published on their website on Sunday 5 March 2017.

The reality is:

  1. The site meeting by members of the Planning Committee took place today. Representatives of Hilltop Action Group and local residents attended. Provectus and the landowners chose not to attend.
  2. The report and recommendations of the DCC Planning Officers will be published later this week.
  3. The report will be considered by the Planning Committee on 17 March 2017.
  4. There is nothing on H.M. Planning Inspectorate website to indicate that an appeal has been lodged and accepted by Provectus Remediation Ltd.

Once the Planning Officers’ report and recommendations have been published and we have had the chance to digest we will publish a summary here.

What is going on?

Whatever we thought was happening probably isn’t!

At 8pm today Steve Langford, of Provectus Remediation Ltd, posted a comment on our ‘Have your say‘ page stating that they had placed a new statement on their website (the first since February 2016!).

It states that the Hilltop Planning application is now going to be dealt with by H.M. Planning Inspectorate rather than Derbyshire County Council.

You can read the Provectus statement here –  spend a few minutes reading it and you’ll be just as clear as us about what is happening!

As this has appeared on Sunday evening there is not much we can do to find out what is going on. Is tomorrows site meeting still going to happen?

So far the Provectus appeal has not appeared on the Planning Inspectorate website so we have no idea what format the hearing will take or the time scale.

As soon as we find out more we’ll let you know.

 

Things are moving at last

It’s been a long time since we last posted on the website because there had been nothing to report. Now, everything seems to be happening at once.

Another round of consultation

In the last few days the Planning Authority have put notices up on local telegraph poles announcing a further  consultation period until 16 March 2017. [Click here to see a copy of the notice]

Regulation 22 is the mechanism used to request further information from the applicant when there are shortcomings in the Environmental Impact Assessment. This has to be followed by a statutory 21 day consultation period.

There appears to be only one document submitted by Provectus Remediation Ltd recently in response to this request – Application Document Flood Risk clarification.

This is a brief two page document plus a photograph. Interestingly, the document is watermarked ‘Draft’, unsigned on unheaded paper with no corporate heading, contact details or date. Hardly a professional looking document!

Council’s Regulatory Planning Committee

Letters have also been sent out to everyone who has sent in objection to the planning application informing them that the application is to be put to  a meeting of the Regulatory Planning Committee for consideration on Friday 17 March 2017 (this is immediately after the consultation period).

[If you have not received a letter, click here to see a copy of it]

The letter gives details of what to do if you wish to speak at this meeting.

[A document ‘Procedure for Public Participation at Meetings of the Regulatory Planning and Control Committee‘ has been provided by DCC to give further guidance.]

The letter also give notice of a site visit by committee members on Monday 6 March 2017.


In the next couple of weeks Hilltop Action Group will be

  • submitting what we hope will be our last objection to this planning application before 16 March 2017
  • attending the site visit on 6 March 2017
  • co-ordinating speakers for the 17 March meeting

August 2016 Response

We have now sent, to the Planning Authority, our response to the documents recently submitted by Provectus Remediation Ltd.

There is still time for you to send in your own objections (click here for guidance) or leave a comment by using the Have your say page.

Full text of the Hilltop Action Group response:

Response to documents and information submitted by Provectus Remediation Ltd in July 2016


What is the real purpose of the Hilltop Scheme?

The arguments in the recent Consultation Response from Provectus Remediation Ltd are both muddled and inconsistent.

On the one hand, the applicant argues that the site will be solely restored to a mix of arable and grassland agricultural land with ecological enhancements.

This is followed by a discussion of potential housing development and the need to avoid sterilising coal reserves.

Are we at last seeing Provectus Remediation Ltd in its true colours?

Is the real reason for the opencast scheme to pave the way for housing development rather than the improvement of agricultural land?

If so this application has been a deceit from the start.

The very description of the scheme -‘Surface coal mining scheme with restoration to agriculture with nature conservation benefits’ – is a lie. It should be ‘Surface coal mining scheme to extract coal reserves prior to housing development’.

This would mean that the restoration plan submitted in the application is at the very least misleading. It states that the ground contours will be restored to a level some 2m above existing levels. This implies minimal compaction of the overburden as it is reinstated and the resultant long term settlement of the ground. This would be adequate for agricultural use but would preclude any building for many years.

They can’t have it both ways.

Furthermore, this threat of housing development is a blatant attempt at scaremongering.

The applicant identifies two areas that are included in the North East Derbyshire Local Plan 2011-2031 (Schedule of Potential Housing Sites).

The one adjacent to Hilltop Farm is site CX/1608 with the potential for 359 houses. There is a requirement for 521 dwellings in the Clay Cross area and sites for 1990 dwellings have been put forward. Hence only 1/4 of those put forward will be required. As CX/1608 lies wholly within the Recommended Local Settlement Gap, it has a very low chance of ever being granted planning permission.

The sites to the south of the proposed opencast site (CX/1604, CX/1605, CX/1606, CX/1609) are a red herring as they lie totally outside the boundary of this application and are therefore of no relevance.


Need and market for coal

No indication is given of the quantities of each size of coal likely to be produced.

Market for the 0-30mm coal seems doubtful at best – what happens to this coal if there is no buyer in the energy sector?

Does suppling coal to the steam train market really justify the disruption of the lives of the thousands of residents living within 1km of the Hilltop site?

Domestic Market

The next thing they will be suggesting is packaging the coal in small plastic bags and selling it from vending machines alongside the milk and cream at the farm gate.


Regeneration and economic development

This whole section is nothing but conjecture and the opinions of the applicant. There is nothing in the way of hard evidence.

They state:

To add credence to the above, Inspectors considering surface coal mine schemes at Appeal have acknowledged the positive contribution that surface coal mine schemes make to the local economy.

This makes a very large assumption about the relevance of historical appeal decisions by the Planning Inspectorate. In recent years the climate (in all senses – political, economic, climate change and the need to reduce carbon emissions) has changed.

Would those Inspectors make the same pronouncements today?

The applicant does not cite the actual appeals, but it is unlikely that they involved comparable schemes. The Hilltop proposal is relatively minor in terms of the amount of coal it could produce but it will disrupt the lives of many thousands of people living in close proximity to the site. Most opencast sites were much larger, with their output of far greater economic importance, yet directly impacted on far fewer people.

The applicant goes on to say:

Therefore, the positive economic benefits that will be delivered by the proposed scheme are evident and have been made clear by both National Planning Policy and by a number of Planning Inspectors.

At best the National Planning Policy says that positive economic benefits MAY arise from such a scheme. It certainly does not say that the Hilltop scheme will result in such benefits.

To date, we are not aware that Planning Inspectors have been in any way involved in this application, so it is disingenuous to say that a number of them have made it clear that the Hilltop scheme would have positive economic benefits.

We would urge the Planning Committee to give far greater credence to the concerns of those with local knowledge and the responsibility for bring the Clay Cross Regeneration Scheme to fruition -North East Derbyshire District Council, Clay Cross Parish Council and St Modwen (developers of the Biwater Site).


Dewatering aspects of the scheme

We note that Network Rail continues to express concerns about consequences of dewatering old mine workings. Their concern is the stability of Clay Cross Tunnel.

We raised similar concerns in our objection to the original application CM4/1014/79 ‘Geological and Hydrogeological Issues’ of December 2014.

The full extent and state of these old pillar and stall excavations have not been investigated by the applicant. It must therefore be considered that they extend beyond the western boundary of the site and will drain into the excavations. This will cause further drawdown of groundwater and lowering of the water table.
Properties to the west of the site are built on clay soils which are susceptible to swelling and shrinkage. Changes to the water table will have a disastrous impact on foundations – a number of properties in the area have had to undergo underpinning work in the past.
The fact that the applicant has dismissed the hydrological impacts of deep excavations on surrounding properties are grounds to refuse this planning application.

This was reiterated in our objection to the current application in March 2016.

Provectus Remediation Ltd have assiduously ignored this valid concern of local residents as well as that of Network Rail. Local residents would also expect an Asset Protection Agreement.


Flood Risk Assessment

Provectus Remediation Ltd and their Flood Risk Assessment consultants (AECOM) were requested to provide further information under Regulation 22 of the Town And Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011 which takes ‘account of the new anecdotal evidence and the data held by the County Council.

The revised FRA states:

Through ongoing consultation in the area, DCC received anecdotal evidence that suggests that there is a potential third watercourse located in the centre of the site to the west of Hilltop Farm. The potential watercourse runs from NGR SK 388 642 in a northerly direction, passing through a culvert under the old Ashover Light Railway embankment before finally disappearing into a culvert at NGR SK 388 645.

The report talks of a site walkover undertaken by Provectus on the 23rd October 2015 and describes the section of the watercourse to the south of the Ashover Light Railway track.

It does not mention the length of the water course to the north of the Ashover Light Railway track to the point where it enters cistern and culvert at NGR SK 388 645. This cistern and culvert have become obscured by brambles in the last few years and are not readily visible. There has been no attempt to clear the undergrowth to examine the culvert. We, therefore, conclude that despite being asked to investigate this watercourse and culvert, they have not done so.

There has still been no attempt to properly examine the outflow of Watercourse 2 at the south of the site. Surely in the last two years there has been plenty of opportunity to overcome the ‘Health and Safety’ issues that prevented a proper assessment on the initial site visit.

Consequently the FRA cannot be considered adequate on the basis of these omissions.

Interestingly on page 4 of the FRA , in section 2.2 The Proposed Scheme it states:

Access to the site is currently via two T- junctions east of the site from the “Incomol building” located next to the A61 at S45 9AG. The southern part of the T-junction will be reconfigured and upgraded to a bellmouth junction to allow for access and egress to and from the site.

Firstly, there is no mention of how this will be affected by the new roundabout currently being completed by the developers of the Biwater site.

Secondly, we understand that there have been no discussions between the applicant and the owners of the Incomol site about using it for access to the Hilltop site and that such permission is unlikely to be granted.


Conclusion

It has now been almost two years since Provectus Remediation Ltd first submitted their application to Derbyshire County Council.

In that time 

  • the application has had to be withdrawn and resubmitted due to a failure to meet legal requirements
  • the Planning Authority has twice had to request further information under Regulation 22 of the Town And Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011
  • there have been 4 rounds of public consultation.

Yet still, the application has many inadequacies and leaves questions unanswered.

Provectus Remediation Ltd have had long enough get things right and it is now time to move directly to the determination of this matter.

After nearly 5 years of waiting, since exploratory drilling was carried out, the local communities now expect the proposals to be put to the Planning Committee so that our councillors can make their decision and end this uncertainty for residents and businesses in the Clay Cross area.

More documents, more consultation!

Determination meeting some way off yet

During the last few months the Planning Authority have requested further information from Provectus and whilst waiting for them to respond progress stalled.

Provectus recently responded and the Planning Authority have now put up site notices announcing a further 3 week consultation period (ending 2 September 2016).

The request for further information covered:

  • matters relating to the need for the development with respects to the current market need for coal extraction and also the potential impacts that coal extraction may have in relation to attracting inward investment into Clay Cross and the subsequent delivery of the Clay Cross Regeneration Framework.
  • a Regulation 22 request covering matters relating to Flood Risk and potential impacts on Network Rail’s Assets.

The following are links to the new documents recently submitted by Provectus Remediation Ltd:

Application Document Supp 2016 07 28 Reg 22 Response

Application Document sup 2016 07 01 Hilltop Farm FRA Final Report

Application Document sup 2016 07 27 Further Info Letter 02 CM4-1215-125

Application Document sup 2016 06 29 Regeneration Response v2 02 CM4-1215-125

Application Document sup 2016 07 26 Network Rail – cons response CM4-1215-125

Hilltop Action Group will be submitting comments on these new documents in the next few weeks.

Clay Cross regeneration at risk

A very good article in this weeks Derbyshire Times by Councillor Ted Mansbridge, chair of Clay Cross Parish Council’s planning and environmental working group.

He warns that regeneration work in Clay Cross is being threatened by the bid for opencast coal mining on the Hilltop site.

Bryn Hopkinson, Provectus’s project co-ordinator for the Hilltop development, trots out his usual nonsense about how there cannot possibly be any negative environmental impacts to harm local residents and the fantastic community benefits.
Read more: Derbyshire Times article


We still don’t know when the Planning Meeting will be, but Monday 9 May still seems very likely. We should find out on either Friday 29 April or Tuesday 3 May. We’ll let you know either way as soon as we’re sure.

Latest news

No decision this month

The April DCC Planning Committee Meeting has now passed and the Hilltop application was not dealt with. As the application should be dealt with within 16 weeks, the next meeting on Monday 9 May 2016 seems the likely date for a decision.


More problems for Provectus

An objection has been submitted on behalf of the owners of the Incomol yard. Provectus say in their application that this will be their access to the site – off the new roundabout being installed by St Modwen. The objection says that no consultation has taken place between the site’s owner and Provectus regarding this access and they see no reason to agree to such a proposal.

The letter states ‘…it is my client’s opinion that certain detail contained in the Application,  … , could be misleading to the Planning Authority and may not be a deliverable part of the proposed project.’

It looks as though the are going to have problems getting on and off the site!

The DCC Flood Risk Management Team have also raised a number of concerns about the scheme including:

    • an ongoing flooding issue located in the northern part of the proposed development boundary
    • the watercourse (that we identified) located in the centre of the site that has been ignored by Provectus despite it running through the proposed coal processing area.

As soon as we know whether the Hilltop Application is on the agenda for the next meeting we will announce it on this website. At that time we will also have seen the Planning Officers report and will know what their recommendations are.