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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
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May Planning Meeting Cancelled

A notice has appeared on the Derbyshire County Council Planning website this morning saying that the 9 May 2016 Planning Meeting is CANCELLED.

We are going to have to wait for at least another month before a decision is made on the Hilltop Opencast application.

Noise

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

Hustings meeting

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.

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.

Provectus November 2012 Statement

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.

The Provectus Statement

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.
Yours sincerely
Bryn Hopkinson.

Letters to the editor

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.

New Provectus Newsletter

Just 5 days before the Protest March and Provectus send out their second newsletter!

I THINK THEY MIGHT BE GETTING WORRIED ABOUT THE LEVEL OF LOCAL OPPOSITION TO THEIR PLANS.

Latest:We have been informed that Neil Hunt BSc FRICS, Managing Director of Wilkins Vardy Residential Limited, was paid by Provectus for his article on page 2 of the newsletter. In his own words: “As a practising professional, all my work is subject to payment”.

The production looks a lot more professional than their last one and wouldn’t have come cheap.Pity they didn’t manage to get a photo of their own fields for the front page – Mr Marriott has never had cattle like these.

The headline quotation on the newsletter is rather worrying:

I don’t like threats!

“I am a farmer not a property developer and would much rather continue to farm this ground than see it turned into an industrial estate” Roger Marriott,farmer
That sounds pretty much like a threat to me. A simple choice – open cast mine or industrial site.

The rest of the newsletter is fairly predictable.

The same tired old apologies for community benefits. I have yet to meet anyone (and I have spoken to hundreds of local residents in the last few months) who considers any of these to be adequate compensation for open cast mining on their doorstep. It will be interesting to see who they invite onto their local residents committee to make the final choice.

An interesting back page. It looks as if one of the 12 jobs has already gone as I guess the interviewee is already on their payroll.

[We have now been informed by Provectus that Mr Bull was not paid for his contribution or offered any other form of inducement.]

As for their invitation to ‘Have your say’, I’ve been on their website and it’s not been updated for months. The only way to contact them is via the phone number or email address given on the website (the same as on the newsletter). There is no on-line contact form and certainly no public forum.

Update

Checked their website again this morning (Tuesday 18 September) and they have now updated it. New logo, new pictures (this time they look like local cows) and new download files.

Their latest newsletter is there, so anyone who has not received one through their letterbox can have a read.

The latest Provectus Press Release is also there for anyone to read. Content as expected – just a re-wording of the newsletter but strangely it has an embargo until 20 September! What’s the point when they have already put it in the public domain? I’ve just been talking to the local press and they too thought it ridiculous.

Don’t forget, you can use the Have your say page to let everyone know your views about the open cast mining proposal.

What is an open cast site really like?

Noise! Dust!

I’m sure most of us don’t really know what an open cast site is like.

Well, take a look at his video.

And this one…

Both these videos were taken recently at the Lodge House, Smalley open cast site just north of Derby.

(there’s plenty more of these on YouTube…just search for ‘Lodge House opencast’)

I find these images truly horrendous. We must do all we can to get these open cast proposals stopped.

What do you think…leave your comments on the ‘Have your say’ page.

Provectus caught using underhand tactics

It seems a a long time since the Provectus Public Exhibitions but do you remember their banner about so called Community Benefits?

Amongst the graphics was a North East Derbyshire District Council logo. Provectus used this without permission. Provectus were attempting to mislead us all into believing that the community benefits they were proposing had been fully discussed with and supported by North East Derbyshire District Council.

I find this deception worrying. This is a company trying to win public support for an open cast mining proposal that has the potential to blight local communities for years to come. What other underhand tactics have they already employed and what can we expect from them in the future?

I understand that NEDDC are similarly annoyed and have written to Provectus instructing them to remove all such logos from their publicity materials.

We need to keep a careful eye on this company and treat everything they say with suspicion. They can’t be trusted.

Community Benefits?

It’s good to see local publications running articles about our opposition to the Provectus open cast mining proposals. In the last week there have been articles in the Clay Cross Shoppers Guide and Wings magazine.

Its just a pity that the recent Provectus press release, sent out by Bryn Hopkinson, has been so extensively quoted.

Since we contacted residents likely to be impacted by this project, we have been delighted at the number who have been in touch.

No mention of why they have been in touch – I doubt that many have been in support of the plans. Remember there were over 200 local residents at the Hilltop Action Group Public meeting expressing their concerns and anger at the Provectus proposals. Also the Provectus Exhibitions were packed with people raising their concerns and seeking more information. Many of their questions were left unanswered as the Provectus team were frequently unable or unwilling to provide answers.

…Ill-informed conjecture… …unnecessary anxiety…

How about ‘well informed concerns based on the experience of those who have lived near open cast sites’?

As for community benefits, I have yet to meet any local residents in favour of their proposals. Bear in mind that Provectus will be putting a relatively small amount aside for community benefits. When I asked Bryn Hopkinson at the Provectus Public Exhibition what he anticipated the per tonne Community Benefit levy would be he replied ‘about 50p per tonne’. This works out at about £100,000 – a paltry £75 for each of the estimated 1,300 households within 500m of the site.

Personally, the best community benefit would be to leave the site alone and let us enjoy the peace, quiet and the wildlife.

Provectus have made much of their intention to return the site to agricultural land. Yet, now they are talking of re-erecting the Rainbow Cafe as a visitor centre for the remains of the Ashover Light Railway. Some benefit – a theme park at the bottom of our gardens!

Another Community benefit they are offering is the preservation of the remaining Pirelli bridge abutment. The main span of the bridge was removed immediately after the closure of the Ashover Light Railway 60 years ago. The east abutment was knocked down about 20 years ago by Mr Pat Heston of Hilltop Farm when his company carried out the open cast mining in fields on the other side of the A61. The remaining west abutment has stood for about 90 years with no problems – the only risk it faces is Provectus ripping it out!

(By the way – if you want to see what farmland looks like after open cast mining take a look at the scrubland opposite Hilltop Farm.)

Derbyshire Times & Provectus Exhibitions

We’re in the Derbyshire Times again. Click here to read the article.

In the article Bryn Hopkinson, consultant to Provectus who are planning the three-year extraction on the land, owned by Hilltop Farm, said:

“We mailed about 2000 people about our plans and we are really hoping that all of those that can, whether in favour or against, will come along to our public exhibitions to join in the discussion about the way forward, particularly the community benefits. And don’t forget, this will create jobs.”

So, lets all turn up and see how much of a discussion he is prepared to have.

I wonder what ‘community benefits‘ he has in mind that will compensate us for at least three years of noise, dust, pollution, damage to health, destruction of the landscape, damage to wildlife, increased HGV traffic and loss in value of our homes.

It will also be interesting to see how many jobs he thinks it will create.

After you’ve been to the exhibition post your thoughts about what he has to say on the Have your say page.

New Provectus statement

I see that Mr Hopkinson of Provectus has added a new statement to their website. Notice it is no longer called a blog as he is not prepared to accept open comment and discussion! Once again we appear to be calling the tune – everything is a reaction to what we are saying – there is nothing new from Provectus.

In his piece, Mr Hopkinson uses the phrase ‘…allegedly contained within the formal Provectus proposal to Derbyshire County Council…’ when referring to the words ‘proposed extension’ and ‘proposed extension area’ which I had quoted. There is nothing ‘alleged’ about them – they are there in black and white in the Provectus documents. I agree they appear to make no sense but this is due to his mistake not mine. As Provectus have submitted erroneous documents then it is up to them to sort it out with the planning authority.

Interestingly Mr Hopkinson seems to make rather a lot of sloppy mistakes. When he contacted me via the website on 3 May he correctly referred to me as Mr Gregory, yesterday for some unknown reason he called me Mr Garrett!

Good to know that the other two sites he has his eyes on are not around here, but not so sure the folks in Nottinghamshire will be as happy.

He goes on to address the concerns we have voiced on the flyer for tonight’s meeting. I will respond to his comments as follows:

  1. Noise – any noise produced by the Hilltop Opencast Project is more noise regardless of statutory limits. We like the peace and quiet.
  2. Landfill/Waste Disposal – they’re taking 175,000 tonnes of coal out, so they must be going to bring 175,000 tonnes of something back in or leave a big hole.
  3. House values – Nominal house values will probably not be greatly affected but they will be unsalable. Anyone who wants or needs to move in the next 5 or 6 years will find it very difficult without drastically reducing their selling price. As for an enhanced green environment, I find that very hard to believe. We all know that the contours of land reclaimed after opencasting are never natural but usually flat and featureless. Hedgerows may be replaced but will take many years to mature. Large trees, like the ones that will have to be removed to make way for the coal processing area, will take nigh on a hundred years to mature. Wild life will be driven away by the noise and dust and take many years to return.
  4. Traffic – The A61 is a major concern as this is regularly congested through Clay Cross. All lorries will use the Royal Oak roundabout which is a busy crossing point for pupils going to and from Tupton Hall School. We have yet to hear where the lorries will go having reached the Royal Oak roundabout. Indeed the Scoping Opinion in response to the Provectus proposal states ‘The Highway Authority considers the details of the proposed lorry routing to be inaccurate.’ 10 vehicle movements a day? One Provectus document gives a maximum of 20 loads per day. That’s 20 in and 20 out plus a matching number at some time to refill the hole – I make that 80.
  5. Dust/Pollution – as with noise, any dust or pollution produced by the Hilltop Opencast Project is more dust and pollution regardless of statutory limits. Talk to anyone who has lived near to an opencast site and they will tell you that despite regulations and monitoring dust and pollution is horrendous.


Jigsaw puzzle

Just trying to piece things together but I’m sure the jigsaw’s got some bits missing!

I found a Birmingham Post article about Bryn Hopkinson from earlier this year. It has some interesting stuff about his relationship with various companies involved in the redevelopment of Clay Cross in recent years. However at the end of the article it states:

Mr Hopkinson has since entered into a partnership with Provectus Remediation to pursue projects involving surface mineral extraction, remediation and restoration. Four sites are presently under consideration, three in the East Midlands and one in Wales.

We know where one of these is but where are the other two in the East Midlands?

Also, there are some interesting bits, that I have only just noticed, in the proposal Provectus submitted to Derbyshire County Council when requesting the Scoping Opinion.

4.15 Published information on soils and land quality would be referred to and a detailed soil and ALC survey would be carried out over all of the agricultural land likely to be affected by the proposed extension….

and

4.17 This section of the ES would describe the baseline hydrogeological characteristics of the proposed extension area and consider the potential impact of the proposed operations.

PROPOSED EXTENSION mentioned twice!!

Two other sites in the East Midlands and a ‘proposed extension’. I fear there is something here we are not being told about.

How close do you live?

More than half the proposed open cast site boundary fronts directly onto domestic property with little or no separation from it.

There are nearly 1300 dwellings within 500 metres of the site boundary. This includes all the houses on:

  • Ashover Road (up to Coupe Lane)
  • Woolley Close
  • Woodland Grove
  • Hathaway Close
  • Shakespeare Close
  • Russell Gardens
  • Woodland Way
  • Ashton Gardens
  • Cooke Close
  • Oaklea Way
  • Yew Tree Drive
  • Harewood Crescent
  • Winster Close
  • Riber Crescent
  • Sylvan Drive
  • Coupe Lane
  • North Street
  • Meadow Road
  • Ashbourne Avenue
  • Cromford Road
  • Derwent Place
  • Rock Crescent
  • Woodthorpe Avenue
  • West Street
  • Brook Street
  • Woodside Place
  • George Percival Place
  • Stephenson Place
  • Amber Place
  • Valley Road
  • Holmgate Road
  • Peters Avenue
  • Morton Avenue
  • Markham Rise
  • Cannell Close
  • Parkhouse Close
  • Colliers Way
  • High Street, Clay Cross
  • Derby Road
  • Brassington Lane
  • Nethermoor Road (to Methodist Church/Scout Hut entrance)
  • Park Road
  • Station New Road (down to Tupton Hall School entrance)
  • Martins Lane

Approximately two thirds of these properties are actually within 200 metres of the site.

Remember in Scotland and Wales open cast mining cannot be carried out within 500 meters of dwellings. Why should we be disadvantaged for living in England?

Scoping Opinion

I have received a copy of the Scoping Opinion issued by Derbyshire County Council Planning Department to Provectus on 12 March 2012. This document is:

Consideration by the Council as Mineral Planning Authority of a formal request made by CJS Planning, as agent for Provectus, for a Scoping Opinion about the issues to be considered in an Environmental Statement to accompany an intended planning application to extract coal by surface mining methods at Hill Top Farm, Clay Cross.

The document spells out all the issues that the Planning Authority expects Provectus to address in its planning application.

As this document does not appear to be available on the DCC site I am making a copy available. Click here to see the Scoping Opinion.

Comment from Bryn Hopkinson – Provectus

This afternoon Bryn Hopkinson of Provectus submitted a comment to this blog. As the owner and moderator of this site I have chosen not to approve it. (This is the first and only comment I have not approved.)

I set up this blog at my own expense to provide a focus for those opposed to the Hilltop Open Cast project. Provectus have their own web site which they are welcome to use to put forward their views and such information as they wish to put in the public domain. I do not intend to provide them with free publicity.

I have, from the start, provided links on this site to their website but they have not done the same in return!

In his comment he says that he has set up a blog on the Provectus website to address issues raised on this blog. In fact he has merely posted a statement – there is no facility for  public debate or comment. [Click here to see it]

If you feel that I have made the wrong decision and should approve Bryn Hopkinson’s comment (and any further comments from Provectus) post a comment and let me know.