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.)