A CONTROVERSIAL coal excavation programme which attracted a storm of protest from Sheffield residents has been put on hold indefinitely as prices continue to plummet.
Community campaigners living near to the earmarked site claim they have been left “in limbo” as the delay threatens to prolong disruption to their lives.
Doncaster-based Recycoal, which was granted permission to reclaim 395,000 tonnes of coal stocks from a former colliery at Hesley Wood, which became a haven for local wildlife and a popular walking route for residents nearby following the mining waste site’s closure.
The firm were given the go-ahead for the five-year scheme on the condition that it would restore the land for public use once work was complete in spite of a long campaign from the residents of Thorpe Hesley and Cowley Estate.
Thousands of trees have been chopped down and left lying on the ground but so far no excavation work has been carried out.
A spokesman for the company told The Yorkshire Post: “Everything has stopped at the moment because of the low price of coal. We had to take the commercial decision that we were not going to pursue it. We cannot control the world markets.
“The price of coal would have to increase significantly from its current level before we begin any work, and that doesn’t look as though it will be happening soon.”
The confirmation has angered local residents who rallied against initial proposals, citing fears coal dust from excavation could harm their health as one of their objections. They claim Recycoal is purposely holding off on the scheme in the hope the land is earmarked for South Yorkshire’s stretch of the HS2 high-speed rail link, meaning the promise to return it to the public would never be fulfilled.
Jean Howe, who founded Cowley Residents’ Action Group in response to proposals for the scheme, said: “It has been totally devastated. Recycoal came along after the planning meeting and chopped down as many trees as they could and left them where they fell.
“Paths which had been used for walking for years are now totally blocked and it is unusable for local people. It looks a real eyesore.
“We could have had at least two years of pleasure from walking on the land.
“Recycoal would say that it is private land and people should not be using it but the paths over the land had been well trodden for at least 30 years.
“I think they are waiting for HS2 to get a good payout for the land.
“We feel totally let down by councillors. We predicted the falling price of coal but no one listened.”
A spokesman for Sheffield Council said: “The application was granted in February 2013 with the usual three-year period to commence development. If it has not begun by February 2016 then a new application will be needed.”