Opencast mining plan will ruin our countryside, residents fear

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A ROW has erupted over a planned new multi-million pound opencast coal mining project in West Yorkshire.

UK Coal hopes to excavate 1.18 million tonnes of coal in a 12-hours-a-day operation on 138 hectares of farmers’ fields between New Sharlston, Crofton and Warmfield at Wakefield.

The company said it also hope to remove up to 100,000 tonnes of fireclay from the site as well as the coal.

The company, which held consultations at Sharlston and Crofton community centres last week, said the four-and-a-half year project would create 80 new jobs and could start as soon as 2014.

But residents have raised concerns over the proposed new Deanfield Surface Mine, which could operate from 7am until 7pm.

Cat Morgan, of Cow Lane, Sharlston, has set up a Facebook group against the plans and will be sending objections to Wakefield Council once an application is submitted by the end of the year.

Mrs Morgan, 30, said: “My concerns are there will be an increase in traffic, Hell Lane will be closed permanently and Cow Lane is already dangerous.

“Views will be spoilt for so many residents. It will decrease property values due to noise, pollution and going from green countryside to an ugly tip.”

Margaret Fox, 58, of Crossley Street, New Sharlston, had a smaller mine excavated behind her back garden and the site is now being turned into housing.

She said: “We are really mad about it.

“We are going to have no fields left and big banks of dirt.

“It is a massive site and is going to affect hundreds of thousands of people.”

Workers and machinery will enter from the bottom of Pineapple Hill and work will be carried out in sections.

Coal would be taken to power stations across the country via Crofton Rail Sidings, which is at the bottom of the site.

An estimated 100,000 tonnes of fireclay would be taken away from the site via the A655.

UK Coal area planning manager David Green said that if the project goes ahead, the land would be fully restored back to agricultural use and strict rules would minimise the impact on local residents.

For more details on the campaign against the proposed new coal mine, visit www.facebook.com/opencastsharlston.

A spokesman for the company UK Coal said consultation on the proposed surface mine was underway.

“The site would be operational for just over four-and-half 
years, creating around 65-70 
full-time jobs and contributing to the local community and economy.

“The site would be fully restored as work progresses and would be returned to agricultural use as well as creating ecological 
habitats, flood attenuation features and new public rights of way.”

The news of the Sharlston open cast proposals comes after the owner of Maltby Colliery in Rotherham said the coal mine was no longer viable on health and safety, geological and financial grounds.

Hargreaves Services is proposing that the pit, which employs around 540 workers, will be mothballed. The decision puts all members of staff at the risk of redundancy.

The company said it will continue to consult with unions and asked for any alternative proposals to be tabled by November 30.

The board has concluded that a new coal face was not viable.

Rother Valley MP Kevin Barron, who worked at the pit for 18 years before being elected to Parliament, said he remained optimistic that the decision to mothball the mine could be overturned.