The huge challenges still facing Yorkshire's pit towns

TOWNS that sprung up around the country's coal mines and suffered decades of decline as the industry collapsed remain among the most deprived places to live in Britain.

An image from the Pit Profiles exhibition by Anton Want at Cusworth Hall
An image from the Pit Profiles exhibition by Anton Want at Cusworth Hall

Following the closure of the last deep pit at Kellingley in North Yorkshire in December, campaigners say former coalfield communities continue to face employment challenges and residents suffer from poorer health.

Launching a new strategy to try and help ex-pit villages and towns tackle social deprivation, the Coalfields Regeneration Trust hopes that by 2019, it will have supported thousands of more people into work from the 5 million people across the UK who live in ex-mining areas.

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Wards in Barnsley, Doncaster and Wakefield that all centered around the pit have the highest levels of deprivation, according to the Indices of Multiple Deprivation score collected by the Government in 2015.

Graphic: Graeme Bandeira

Chairman of the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, Peter McNestry said: “The closure of Kellingley Colliery was a timely reminder to us all of the challenges that coalfield communities still face. In relation to employment, skills and health the message is clear; evidence shows and the statistics confirm the ongoing necessity for social and economic regeneration.

“Coalfield communities continue to experience a disproportionate impact following the last recession, with vital community facilities under threat of closure or lost, local support services experiencing greater demand and deprivation levels remaining consistently high against the national average.”

The official Indices of Multiple Deprivation measures hardship by ward, with Dearne North, St Helens, Worsbrough and Dearne South in Barnsley the most deprived of all coalfield communities.

Hexthorpe & Balby North and Mexborough wards in Doncaster, Rotherham East, and Rawmarsh wards in Rotherham, Selby North and Selby South, and Wakefield East Hemsworth, and Knottingley all have some of the worst levels of deprivation of any ex-mining area in the country.

Graphic: Graeme Bandeira

Research carried out by Sheffield Hallam University’s Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research also found that 43% of all neighbourhoods in the coalfields fall into the most deprived 30% in the country and 11.7% of people report long-term health problems compared to 8.6% nationally.

Around 14% of adults in the coalfields are out-of-work on benefits, which is 4% higher than the national average and double the South East England average.

A new strategy to try and improve opportunities for people will involve support for groups wanting to take over community assests lost to Government cuts, help for small and medium sized businesses, and financial support to voluntary and social enterprise groups through their Community Investment Programme.

Their focus on healthly living, whether through advice sessions or exercise classes, will now extend to mental health.

Mr McNestry said: “We have a track record of delivering targeted and responsive programmes that have addressed many of the challenges still prevalent in the communities.

“We have to continue to redirect support into these areas and although we appreciate we cannot do this alone, we do know that with the help of partners and government we are able to make a lasting and positive impression.”

Coal mining has been on the decline in Yorkshire for more than two decades and the closure of Kellingley signalled the end of the industry as it was Britain’s last deep pit. Around 450 men lost their jobs.

Deprivation is scored on a scale of 1 - 100 with 100 being the most severely in need.

Barnsley, Dearn North - 91

Barnsley, St Helens - 90

Doncaster, Hexthorpe & Balby North - 86

Doncaster, Mexborough - 82

Rotherham East - 92

Rotherham Rawmarsh - 75

Selby North - 76

Selby South - 74

Sheffield Woodhouse - 63

Wakefield East - 86

Wakefield Hemsworth - 81