Plans for opencast coal mining given short shrift by council

A COUNCIL in Yorkshire is fiercely opposing plans to extract nearly 200,000 tonnes of coal by opencast mining near to a well-known beauty spot visited by thousands of people every year.

Developers Gordon Harrison Ltd want to develop an opencast mine at Dearne Lea off Litherop Lane to the west of Bretton Hall and not far from the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Wakefield Council has lodged a formal objection and claimed the sculpture park is “an internationally renowned site for arts and culture” which provides a major boost to the local economy and employment.

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The company wants to remove 190,000 tonnes of coal and 40,000 tonnes of fireclay meaning a total of 30 lorry loads arriving and 30 movements exiting the site each working day over a two-year period. Local residents have expressed concerns about noise and dust.

Heavy goods vehicles would be routed from Litherop Lane and its junction with the A636 Wakefield Road, northwards to the Bretton A636/A637 roundabout. No traffic would be permitted through the village of Clayton West, nor along Litherop Lane to the village of High Hoyland.

But in a hard-hitting report for Wakefield Council’s planning and highways committee, Ian Thomson, the service director for planning, transportation and highways, said: “The proposed development will cause substantial harm to a designated heritage asset listed as Grade II within the English Heritage Register of historic parks and gardens for its special historic interest, and which also provides a parkland setting for other significant listed buildings at Bretton Hall Park, for which no clear and convincing justification has been given.

“It has not been demonstrated... that the substantial harm is necessary to achieve substantial public benefits that outweigh that harm.

“The proposals fail to protect and enhance the heritage asset and will cause adverse impact on views and landscape which contribute to their character, appearance and setting.”

Mr Thomson goes on to say that “the surface extraction of coal mineral from this location is not environmentally acceptable”.

Wakefield Council acquired the Bretton Hall site in 2007 and are working with a developer to regenerate the area.

A spokeswoman at Yorkshire Sculpture Park said: “Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) is one of the leading outdoor art galleries in Europe and an award-winning attraction drawing visitors worldwide.

“We pride ourselves on this reputation which we have worked hard over the last 35 years to build.

“YSP is situated within the 500-acre Bretton Estate which has a Grade II listing within the English Heritage register of historic parks and gardens for its special historic interest.

“Just last year, with support from English Heritage and funding from Natural England, we successfully completed a £500,000 landscape project to restore the historic Bretton lakes and woodland and open the surrounding area to the public for the very first time.

“Consequently we have serious concerns about the potential disturbance that mining would undoubtedly bring to the park, our reputation and many visitors, as well as the effects to wildlife and the local environment.”

Mark Barrett, of Silkstone Environmental Ltd, which represents the developers, said it was a “sensitive time” and he would rather not comment at this stage.

But when he spoke to the Yorkshire Post recently he said the scheme could bring a wide range of benefits if approved. These included restoration of the site, creating a number of jobs and providing a permanent showground for the annual Emley Show.

He said that he did not expect a decision until towards the end of the year. Mr Thomson’s report will be discussed by the committee on Thursday next week. Whatever Wakefield Council and Barnsley Council, another formal consultee, say, the matter will be decided by Kirklees Council.