In a landmark ruling for UK opencast mining, planning permission has been granted to HM Project Developments Ltd for the opencast extraction of coal at Halton Lea Gate in Northumberland following a successful nine day appeal in May. The appeal was made following the refusal of a resubmission to Northumberland County Council, and is the first to be determined since the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) earlier this year. Engineering and environmental consultancy Wardell Armstrong handled the appeal, and helped to answer some of the objections raised against the original submission.
Benefits of domestic coal
“We’re very pleased to have won this planning appeal, and with the comments made by the Planning Inspector,” said David Bridgwood, associate director at Wardell Armstrong. “The result indicates a clear shift in policy in favour of surface mining of coal brought about by NPPF. The [planning] inspector has accepted that “great weight” is to be awarded to the benefits of mineral extraction. He has also accepted that there are sustainability benefits in working coal domestically, rather than relying on coal imports.
“This makes perfect sense when you consider that up to 52% of our UK electricity still comes from coal in winter – a period when many renewable resources are less productive – and that the transport emissions related to bringing coal from Russia are ten times higher than working it domestically.”
Coal mine will meet environmental concerns
The reasons for refusal related to ecology and to the potential landscape impact on the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. In determining the appeal, the planning inspector was satisfied that both reasons for refusal had been satisfied by the appellant, and was also satisfied that matters of noise, dust, health and traffic had been properly addressed by the modelling work undertaken on behalf of the appellant.
The Halton Lea Gate site in Northumberland occupies an area of thirty hectares. Mining operations are due to start in 2013, recovering high quality coking coal, as well as steam coal for power plants.
Adapted from a press release by Jonathan Rowland.