One of the North East’s largest companies is to build a new town in Scotland.
Hargreaves Services, the Durham-based mining and bulk material logistics firm, is hoping to secure planning consent in the coming months for a major development comprising 1,600 homes, a school, community facilities and commercial units on the site of a former open cast mine in East Lothian.
Hargreaves acquired the Blindwells site, near Tranent, in July 2013 from the liquidators of collapsed Scottish Coal, in a portfolio of some 30,000 acres of land.
The 300-acre site, which stands on the north east side of the A1, overlooks the Firth of Forth will likely become a commuter settlement for Edinburgh.
It has been allocated for residential development by East Lothian Council, and Hargreaves submitted an application for the plans in October.
In a move designed to drive maximum value from its old mining assets, Hargreaves will spend an estimated £10m-£12m to prepare the site for building by housing developers.
Iain Slater, the firm’s head of property development, said the project is one of six former mining sites in Scotland that Hargreaves is looking to develop with plans including renewable energy installations, forestry and housing.
He said: “We’ve spent just over 18 months working with the local authority on this project to get the most value from the site.
“Our plans come on the back of sporadic development in the area, which has been positive, but hasn’t been substantial enough to bring much needed infrastructure with it, such as roads and schools.
“At the moment there are plans for 1,600 homes, but we’re also working with a local farmer, and could potentially take another four acres to provide space for more plots.”
Mr Slater confirmed that it was likely Hargreaves would work with housing developers to build the plots.
A supermarket, school and small-scale commercial units are also planned for the town, which is likely to be given a name which references the site’s historic links to Bonnie Prince Charlie – who marched across the boggy land in 1745 with his Jacobite troops ahead of the Battle of Prestonpans.
The scheme will also require substantial landscaping works including development’s own loch. Blindwells has not seen open cast mining for some 15 years, however there are still preparatory works for Hargreaves to negotiate before any building work can take place.
Initial works include compacting of the land, where huge mounds of soil are left for periods to ensure the landscape is fit to support building.
Mr Slater said the project was a substantial one for Hargreaves’ small property team – but one that represented the business’ diversification over recent years.
He added: “This project is a big one for us, and it shows just how much the group has diversified in recent years. For us it’s about realising the maximum value from our existing assets.”
If planning consent is granted the firm expect ground works to commence in January 2016.