Opencast company UK Coal fails to meet restoration deadline of Northumberland site

UK Coal has still to carry out restoration measures at a Northumberland opencast site, more than a year after the deadline

The nearby Stobswood opencast site where mining has also now finished
The nearby Stobswood opencast site where mining has also now finished

Restoration of an opencast site in Northumberland has still to be completed more than a year after council deadlines.

UK Coal was due to have carried out a number of restoration measures at its Steadsburn coal site at Widdrington by the end of December 2012, with work at the site having ceased.

However, it has emerged that a number of those measures are still to be implemented.

These include failure to reinstate public footpaths which were blocked off to allow for the opencast operation, and failure to reconnect some neighbouring residents to the main drainage system after they were put on to septic tanks to allow the operation to proceed.

UK Coal apologised for the delays, but said it had agreed with planning officials to come off site as a result of weather and proposals for a major redevelopment of the site hindering work.

The company was given planning permission to work the site by Northumberland County Council in 2005.

Work at the site has since ended and a number of restoration measures were due to have been completed by the end of December 2012, under the terms of the planning conditions.

Last night, Jeanette Pearman, who lives nearby, said of the closed paths: “As a resident I am extremely disappointed that we are not able in 2014 to access this area as we were led to believe. The site is still fenced off and not restored.”

She told how her home had still not been reconnected to the main drainage system and how UK Coal had been emptying the tank initially but that it appeared to no longer be doing so.

Val Seddon, chairman of Widdrington Village Parish Council, said members had raised the issues at a liaison meeting.

She said: “Obviously the restoration should have been finished by December 2012 and we are now well into 2014 and it has been left. Last year there was virtually no restoration carried out at all on the site despite the fact we had a really good dry summer.

“I think residents are not particularly happy with the whole situation.”

UK Coal last night said plans for a major redevelopment of the site, by Active Leisure, have contributed to the delays.

In a statement, the company said: “The particularly wet weather in 2012 and 2013 caused a number of delays on site. We have planned to go back on site when the weather improves in late spring.

“We apologise to the public for the delay, however, it is important that the footpaths remain closed until it is safe to allow users access to the area.

“In addition, some of the restoration work has been delayed following a successful application for a minor variation to the original planning application by the developer, Active Leisure.

“The planning application by Active Leisure is subject to a further application due to be submitted in the next few months.

“The new application impacts upon our schedule to reinstate the top soil on site. Subsequently, UK Coal has agreed with planning officers, that due to the recent adverse weather and the new application, to come off site.”

A council spokesperson said: “We are aware that some elements of the restoration of the site have taken longer than the planning conditions allow for, and are working with UK Coal in an attempt to minimise the impact of these delays, and to secure an acceptable site restoration as quickly as possible.

“The majority of the site is now restored, and we are expecting the remainder of the work to be done during the spring.”

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