Waste ash importation plan approved for Widdrington leisure complex site

A stockpile of more than 400,000 tonnes of ash which is planned to be made into an artificial ski slope near Widdrington looks likely to be approved despite protests

The proposed Blue Sky Forest holiday and leisure complex near Widdrington, Northumberland
The proposed Blue Sky Forest holiday and leisure complex near Widdrington, Northumberland

Plans to bring massive quantities of waste power station ash to a former Northumberland opencast mine look likely to be approved despite protests from four local councils.

Active Leisure Resorts wants to import and stockpile more 400,000 tonnes of pulverised fuel ash at the former Steadsburn site near Widdrington over six months.

The material will be used to help build an artificial ski slope, which is a key component of the £50m, 700-job Blue Sky Forest holiday and leisure complex planned on the site.

The project, unveiled last year, also includes a four-star luxury holiday village, 100 camping pods, a water park and spa, a 50-acre lake and 400 eco-lodge holiday homes.

Active wants to import the waste ash in advance of submitting a planning application for the adventure park, as it claims the ski slope will take about two-and-a-half years to build.

Its application is being recommended for approval by county council planning officials next week, despite objections from four local parish councils – at Widdrington Village, Ulgham, Tritlington/West Chevington and Widdrington Station/Stobswood.

The parish councils are concerned about potential dust nuisance, the proximity of the ash to houses, delay in opencast site restoration and the link to the proposed leisure resort.

Yesterday Val Seddon, who chairs Widdrington Village parish council, said there was opposition to waste fuel ash being imported, and a feeling that the proposal was premature in advance of an application for the full Blue Sky Forest project.

She asked: “If that doesn’t materialise, are we going to be left with 420,000 tonnes of waste ash dumped here?” The chances of it being taken away are negligible.

She added: “We have had 70 years of opencast mining here, foot and mouth disposal sites and have just seen two wind farms approved which local people objected to. Are they now going to use us a dumping ground for someone else’s waste.”

A report to next week’s Northumberland County Council planning and environment committee says an application for the full Blue Sky Forest scheme is expected by the end of this year with the park opening in spring 2016.

Planning officer Joe Nugent said it is felt the ash can be imported with no significant adverse impacts on local communities, the environment or roads.

He says the application would facilitate the Blue Sky Forest development if it goes ahead, but site restoration would not be prejudiced if it does not.

of the proposed Blue Sky Forest resort, should this obtain planning permission. In the event that this development does not proceed, it is considered that the proposal would not prejudice the restoration of the Steadsburn opencast coal site.

“Subject to appropriate treatment the material could be incorporated into the restored landform, or alternatively removed from the site.”

Planning consent is recommended subject to a legal agreement on the provision of a restoration guarantee for the site.

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