Councillor warns of risk to Clay Cross regeneration work

Clay Cross, work on the new pub and roundabout off  Chesterfield Road
Clay Cross, work on the new pub and roundabout off Chesterfield Road

Regeneration work in Clay Cross is being threatened by a bid for opencast coal mining, a councillor has warned.

Outline planning consent is in place for 980 homes at the town’s northern gateway where a new pub and roundabout are being constructed.

An Aldi supermarket will be built on the site of an old industrial unit further along the A61 heading into town.

This first flush of regeneration is being overshadowed by a proposal to opencast around 75 acres of agricultural land.

Councillor Ted Mansbridge, chair of Clay Cross Parish Council’s planning and environmental working group, said: “Opencasting would be the worst possible scenario and will potentially put regeneration back. The developers have got to attract house builders which is difficult in the current climate - it’s going to be even more difficult if the opencast goes ahead.”

A revised application to mine coal at the Hilltop site to the west of the A61 was submitted by Provectus to Derbyshire County Council in January. A decision has yet to be made by the county on the proposal which has drawn objections from campaigners and councillors at parish and district levels.

The entrance to the proposed opencast site would be onto the new roundabout and opposite the pub, on the other side of the main road.

Coun Mansbridge, who represents Clay Cross South on NE Derbyshire District Council, said: “You would have people sitting outside the pub in the summer and children playing with everything covered in coal dust.

“We believe at Clay Cross that we’ve had our fair share in the past. We’ve been under the cosh for years with pipe-makers Biwaters and mining all producing smoke, contaminates and dust whilst still providing jobs.

“We’ve seen the coal mines go and Biwaters closed down which left a lot less employment and a swathe of land.

“The sight and sound of regeneration appeals to everybody. We are seeing regeneration in its infancy and lots of people are buoyed up by it. We want this regeneration to flourish - but we’ve got other things happening that could put it at risk.”

Bryn Hopkinson, who is Provectus’s project co-ordinator for the Hilltop development, said: “The proposed Hilltop scheme involves the extraction of surface coal over a 36-month period after which progressive restoration to a mix of agriculture, landscape enhancement and nature conservation will take place for the benefit of the environment and the local community.

“The scheme will be managed under some of the strictest planning controls in the world. It will not be followed by built development, hard landscaping or any other form of commercial use beyond farming.

“Any potential for negative environmental and local community effects that could arise have been positively addressed in the design of the scheme and scrutinised by specialist consultants.

“Noise assessment has concluded that the operations will have no unacceptable impact on local residents provided that a suite of mitigation measures is incorporated into the scheme. To this we have agreed in full.

“Air quality and dust assessment concluded that no significant effects are likely to arise.

“Provectus Remediation recently implemented a similar surface coal extraction scheme on behalf of the then owners of the former Biwater site on the other side of the A61. Over the four year extraction period of this scheme there were no complaints of noise or dust nuisance or anything else, despite the location of residential property less than 15 metres from the edge of workings.

“The legacy of the Hilltop Project will be improved ecological habitats and landscape enhancement as well as a contribution to a community fund for local initiatives. This could include the provision of a Multi Use Games Area and related toddlers’ park which the people of Holmgate have been seeking without success for many years.

“In addition, the dedication in perpetuity of a new public footpath linking Kenning Park with the proposed new Egstow Country Park will be hugely beneficial to the community for all time.

All the legacy items are sustainable benefits to be enjoyed by the community and its children.”