CONTRACTORS consulted with residents over controversial plans to extract 175,000 tonnes of coal near thousands of homes, at a public exhibition last weekend.
Some 300 residents visited the exhibition, which took place over two days in Clay Cross and Holmgate, to find out more about the Hilltop mining proposals from a team at Provectus Remediation.
Opencasting plans for the site, which is to the west of the A61 north of Clay Cross, have sparked outcry amongst residents who fear the three-year scheme will cause pollution, damage wildlife and affect the rural nature of the area.
But Provectus say the proposals could mean jobs for the area, and benefit the community.
Bryn Hopkinson, consultant to Provectus, said: “We have, from the outset, wanted to engage with the local community about our plans, although the decision as to whether a planning application is made will depend on the result of this summer’s evaluations.
“Many residents have been re-assured that there would be no blasting on the site, lorries would not use the estate roads and all woodland and the majority of hedgerows would be preserved. In fact, the exhibitions provided a welcome opportunity to allay some of the rather extraordinary claims that have been circulating locally about potential hazards to health and the environment.
“We have had a good deal of interest in jobs too, and we are already receiving applications, especially from young local people.
“The economic benefit to local tradesmen and businesses that would also flow from the scheme was welcomed — from bacon butty vans and newsagents to specialist tyre suppliers, electrical and fencing contractors, diesel engine fitters and vehicle parts suppliers.”
Potential community benefits unveiled included suggestions from individuals, community associations and the District Council, such as a multi use games area, improvements to Sharley park leisure centre, and a flood prevention scheme for Holmgate residents.
Visitors to the exhibition also heard about the potential to restore that part of the track of the Ashover Light Railway that lay within the site along with the re-erection of the iconic Rainbow Café perhaps in conjunction with a farming educational centre for the benefit of local children.
Mr Hopkinson, added: “Our only disappointment was that a small number of people appear to be creating unnecessary concerns, but thankfully many local residents have taken the trouble to get in touch with us directly for reassurance and we hope that they will continue to do so.
“At the end of the summer when the results of the evaluations are finalised we will make a decision whether to proceed with our application and at that point we would of course communicate the details to the community.”
For more information visit www.hilltop-project.com or call 01245 505 600.