Midlothian Council has granted planning permission for a new 1,200 acre opencast coal mine, which is forecast to create 350 new jobs.
Councillors approved the application from Hargreaves Surface Mining Ltd for the mine, subject to conditions, including binding agreements on its restoration after mining is completed in a decade’s time.
The mine, around 2km south of Rosewell, is expected to produce 10m tonnes of coal over a 10 year period. The coal will be sold to power stations for generating electricity.
Cllr Owen Thompson, chair, planning committee – who, coincidentally also became Leader of the SNP-run Midlothian Council yesterday – , said: “We have fully considered this proposal and approved it.
“We are putting in strict conditions and have guarantees in place on the restoration of this land once mining has been completed. This will be a phased development, with each area mined and restored before the company moves onto the next area as the project progresses and that gives us some peace of mind over the future restoration of the site.”
The new Hargreaves mine will directly employ 230 people with a further 114 people expected to be employed by other businesses providing services to the mine operator, with the economic benefit of the development put at £475m over the life of the mine.
Hargreaves will set up a community trust fund, where it pays a levy on every tonne of coal produced by the mine. This levy will go into the fund, which is thought to total £2.75m over the life of the mine to be available for community projects. A further £1.7m will also be available through a special second Coal Authority levy.
Peter Gillatt, Managing Director of Durham-based Hargreaves Mining, said; “This development is extremely positive news for the people of Midlothian and the Scottish coal industry, who will see genuine benefit from the hundreds of jobs that the mine at Cauldhal Moor will create”.
The council received just under 300 letters and a 500 signature petition in connection with the application but local residents and campaigners have expressed ‘outrage’ and said: “This is a travesty of the planning process,” said objector.
This is the first application to be heard after the Scottish coal industry collapsed earlier this year and local resident and members of action group Stop Cauldhall were vociferous in their campaign against the Cauldhall Moor’s operation. Malcolm Spaven, from the campaign, said: “The fact that an application like this has been approved despite everything that’s wrong with it is extremely disappointing. What’s the point in Scottish and Local Planning Policy if it can all be torn to shreds at the whim of a Planning Committee?”
Alison Johnstone, a Holyrood MP for the Green Party and a member of the parliamentary Energy committee, commented: “The impacts on local communities from this development, such as noise, dust and traffic, are completely unacceptable.”