Residents prepare legal action over coal plant

Cowley Residents Action Group outside Shefffielkd Town Hall as they oppose the planned opencast site at Thorpe Hesley
Cowley Residents Action Group outside Shefffielkd Town Hall as they oppose the planned opencast site at Thorpe Hesley
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RESIDENTS are preparing to take legal action after failing to halt a scheme for a coal recovery operation in Sheffield.

They were dismayed at the council’s go-ahead last January for the venture at the former Hesley Wood spoil heap in Chapeltown, warning that the dust could damage the health of people living nearby, especially those with asthma.

Now legal action is being planned against the council, claiming it failed to take full account of the impact of the development on air quality when it granted permission to Doncaster-based RecyCoal Ltd.

Cowley Residents Action Group have instructed legal representatives with a view to a possible judicial review of the council’s decision. It is aiming to raise about £8,000 from community donations to help finance the action.

The Hesley Wood spoil heap was used for the disposal of colliery waste from the former Smithy Wood Colliery. RecyCoal aims to reprocess the waste to produce 395,000 tonnes of coal over five years.

The company says it will be an “environmentally-led” operation, with the site being reclaimed and restored to public open space afterwards. New woodland, grassland and wetland habitats will be created.

Councillors approved the scheme after being satisfied that there would be no problems with dust and no risk to public health.

But the community action group claims that the council did not undertake a health impact assessment and failed to fully take into account Sheffield’s status as an Air Quality Action Zone.

A similar scheme in West Yorkshire has been deferred by the council until a health assessment has been undertaken, says the group.

From April 1, local authorities have responsibility for public health, it is pointed out.

The Sheffield residents say that even if it is too late to prevent the coal recovery operation, digging could take place further away from houses and the park to help address concerns over health.

Dennis Howe, treasurer of Cowley Residents Action Group, said the council “had not listened” to their concerns. “There were a lot of things they haven’t taken into consideration.”

He criticised the attitude of the planning committee. “They pulled a piece of string and all the Labour councillors’ hands went up in unison.”

It is the second threat of a judicial review facing the council.

A community group in Stocksbridge is taking legal action over what it says has been a failure of the council to consult fully over the proposed closure of the leisure centre and swimming pool.