COMMUNITIES in Sheffield fear their safety could be put at risk by plans to extract coal from wasteland near their homes.
Residents on Chapeltown’s Cowley estate have voiced their objections to company Recycoal’s proposal to excavate 395,000 tonnes of coal from the former Hesley Wood spoil tip.
The Doncaster-based firm wants to spend three-and-a-half years carrying out the recovery and restoration scheme, and plans to sell on coal to power stations, creating 35 jobs.
Around 90 residents and local councillors attended a meeting organised by Cowley Residents Action Group.
A spokesman for Recycoal moved to reassure residents, saying: “The project will deliver real benefits for local people through the provision of a very high quality landscape on completion of the project.
“Recycoal accepts there will be some limited short-term localised environmental impacts during the operations, which it will mitigate and control, well within acceptable levels defined in planning guidance.”
But organisers voiced concerns about potential air pollution from the site, which they fear could impact on the health of the whole of Chapeltown, Thorpe Hesley, Ecclesfield, and surrounding areas.
Jean Howe, chairwoman of CRAG, said: “Some residents went to visit a retired GP, Dr Van Steenis MBBS, who is one of the UK’s leading experts on air pollution.
“He has researched industrial air pollution with its consequential health damage and illnesses. There are different size particles thrown up when heavy machinery is used to shovel the coal or coke.
“The larger particles form the dirt and dust on washing and windows. The very tiny particles are the ones you can’t see.
“They are called PM2.5 and PM1s that can cause asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, heart attacks, type two diabetes and depression.”
The group said research showed particles can also be linked to cancers, low birth weight in babies, and disruption to immune systems.
“Recycoal say their system is a wet one, but from Dr Van Steenis’ research these very tiny particles will still be released into the atmosphere and will travel up to three miles from the site, depending on the wind. Spraying with water cannot completely remove these particles.
“Where will all the wildlife go? At the end of the scheme we will be left with a barren wasteland, not a wonderful country park.”
CRAG is urging people to lodge objections to Sheffield Council by the September 14 deadline.