Residents’ last ditch bid to stop coal wash plant

The former Hesley Wood Colliery Spoil heap which Doncaster-based RecyCoal plans to reclaim.
The former Hesley Wood Colliery Spoil heap which Doncaster-based RecyCoal plans to reclaim.
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RESIDENTS fighting a proposed coal washing plant in Chapeltown are preparing a last ditch attempt to halt the scheme.

They are set to lobby councillors with the aim of overturning an officers’ recommendation to give the go-ahead for the extraction and cleaning of 395,000 tonnes of coal from the old Hesley Wood spoil tip.

“We are hoping common sense will come out,” said Chris Sumner, of Cowley Residents Action Group, one of the many objectors to the application from Doncaster-based Recycoal.

Councillors will decide at a special meeting on Tuesday whether to accept their officers’ advice or to take the view of protesters who are complaining at the prospect of dust, contamination, traffic, noise and flooding if the site off Smithy Wood Road is used for the operation over three years.

Officers have concluded that there are no significant planning grounds for refusing permission as long as a long list of conditions is met.

In particular, they are dampening down worries about contaminated dust on the basis that the coal would not be removed by opencast mining, but by a “wet” process. Campaigners claim that tiny particles can still be released into the atmosphere, and travel up to three miles, depending on the wind, but a council report says evidence submitted by the applicant is in line with guidelines and residents will not be exposed to air pollution above national targets.

Objectors are unconvinced.

“A lot of local doctors are raising their eyebrows that the application is still alive because it will affect local people quite heavily,” said Mr Sumner, aged 65, who fears his asthma will be exacerbated by the proposed process.

Many residents of the Cowley estate have retired, and wanted to relax in peace, not to be “bombarded” by the issues being thrown up by the proposed coal washing plant, he added.

Two action groups have been formed - Cowley Residents’ Action Group and Cowley Health and Environment Group - in response to the plans to separate coal from the spoil that came from the Smithy Wood Colliery between 1938 and 1972. Councillors will also be under pressure to take into account four petitions, the largest with 5,150 names.

At the same time, they will have to balance the recommendation of officers to give the all-clear after their investigations indicated all the issues had been addressed.

They are welcoming the prospect of the landscaping of the site into “a mosaic of woodland and grassland” so it can be used by the public after the coal washing, which would be an improvement to the green belt.

The meeting is at the town hall at 2pm. “We’ll be going,” said Mr Sumner. “We’ll be making our representations in front of the planning committee.”