Forest of Dean Northern Quarter regeneration approved

The former Northern United colliery site in Cinderford
Image caption The former Northern United colliery site is owned by a government body
The former Northern United colliery site in Cinderford
Image caption Wildlife experts believe the area is one of the best in Gloucestershire for wildlife
An artists' impression of the Northern United site
Image caption Nearly 40 business units are expected to be created at the Northern United site

Plans to regenerate a former deep mine in the Forest of Dean have been given the go-ahead, but with conditions.

The developers of the Northern United Colliery site in Cinderford must sign a legal agreement to look after protected species in the area before work starts.

Wildlife experts have said they will ask the Secretary of State to "call in" the decision.

But the government agency behind the plans said it was spending £50,000 to protect the wildlife habitats.

The area is currently home to three protected species; dormice, bats and great crested newts.

300 jobs

The plans are to turn the old mine into 11,000 sq m of office and employment space.

A similar project to create 2,800 sq m of office space at Forest Vale Industrial Park has also been approved.

The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) said the plans would bring some 300 jobs and £11m investment into the Forest.

David Warburton, from the agency, said they were "crucial projects" for the Forest of Dean.

He said: "The Forest has not captured quite as much investment over recent years. Investment which is needed to really regenerate the area to provide new homes, new jobs and new educational facilities."

He added he was "absolutely confident we are putting all measures in place to mitigate any harm or danger to wildlife".

'Significant application'

Last year Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust objected to the regeneration plans after the former colliery was designated a Key Wildlife Site.

A panel of wildlife experts believe the area is one of the best sites in Gloucestershire for wildlife.

Colin Studholme, from the trust, said: "In all the years the Wildlife Trust has been commenting on planning applications, this is probably the most significant one as far as wildlife is concerned."

The colliery, which closed in 1965, is owned by the HCA and was one of four 'priority investment areas' identified by the Cinderford Regeneration Board.

The outline planning applications are set to deliver:

  • Nearly 40 business units and potential to create a new facility linked to the area's mining heritage at the Northern United site. An improved entrance to the site from the A4136 has also been approved.
  • Two new purpose-built buildings at Forest Vale Industrial Park for employment space, plus improvements to provide better access to the site.

A separate planning application for a £10.5m spine road is expected to be made to the district council in June.

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