Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Cauldhall opencast coal mine given green light

Open cast mining
Image caption The proposals will see 10 million tonnes of coal excavated over 10 years

Proposals for a huge new opencast coal mine in Midlothian have been given the go-ahead.

The plans will see 10 million tonnes of coal excavated over 10 years at the 500-acre Cauldhall site near Penicuik.

Nine councillors voted in favour of the mine, which planning officers recommended be approved because it is in the national interest.

Five councillors voted against the mine. The proposals were put forward by the Durham-based company Hargreaves.

It took control following the collapse of Scottish Coal earlier this year.

Hargreaves said the scheme would generate about 350 local jobs.

It has also offered a phased process of site restoration after the coal is removed.

Steve MacQuarrie, of Hargreaves, said: "It's very clear that the decision today is based on ensuring there's a legally binding arrangement in place - a mechanism to ensure and guarantee restoration, and that will be put in place."

A report by planning officers at Midlothian Council recommended the project, which will cover an area the size of 1,000 football pitches, was given the go-ahead, insisting extraction was "necessary and in the national interest".

Fossil fuel

However, local residents, who have formed an action group called Stop Cauldhall Opencast, said the decision was a "travesty of the planning process".

Malcolm Spaven from the protest group said: "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?"

Green MSP for Lothian Alison Johnstone, who is a member of Holyrood's economy and energy committee, said: "The impacts on local communities from this proposal, such as noise, dust and heavy traffic, are completely unacceptable.

"It is utterly illogical to approve yet more coal mining given a whole host of factors.

"Cockenzie power station is switched off so there's nowhere local for this coal to go."

She added: "Scotland has already failed its first two annual climate targets so more fossil fuel is the last thing we need, and we've seen landscapes across Scotland scarred by opencast being abandoned by companies that go bust.

"Hargreaves' plan is contrary to the local plan and the council's economic development strategy."

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said it sent a "terrible signal about Scotland's commitment to tackling climate change".

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