Last Tuesday’s Mainshill Open Cast Coal Site Community Liaison meeting, held in the Glespin Hall, revealed substantial information on just how negligent South Lanarkshire Council has been in enforcing the planning conditions it imposed on Scottish Coal when it approved an application to mine 1.7 million tonnes of coal from Mainshill Wood. There were also startling revelations around how poorly the council monitors and enforces restoration at Scottish Coal’s sites in the Douglas Valley, such as at Dalquhandy, which is still unrestored after almost a decade after mining operations ceased.
Community Liaison meetings have become a focal point for people in the Douglas Valley area to voice their anger at Scottish Coal and South Lanarkshire Council over the impacts that open cast coal mining has on their lives, and for the blatant breaches in procedure that Scottish Coal and the council are responsible for. Tuesday’s meeting was no different, with flash points over dust, traffic and restoration, that had Scottish Coal representatives Colin Ortlepp (Planning Director) and Steve Griffiths (Mainshill site manager) admitting they had disregarded planning conditions, and council representatives Gordon Cameron (Planning & Buildings Headquarters Manager) and Donald Wilkins (Minerals Planning Officer) admitting they were improperly monitoring Scottish Coal’s sites, and powerless to enforce their own planning conditions.
These admissions, however, offer scant compensation for the years of suffering that communities have had to endure. The impacts of opencast are no laughing matter, but when a Douglas Water resident told the meeting how “the sun sets an hour earlier over Douglas Water” because of Scottish Coal’s huge overburden mound at its Broken Cross site, locally referred to as “table mountain”, people in attendance couldn’t help but laugh at the incredulity of the situation.
Back to the planning breaches. Over recent months Scottish Coal have been dousing the B7078 and A70 with water from its on-site bowser, used to reduce dust emissions but in reality having little effect, as well as sweeping these public roads of silt and dust from HGV traffic and mining operations up to three times a day. Water dousing was even happening as roads were frozen, and local residents recorded a layer of silt up to an inch thick covering the B7078 and A70 junction, a hazard to road users. Within this period, Uddington residents – living next to Mainshill – witnessed 4 coal traffic-related accidents in their small community alone.
Eventually, Steve Griffiths revealed that a wheel-wash was only installed at Mainshill earlier this month, after 10 months – almost a year – of Mainshill being operational. Apparently, the absence of a wheel-wash, a vital piece of machinery for reducing dust emissions, was noticed by Roger Dick Minerals Enforcement Officer for the council on one of his infrequent visits, and Scottish Coal were then asked to install one. Gordon Cameron admitted that the council have no real means of enforcement – all they can do is ask the company to respect the planning conditions and hope they comply.
What price will Scottish Coal have to pay for blatantly ignoring planning conditions for nearly a year, causing danger to the roads and huge dust emissions from their HGV’s? None. And what exactly does the Minerals Enforcement Officer, Roger Dick, do with his time if it took 10 months to notice such an important thing? In fact, what is the point in planning applications, planning approvals, conditions and all the rest of it, if when it comes down to it there is no accountability and no one is made to pay for these breaches?
Its time for heads to roll, and a good start would be with Colin Ortlepp, Steve Griffiths, Donald Wilkins, Roger Dick and Gordon Cameron, as the people ultimately responsible for planning and enforcement at Scottish Coal and South Lanarkshire Council.
Make your voice heard – the next Mainshill liaison meeting will take place on the 21st June, in the Glespin Hall at 18:30.