South Lanarkshire COALcil » Documenting Injustice

Documenting Injustice

The injustices perpetuated on communities by South Lanarkshire Council defy belief – how can a body of supposedly elected representatives work so consistently against the interests of the people they claim to represent? How can they be so complicit in the destruction of already suffering rural communities, and act so in the interests of big business and industry? How can they go to such extraordinary lengths to lie and deceive the people, all to clear a path for Scottish Coal to do as they please?

You could be forgiven for thinking that Scottish Coal are the real enemy. But why should we expect anything less of a company ruled only by the laws of profit and financial gain for its shareholders? South Lanarkshire Council do worse than simply allowing Scottish Coal to do as it pleases – they are active accomplices, and for this have earned themselves the status of “public enemy number 1″.

Here are some of the injustices that the Council are responsible for or complicit in – please contribute to them.

Health Impacts constitute “child abuse”

One of the key issues around open cast coal is the health impacts on local communities. Despite calls for an independent health impact assessment to be carried out in Douglasdale, the Council has never requested this as part of its deliberations on open cast applications. The Council are happy to take the lack of evidence between ill health and open cast as evidence that there are no links – a hugely irresponsible position. The Council’s enforcement of air quality measures is shocking, and they are failing in their responsibility to assess Scottish Coal’s dust monitor data. Council members do everything they can to avoid monitoring of health impacts and the particulate matter that causes them – even failing to request a dust monitor to be placed at Lady Home Hospital, 1km from Mainshill, despite Scottish Coal saying that it is a “highly sensitive receptor” where particulate matter levels are expected to increase. Children in Douglasdale are growing into asthma, and some classes in Douglas Primary have over 30% asthma rates in their children. The Council’s failure to adequately address these issues constitutes child abuse, and gross negligence.

Ignoring Planning Policy

Enshrined in Scottish Planning Policy is a presumption against open cast coal, would you believe. All recent open cast applications submitted to the Council since 2000 have substantially contravened planning policy and guidelines, whether SPP16, SPP, the local plan or the minerals plan. South Lanarkshire Council interpret policy and guidelines as they please, with a fantastic ability to turn any contravention on its head and use it an example of the application satisfying policy requirements!

Ignoring the Plight of the Community

The Council refuses to take the views of communities into account when deciding on open cast applications. Over 650 letters of objection were received against Mainshill Open Cast, and a similar number against Broken Cross North and South extensions. Every survey conducted in the community about people’s views on Mainshill showed beyond doubt that the majority of people in these communities oppose new open cast. The Council does not allow communities to participate in the planning process and even actively helps companies such as Scottish Coal and Scottish Resources Group to sidestep planning regulations, such as holding consultation events when most of Clydesdale is snowed in, and failing to send out neighbor notifications. In this war of attrition that the Council has engaged in for over 10 years, communities have all but given up in trying to affect planning decisions. Why object when your objection will be ignored? Why engage planners and Council workers when you’ll be treated with contempt and marginalised?

Negligence, Malpractice and Lack of Enforcement

The Council have the responsibility of making sure that Scottish Coal comply with the planning conditions imposed on them, and fulfil the legal requirements of the Section 75 agreement signed between them and the council. South Lanarkshire Council employs Roger Dick as Minerals Enforcement Officer, in what is possibly the biggest joke in Clydesdale. Scottish Coal pay his salary – and his job is to make sure they are adhering to planning conditions. He’s a former employee of the coal board, and if the revolving door between Scottish Coal and the Council Planning Department is still in full swing in a few years, he’s sure to be in line for a job with Scottish Coal. There’s more about Roger here. Rather than actually addressing the disagreements that the community has with Scottish Coal, such as the danger on the roads posed by HGVs, noise levels being exceeded, blasting outside of agreed hours, coal being transported on routes other than agreed ones, etc, etc, Roger spends most of his time defending his pals in Scottish Coal and glossing over their illegal activities.

A new minerals plan, just in time!

Local minerals plans are usually replaced every 10 years. However, South Lanarkshire Council are producing a new one, two years early, coinciding conveniently with 3 new open cast applications. What’s the difference between them? Well, the new one has a much greater area highlighted as having “recoverable coal deposits”. The most significant difference, however, is the coal that has suddenly appeared at Glentaggart East and Townhead Wood. This new minerals plan will pave the way for a 4 million tonne mine at Glentaggart East, but will have to be adopted before the planning application goes to planning committee. This is not just a coincidence, it is the Council working hand-in-hand with Scottish Coal, and conspiring directly to allow as much coal to be dug out of the valley as possible. See here for the mysterious growth of grey matter.

Lies and Deception

A big part of Scottish Coal’s campaign to open cast the whole of the Douglas Valley are the lies fed to communities, whether its creating jobs locally, bringing money into the community, promising not to extend mines or properly restoring their open casts. South Lanarkshire Council play an active role in perpetuating these lies. A good example is the requirement of Scottish Coal to disclose diesel consumption on its sites under SPP16. Knowing diesel consumption is important, as some of the most harmful toxins released from the mining come from the low quality diesel used by the machinery. During the Mainshill planning process, diesel consumption information was requested, but never given. Cordon Cameron eventually admitted that the Council “chose not to ask Scottish Coal for the information”. When he realised this admission, he tried to claim that he meant that it just hadn’t been asked for, and anyway under SPP (which superseded SPP16 just after Mainshill was approved) information about diesel consumption isn’t required. This may seem a small issue, but it contributes to all the times that the Council has helped to keep the community in the dark and cover up likely health impacts. For more lies and deception, see South Lanarkshire Council shuts Community out of its own liaison meeting with Scottish Coal and South Lanarkshire Council and Scottish Coal Hand-in-Hand at Community LIE-aison Meeting

Stealing from the Community

The “great coal giveaway” goes further than just coal – as this website’s “Where’s Our Money?” section shows, the Council are letting Scottish Coal get away with millions that should be going to the community, but instead go towards lining the pockets of its executives.

We’d like to hear your stories! Please contribute to this here.

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