Delight as opencast mine plans for Midlothian are withdrawn

Malcolm Spaven  & Cllr Ian Baxter at the proposed site
Malcolm Spaven & Cllr Ian Baxter at the proposed site

The protest group against the opencast mine at Cauldhall has expressed its delight at news that the controversial plans have been dropped.

Three years ago Midlothian councillors approved the plans. However, no work ever started at the site near Penicuik, and last week Hargreaves pulled out of the project.

Protesters outside Midlothian House, November 2013

Protesters outside Midlothian House, November 2013

Hargreaves had planned to excavate 10 million tonnes of coal over 10 years at the 500-acre Cauldhall site, creating 350 local jobs, but the trucks never appeared.

Malcolm Spaven from Stop Cauldhall Opencast is glad that the plans for the site have been shelved.

He said: “It’s absolutely what we always wanted, and they way it’s happened has been pretty much what we predicted. That Longannet would close earlier than what people were saying, and that the demand for coal would slump.

“It’s very positive news because now everybody in that area that would have been affected can look forward to proper and sustainable use of that land instead of it contributing more to climate change.”

Despite his delight that the plans have been dropped, Malcolm is angry that Hargreaves took so long to pull out.

He said: “It’s not unexpected – and long overdue. Effectively everybody expect the public has known for more than a year.

“The people who stood to have the most impact on them have been kept in limbo for three years.

‘‘They didn’t know if they would have employment in the future or a home – and it was completely unnecessary. Hargreaves chose not to inform the council that it would not be going ahead. It has been a cynical move by Hargreaves. It has known for a long time that this site was never going ahead.”

Midlothian Green Councillor Ian Baxter said: “I welcome the withdrawal of plans to open an opencast mine in the heart of our countryside.

“It would have been damaging for tourism, damaging to the environment and given the recent history of opencast coal mines in Scotland would have left us with the possibility of unsightly abandoned mine workings with no money for restoration.

“Despite approval being given three years ago, I am disappointed that the council did not refuse the application when the legal agreement had not been signed within six months as required by Scottish Government guidelines.”

A Midlothian Council spokesman said: “Last week interested parties were notified about the developer’s decision to withdraw from the Cauldhall project.

“The economic climate for coal has changed in recent years and the developer felt it was not financially viable at this time to extract coal from the site. But the developer may consider reviewing that decision in the future.”

Durham-based company Hargreaves took control of Scottish Coal in 2013 following its collapse. It declined to comment on Cauldhall.