Former mine water lagoons in Derbyshire are to be filled in with 231,000 tonnes of soil and turned into a nature conservation zone – to try to put an end to anti-social behaviour.
Derbyshire County Council has approved the plans from Welbeck Estates Company Ltd to fill the former Creswell Colliery lagoons with soil and other “inert” waste.
The colliery had used several lagoons to treat mine water – a process which ceased in 2012.
They will now be restored for agriculture and nature conservation, in a process which will take three years – and which it is also thought will bring a beneficial use to the site, and prevent any health and safety risks from potential unauthorised entry.
Inert waste is material left over from construction and demolition work and has to comply with strict Environment Agency standards.
A report from the county council states: “The development would allow the mining legacy left by the remaining un-restored lagoons to be removed and leave the site restored for an agricultural and nature conservation after-use.”
The 39-acre site, which came into use with an original nine lagoons in the 1990s, covers an area the size of nearly 20 football pitches.
Between 77,000 and 112,000 tonnes of soil and waste will be used to fill the lagoons each year, with a maximum of 40 vehicles visiting each day and 220 over the course of the working week.
A statement from the applicants reads: “The creation of both the more pleasant environment and the permissive connecting path will contribute to the attractiveness of the area and the availability of the countryside to local residents.
“The current state of the site acts to encourage repeated, severe anti-social activities such as lighting of fires, the abandonment of stolen vehicles, damage to the fencing and theft of plant, which combine to create new hazards on a regular basis.
“The time and effort of the emergency services is needed to combat some of these events and their time is, therefore, not being used productively.”
County councillor Duncan McGregor, Labour, said that he would only support the application if the work was restricted to between 9am and 5pm and not on bank holidays.
He also requested a “wheel wash” be installed to stop earth and mess being tracked along the surrounding roads near the site.
Cllr McGregor said: “There would be noise from lorries and machinery at the site and dust, which are a cause of concern for the residents as this is a very quiet environment at the moment.
“The nature of the waste to be deposited at the site is also of concern and requires clarification as to what would be allowed and how it would be monitored and recorded, for the public to see and feel secure that there is no hazard to health.”
The Environmental Health Officer (EHO) expressed concern about the air quality assessment but accepted that the proposal could be adequately controlled by a Dust Management Plan.
Elmton with Creswell Parish Council expressed concerns about the adequacy of dust and noise controls, vehicle wheel washing facilities, traffic through Creswell village and weight of vehicles using Crags Road, the need for improvements to the site access and the lack of clarity about the nature of the materials to be used for infilling.
Network Rail did not object in principle, but it expressed concerns regarding the integrity of railway infrastructure based on the information provided.
It said there is a need to establish whether a bridge carrying the lagoons access road over a railway “has sufficient load capacity for the vehicles proposed, and to review vehicle containment measures on the bridge/ approaches and improve the surfacing to facilitate the volume of vehicles”.
It agreed that these could be tied up with planning conditions and that the plans should proceed.
Five bird species of “Principal Importance for Conservation” were recorded on site, including the Barn Owl and Woodlark.
County council officers feel that the approved development would bring “potentially positive benefits” for the Woodlark and other plant species.
Derbyshire Wildlife Trust was disappointed that the plans did not “maximise the biodiversity potential” of the site would not retain any permanent water body, similar to the current lagoon, but approved of the creation of “small seasonally-wet hollows” which would fill with water throughout the year.