Government does not back buffer bid

NRHNBE100506a8, Amber valley general election count, Alfreton leisure centre. Concervative candidate Nigel Mills.
NRHNBE100506a8, Amber valley general election count, Alfreton leisure centre. Concervative candidate Nigel Mills.

MPs for Broxtowe and Amber Valley have spoken in Parliament to give their backing to a bill which would see a buffer zone put in place between homes and opencast mines across our area.

But after a heated debate, Communities and Local Government Minister Andrew Stunnell told the House of Commons that the Government did not support the bill.

There is currently a 500-metre buffer in place for Scottish and Welsh mining applications, but not for English mines such as the existing Lodge House site at Smalley and the proposed site near Trowell and Cossall.

Andrew Bridgen, MP for North West Leicestershire, presented the bill. He said: “There is an argument that the anomaly of England being deprived of a buffer zone of the kind that Scotland and Wales enjoy is a breach of English people’s human rights.”

Amber Valley member Nigel Mills added: “The residents of Smalley already have to contend with a site that has been going for a couple of years, and they are now faced with several more years of it.

“They face the blight of 90 lorries coming in and out and of the blasting and the noise from the mine, perhaps within 70 metres – under the new application – of some of the houses.

“It is an effective measure in Wales and Scotland, so let us have it in England, too.”

Broxtowe MP Anna Soubry said: “The Bill is relevant to my constituents, who currently face the third application from UK Coal to develop an open-cast mine near the villages of Cossall and Trowell.

“Broxtowe contains an abundance of houses, and we do not have much green belt land.

“The application relates to the heart of that precious land, and it fills many of us with horror, not just because of the dust and noise but because there will be some eight lorry movements an hour.

“We can imagine the impact that will have, not just on the residents of Cossall and Trowell but on all the other communities that will be affected.

“They do not know whether their beautiful, precious, highly treasured countryside will be blighted and scarred forever by opencast mining.”

But Communities Secretary Andrew Stunell said: “Let me say, in plain words, that the Government do not support the bill.

“Coal continues to play an important role in our energy mix and is likely to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

“It is a reliable form of energy and it makes a significant contribution to meeting UK energy demand.”

Conservative MP Mr Bridgen, who is fighting an application in his constituency, added: “I hate to say this to the Minister, but I think he is digging a big hole for himself on this issue, and we will be back.”

Mr Stunell was still talking when time ran out for debate on the bill, so it will return for a second reading on October 28.