Straw’s bridge is beauty spot


I read with interest the recent article “Beauty spot on show” (Ilkeston Advertiser 29 September); it is commendable that local people attach such value to the Straw’s Bridge Nature Reserve in an area that has lost so much of its open spaces over the last forty years.

Too much has been redeveloped, “tidied-up”, or built upon – none of it good for either biodiversity or the well-being/informal recreation needs of local residents.

What we see today at Straw’s Bridge today follows-on from a long and diverse history; much was once part of Potter’s Coal Wharf on the Nutbrook Canal, with a profusion of nearby lime-kilns, shallow coal/ironstone pits, and tramways.

For many years later much of the site was essentially derelict and somewhat overgrown, but was also a haven for wildlife.

There appears, however, some contemporary confusion as to how what we see slowly maturing on the site today actually got there, and the article implies this was directly the result of coal extraction (opencast mining); this is incorrect.

The actual events are very different. Initially a company applied for permission to opencast coal on the site; this application was rejected.

However the company in question, apparently having history of similar ploys, returned with an alternative plan to dig trout-ponds, and finance the exercise with any “incidental” coal found.

Permission was granted, but as work got underway, the area became a standing joke in local circles as the only trout ponds in the country with a depth of 80 feet, i.e. ten times that required.

Much “incidental coal” was extracted, yet the company still went bust just as the excavations ran-out of reserves to sell.

The site was abandoned to deteriorate, and during bad weather, the adjacent Nutbrook burst its banks and flooded the entire site, creating a highly dangerous area which was also devoid of all earlier ecological interest.

Let us be clear who cleared-up this mess to sow the seeds of what we see at Straw’s Bridge today; not the opencast industry, but Derbyshire County Council.

Why is this important now? Because on October 13th, DCC will finally decide upon the application to extend the Lodge House opencast mine between Mapperley and Smalley; just like the original Lodge House site, this is against the wishes of most local people.

At Shortwood Farm, Cossall, the same company – UK Coal – is ramping-up yet another opencast application, which apart from anything else risks utter traffic chaos with hundreds of vehicles per day trying to join and leave the A609 at Trowell – again against the wishes of most local people.

UK Coal is in a parlous financial position and seeks to stay in business at our expense.

If it goes bust, there will be some pretty big holes to fill-in and pretty big arguments to resolve irrespective of financial restoration bonds etc.

It is important that places like Straw’s Bridge do not give the opencast industry the local propaganda it currently so desires.

Remember who put today’s “Beauty spot” there – yes, that’s right – the local taxpayer.

Joe Henshaw

Mapperley Village