Mine consent fight studied

Telford and Wrekin Council lawyers are considering whether the authority has a case to challenge the government's decision to approve an opencast coal mine.

Council leader Andrew Eade said it is urgently examining every aspect of communities secretary John Denham's decision to allow UK Coal's appeal for the Huntington Lane site.

The firm appealed after the authority failed to determine the application to work 900,000 tonnes of coal and potentially 250,000 tonnes of fireclay over 32 months.

The council argued that the proposals would harm the Shropshire Hills area of outstanding natural beauty and have an unacceptable impact on local residents.

However, last week Denham backed the scheme in line with advice from his planning inspector. There is a national need for coal, the harm to the area would be temporary and the site would be restored, he concluded.

UK Coal spokesman Stuart Oliver said: "We are pleased that the importance of coal reserves is recognised and that overall the proposals will have a positive effect on the economy.

"More than 40 conditions covering the operation and restoration are attached to the consent, which are designed to protect the environment and those living near the site," he insisted.

UK Coal will establish a liaison committee of local representatives to monitor progress and decide how to spend the £500,000 pledged for a community trust fund. The company hopes to start work by next summer, once conditions are discharged.

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