Not so long ago we looked at the attempt by Andrew Bridgen MP and others to introduce a legal requirement for a 500m buffer zone between opencast mines and nearby dwelling places.
As I`ve previously indicated, Mr Bridgen`s proposal has cross-party support and also the support of environmentalists and groups representing coalfield communities.
Among his supporters we find real ale afficionado and Notts County fan Nigel Mills MP. Mr Mills is the member for Amber Valley and has this to say on the subject ;
"We are trying to protect people who have had the unfortunate accident of living next to these sites from some of the worst aspects of the blight that arises if they are unlucky enough to have an opencast mine proposed near them."
Mr Mills knows the issues that can arise. His Midlands constituency is home to UK Coal`s controversial Lodge House mine and another company, LEM, is proposing a second mine in the area.
The issue has given rise to strong feelings in the area for a variety of reasons, not least because central government (the previous administration) over-ruled the local authority in allowing the Lodge House development to go ahead. There are clearly issues in terms of impact on the environment and on the quality of life of local people, and that`s before we touch on the merits or otherwise of reliance on fossil fuels. Anna Soubry MP, who faces similar proposals in her Nottinghamshire constituency, has cited Lodge House as a situation where UK Coal promised to generate local jobs but is now having trouble justifying those claims.
Coverage in the local press has been extensive. Competing for your attention with literary epics on other burning issues of the day such as `Half Term Potato Fun` (Ilkeston Advertiser), `Thieves Pick up a Penguin` (Ripley and Heanor News) and `Strange UFOs Spotted on A38...` (Ripley and Heanor News again), a number of very good articles on issues around opencast mining have appeared. Here are a few of the more recent ones ;
Derby Telegraph Group (http://www.thisisderbyshire.co.uk/)
Catherine Oakes - Anti-Open Cast Group Appeals for Secret Vote... - 22 Feb 2011
Unsigned - Villagers Fight Second Mining Bid - 22 Feb 2011
Chris Mallet - Open Cast Mining Plans `Intolerable` Says MP...- 10 Feb 2011
Ilkeston Advertiser (http://www.ilkestonadvertiser.co.uk/)
Unsigned - `Free For All` On Mine Bids - 2 Mar 2011
Unsigned - Mining `Could Last Decade` - 2 Mar 2011
Unsigned - Government Does Not Back Buffer Bid - 23 Feb 2011
Ripley and Heanor News (http://www.ripleyandheanornews.co.uk)
Unsigned - Mining Plan Goes to Vote - 28 Feb 2011
Stephen Sinfield - `Under Siege` by Opencasting - 19 Jan 2011
With new developments on a fairly regular basis, it`s also worth a bit of background reading. Sarah Bould ot the Ripley and Heanor News (see link above) wrote an informative but also readable and concise article `Where the Smalley Opencast Debate Began` (16 March 2007) which is still online.
If you`re misguided enough to want to read more of my own efforts you might try one of these;
The WAG Man Returns...(this blog, 1 Oct 2010)
Congratulations and Commiserations...(this blog, 20 Feb 2011)
It`s interesting to see how `real politics` like this often transcends the narrow, Westminster-based party politics our leaders like to play at.
In my personal view (I have no party political allegiance), at leadership level both the major parties have behaved badly over this issue - Labour by over-ruling the local authority and allowing Lodge House to proceed, and the Conservatives by not backing Mr Bridgen (though many Conservative MPs, particularly those from the Midlands, did give their support). By contrast, Mr Bridgen has fought a good fight and certainly won the respect of many who may not always agree with him on many other issues. As I`ve been at pains to stress, his Bill is supported by a number of political parties and I hope that will continue to be the case.
As for Mr Mills, since he`s fond of football, I`d hope that we`s all agree that on this issue the boy from Brinsley done good !