Sheffield woodland recycled coal scheme scrapped

The former Hesley Wood Colliery Spoil heap which Doncaster-based RecyCoal plans to reclaim.
The former Hesley Wood Colliery Spoil heap which Doncaster-based RecyCoal plans to reclaim.
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A controversial scheme to recover nearly 400,000 tonnes of coal from an old spoil heap in Sheffield has been abandoned.

The Hesley Wood site, in Chapeltown, was set to be the home of a new plant where colliery waste would be removed for reprocessing.

The project was strongly opposed by residents and conservation groups on environmental grounds before it was given the go-ahead by Sheffield Council.

But last January the venture by the RecyCoal company was put on hold when the falling price of coal affected its viability - and now the scheme has been dropped completely. Market fluctuations have also hit the Doncaster firm’s other work, meaning its operations will stop this month, putting 120 jobs at risk.

A spokesman for the business said it was ‘very unlikely RecyCoal will be able to pursue the proposed project’ at Hesley Wood.

Jean Howe, chair of Cowley Residents’ Action Group, which protested against the scheme, claiming the dust could damage the health of people living nearby, said campaigners felt ‘relieved’.

“We warned that the price of coal was going down and it would not be a viable project but no-one listened to us,” she said.

However Jean said she felt ‘saddened’ that trees had been axed on the site in anticipation of the work.

“Thousands of trees were chopped down, we’re not talking about a few. If they had been left it would have been better. So it feels a bit of a hollow victory - but it is a victory.”

The Hesley Wood spoil heap was used for the disposal of colliery waste from the former Smithy Wood Colliery. RecyCoal aimed to reprocess the waste to produce 395,000 tonnes of coal over five years.

The company promised an ‘environmentally-led’ operation, with the site being reclaimed and restored to public open space afterwards. New woodland, grassland and wetland habitats were planned.

RecyCoal said coal processing will also stop at its other site in Rossington, near Doncaster, and a consultation had started with around 120 staff.

“The price of coal has played a large part in the delay in starting the Hesley Wood project and as such is now impacting upon the viability of the Rossington project.

“At present, RecyCoal has a fixed price coal contract of around $100 which is set to end in mid-September 2015, with current coal prices at $60, which is unsustainable.

“Therefore RecyCoal has taken the decision to cease operations and begin a process of managed closure.

“The business is solvent and will continue to trade albeit with limited operations.

“With specific relevance to the Hesley Wood project it is very unlikely RecyCoal will be able to pursue the proposed project but we expect to manage the site for the foreseeable future.”

Meanwhile a decision on plans to build a motorway service station at Smithy Wood has been delayed until next year.

Proposals for the £40m services near junction 35 of the M1 have been objected to by thousands of people who fear irreplaceable ancient woodland and wildlife habitats will be lost.

Applicants Extra Motorway Service Area said it had been asked to undertake several technical studies which would soon be completed.

Separately, a recommendation on whether the wood should be declared a village green is expected shortly, following a public inquiry earlier this year.

Protesters hope the service station will be put in jeopardy if the wood - said to date back 800 years - is granted village green status.

Residents are hosting a community picnic at the Travellers Inn on fields at Smithy Wood Road from 11.30am.