A PROJECT to restore woodland following a coal recovery scheme will not be affected by plans for a high-speed rail line, landowners have pledged.
ReCycoal, the Doncaster-based firm which won planning permission to excavate 395,000 tonnes of coal at the former Hesley Wood tip near Chapeltown, has assured residents its plan to transform the site into a country park once work has been carried out remains unchanged.
The pledge comes after the announcement Hesley Wood falls into land earmarked for the proposed route for the Government’s high-speed rail link along with 11 other wildlife habitats.
Cowley Residents’ Action Group – Chapeltown residents who fought ReCycoal’s plans – raised questions over the timings of the decision.
Jean Howe, secretary of CRAG, said: “It makes you wonder if they knew beforehand.
“The Lib Dem councillors asked for the decision to be deferred for a health assessment and it was refused, then comes the news about high-speed rail.
“The country park was the carrot on the stick for these plans. If ReCycoal sell the land to the Government it will be for much more than they bought it for. This was supposed to be for the public.”
But David Stafford, marketing manager at ReCycoal, said: “We found out at the same time as everyone else.
“This line could be 32 years away and we will still be carrying out the restoration, so it means the community will have more than 20 years to benefit from the scheme.
“We don’t just take coal out, wash it then finish. We will be working to put things back and make sure everything looks as natural as possible. Trees will be planted at Hesley Wood, mostly silver birch. The plan is to do this as we move across the site to try and reclaim the landscape. There will be after care for between five and 10 years.”
A Sheffield Council spokesman said: “We found out along with everybody else.
“Some very minor discussions over the possible connection - one for the city centre and one for the north of Sheffield - had taken place but they were subject to confidentiality agreements.”