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Sharlston Colliery Site Reclamation

Image 1 for Sharlston Colliery Site Reclamation
LOCATION

The former Sharlston Colliery Site is located immediately east of New Sharlston village, 1km north of Sharlston Common and 5km east of the City of Wakefield, West Yorkshire. Grid Reference SE 384203 is the centre of the site.

HISTORY OF THE SITE

Sharlston Colliery closed in 1993 and all the surface buildings, headgear etc were demolished and cleared. The most interesting thing about the site, biodiversity-wise, is that the Colliery stacks had not been used for tipping purposes for over 25 years: also the cleared site had been left and there were no proposals to develop the site until after the UDP Review of2001/2002. The site, which was classed as A Brownfield Site within Greenbelt, had started to regenerate and now supported a very distinct fauna and flora unusual in the Wakefield district.

SITE PROPOSALS

The proposals for this site were:-

  • To remove the 60 hectare site from greenbelt.
  • To obtain planning permission to Opencast the site removing some 360,000 tonnes of coal 100,000 tonnes of fireclay and 377,000 tonnes of red shale.
  • To build 500 houses on the western side of the site.
  • To build an industrial estate on the eastern side.
These proposals were to be put to the Inspector at the UDP Review. The Wakefield District Biodiversity group was not in agreement with these proposals. After considering the objections put forward by the Biodiversity Group, and local residents, the Inspector decided that the site should remain in greenbelt and building on the site, as above, would not be sustainable.

BIODIVERSITY OF THE SITE

To accompany the application, survey work had to be done on the site. From the site 54 species of birds, of which 1 Red Data Book Species, 6 Red List Species, and 10 Amber List Species, were recorded. The invertebrate list was also very interesting with 2 Red Data Book One flies: also notable A and B Invertebrates were listed and quite a few invertebrates at their northern limits. The site also contained many varied habitats ie dry grassland, bare ground, different types of wetland, some deep water. The above habitats contained a good variety of plants, 3 Species of orchids, and numerous (uncommon in the district) water plants. Mammals, brown hare, and water voles, and amphibians were also noted as being present on the site.

THE FIRST PROPOSAL TO OPENCAST

The first proposal to opencast the site, after the Inspector’s decision, would have cleared the site totally and then restored to fields woodland and some large ponds/wetlands, providing for wildlife around the edge of the site: it would also include the building of some 40 homes on a small section of white land in the southwest corner of the site, with the provision of footpaths and bridleways across the site giving better public access.

The Biodiversity Group did not agree with the site being totally cleared during the operations, and would have preferred a stepped programme of operations, which would have retained habitats whilst the work progressed on the opencasting, allowing wild life to move into safe havens as the site progressed.

Finally the Planning Department called a meeting of all interested parties and a way forward was worked out which overcame all the difficulties.

AFTER GRANTING OF PLANNING PERMISSION

Before any excavations took place

A large area of land to the north of the site was set aside as a translocation area for as much of the rare flora and fauna as possible. This area has south /southwest facing slopes. Following this a programme to translocate all the orchids from site took place: this area was also set aside to provide for translocations of soils so the rare flies and notable A and B invertebrates had a recreated area in which to move to and breed.

An area to the east of the site, with the Went beck running along its northern edge before it went into a culvert, was chosen to create a pond specifically designed to encourage water vole to move from the site to a safe haven. This worked very successfully. Next all the wetland plants that were scarce in the district and required saving (in agreement with U.K. Coal, Planning Department and flood alleviation personnel ) were to be translocated off site to receptor sites around the Wakefield District under the control of the flood alleviation department. The plants were to be lifted in large sections with a JCB; moved on flat bed lorries; and then split into smaller sections to increase the number of plants and locations for the rarer species: this was done over a twelve month period. The plants have become established in the new locations (this process was a great success), and seed is now being taken so we can sow it - not only on the Sharlston site but on further wetland developments earmarked for future flood alleviation work. By using seed there is less chance of translocating any invasive or unwanted species to new sites.

PLANNING PERMISSION WAS GRANTED 2007

Excavation work commenced in 2007 and was completed just after Easter 2009. Restoration work commenced whilst excavation work was in progress, and will be completed in 2010, when an aftercare programme of ten years will commence.

RESTORATION OF THE SITE

The restoration site plan was agreed by all parties (Biodiversity Group, Planning Department and U.K. Coal) during the original planning application process, and contained 2 large water bodies; farm fields with hedges ditches; and a further 2 ponds to accommodate water runoff from the new land formed. There is also heathland, woodland (including both wet and broadleaf), species rich grassland with footpaths and bridal ways crisscrossing the whole area for public access.

Flood alleviation work was being carried out on Sharlston Low Common (to the south east of the site) in the early part of 2007, to relieve some of the flooding problems in Streethouse village. During this work, it was decided to look at the possibility of also using the larger lake to accommodate over-spill water from the Went beck (which runs through the village and takes away surface runoff water) to further reduce flooding in Streethouse, which is to the east of the site. This was agreed by all parties, and was welcomed as a benefit to the community, and wildlife of the site, as larger wetlands were created in the restoration scheme. This work will be completed in 2010 it will also help to achieve some of the habitat creation schemes for the biodiversities action plans