On Tuesday morning Planning Committee Councillors decided to approve Scottish Resources Groups’s application for Happendon Wood. As they did this, activists set off two stink bombs in the committee room where the councillors were meeting, briefly occupied part of the council HQ roof, and unfurlled a banner saying: South Lanarkshire COALcil – Pushing through Dirty Development”
Here’s the press release:
At 10am on Tuesday morning councillors on the South Lanarkshire Council Planning Committee convened to rubber stamp a Scottish Resources Group application to develop Happendon Wood and Poniel . Activists set off two stink bombs in the committee room as the Happendon decision was made to show their disgust at the application’s approval. Simultaneously, activists briefly occupied part of the council building roof and unfurled a banner reading “South Lanarkshire COALcil – Pushing through Dirty Development”.
Susan Mell of Coal Action Scotland  said “The outcome of this planning committee meeting was a forgone conclusion. The fact that not one of the 72 objections submitted to South Lanarkshire Council by community members was considered by the Planning Committee shows the planning process for what it is – a farce. I wanted to show my disgust at such an undemocratic institution by making it clear just how much the Council stinks.”
The Happendon Wood development has been controversial from the outset, and the subject of a 6-month long occupation by the Happendon Wood Action Camp. The camp is trying to prevent the industrial and retail development and the almost inevitable open cast coal mine that will precede construction .
In their press release, South Lanarkshire Council claim that the approval will bring £30m to rural South Lanarkshire and create up to 1700 jobs. Further, Graham Scott, Chair of the Planning Committee claimed that developments which provide employment or community benefit should be encouraged.
In response to this, Susan Mell said: “When have communities around here ever seen any genuine investment or benefit from these proposals? For example, there’s a grand total of 12 jobs at near-by Dewars, when many more were promised. This is the third time such a development has been proposed for Happendon Wood, each time a new way to justify mining it – and each time the permission has expired with no development. Dangle jobs and false promise of community benefit in front of the planning committee and they’ll jump at anything!”.
Fiona Reed, living at the camp, said: “This application is open casting through the back door – all you have to do is read the Coal Authority consultation to see that. Where there’s recoverable coal, Scottish Coal will go for it no matter what people locally want.”
South Lanarkshire Council Planning Committee has been under heavy criticism recently for approving plans for a toxic waste incinerator at Dovesdale despite 24,000 objections , and will be under criminal investigation for links between councillors and developers over multi-million pound superstores .
Paul Willis who was at the council offices in Hamilton on Tuesday said “Colin McDowall has acted unforgivably in recommending approval for this application, ignoring much evidence of the devastating ecological impacts this development will have . The application goes against the South Lanarkshire Local plan, contradicting their own policy. Further, it is unforgivable for consultees such as SNH, SWT, Forestry Commission, SEPA, etc to have either taken back their objections or not objected at all. They are merely box-tickers for the Council and Scottish Resources Group.”
Notes to editors:
 Scottish Resources Group are the parent company of Scottish Coal, a company that has been opposed locally for over a decade, and has been conducting exploratory drilling in Happendon Wood. The Happendon development is application CL/10/0180, for a mixed use, industrial and retail development, and a decision to approve the application was passed at yeaterday’s meeting.
 Working with and supporting communities across Scotland, The Coal Action Scotland group exists to challenge the advancement of coal as an energy source by informing people about the dangers posed by new coal, promoting alternatives, working with those involved, and directly challenging new coal exploitation from source to point of use.
 For more information about the camp see http://happendon.coalactionscotland.org.uk/
 See http://www.dovesdaleincinerator.info/ for more information
 See BBC story here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-12559916
 See a report written by Ecologists for a Sustainable Future here: http://coalaction.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/A-response-to-the-Environmental-Statement-Addendum.pdf