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King's Seat, Cauldhall. Inside the excavation area.Financially doomed Scottish Coal have started the process of opening a new open cast site in Midlothian. Their proposed Cauldhall Open Cast Site, a de facto extension of the Shewington mine they’ve been restoring, will swallow almost 500 ha of land. They hope it will result in a whopping 10m tonnes of coal, most of which will be burned in Longanet, the second most polluting power station in the UK and site of the Carbon Capture program that collapsed last year. Unlike operations at Shewington, SC plan for this open cast to run 24 hours a day potentially subjecting thousands of people to sleepless nights, with Howgate, Penicuik, Temple and Rosewell all within 2.5km of the site. The overburden will be visible for miles around, as this map of projected areas affected shows.

Site layout map
To get to the coal, land used for rough grazing and agriculture and some peat bog will need to be destroyed, along with a public road and a couple’s family home of ten years. Most of the land belongs to the local land lord, the Earl of Rosebury, an aristocratic relative of an ex-UK prime minister, who owns a big house in the area but lives in a swanky pad in London…sound familiar?

Scottish Coal plan to operate the mine for 12.5 years, although considering the quantity of coal they plan on excavating this is extremely optimistic. They claim the project will create 230 jobs. They have in the past made overly liberal estimates regarding job creation, for example stating that Mainshill Open Cast in South Lanarkshire would create 100 jobs, yet this site has never employed more than a handful of people from the local area. Scottish Coal are currently looking to laying off 200 of their workers whilst giving the rest a 10% pay-cut in the same month that ATH look to be making 300 redundant (that’s 40% of Scotland’s open cast workforce in total). SC also made 200 redundancies last year. This is hardly the long-term sustainable employment that communities need.

The plan is only at the Scopping and Pre-Application stage of the planning process. Documents relating to the application are available here, here and here. The Midlothian Council planning officer responsible for this application is Kingsley Drinkwater.

Shuffling Backwards with The Forward Strategy

coal zombieCauldhall is only the beginning however. With their foot in the door with Shewington, Scottish Coal plan to continue ripping up the countryside along the coal seem, with a new Forward Strategy. Midlothian Council’s current Local Development Plan, the document that lays out the councils vision of development and planning policy, is about to expire and a new plan is in the pipeline. Scottish Coal’s Cauldhall proposal is not on an area identified by the council as an area of search for coal. This was the main reason that Midlothian Council gave for refusing permission for the deeply unpopular Airfield opencast back in 2010, meaning that Cauldhall may not be given planning permission either.

However, a document uploaded to the Midlothian Council’s website (and then shortly after removed) shows a map titled “Midlothian LDP Proposed Coal Search Areas” with four areas marked. The Cauldhall Moor site, a site called Dalhousie, another one called Chesters Wood and finally Airfield. Gorebridge, Newtongrange and Mayfield would be sandwiched between mines. Similar to their Forward Strategy in South Lanarkshire, this map shows Scottish Coal’s ambition to surround communities in open cast site’s until every lump of coal is removed and burned. This plan aims to commit Midlothian to Open Cast Coal for decades, with all the diesel fumes, machinery noise, truck traffic and misery that comes with such heavy industry.

If you would like to know more about Cauldhall or the Forward Strategy, or have any information to add, please email us. We want to hear from people in the area’s affected, and we can keep you up to date with developments in the planning process and Scottish Coals plans.

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