Things looked promising for the proposed super-pit after the public enquiry, notwithstanding the construction cost that was estimated at £400 million over 10 years (£94 billion in 2023 terms). There would be 12million m³ of excavation, and a new road link would be constructed to link with the existing A45 Trunk Road. Construction traffic would not have been prohibitive on the local road infrastructure especially as the new M42 Motorway would be completed in 1989.
The project would only create 600 additional jobs locally, rising to 2,000 by year eight of the construction program. It was anticipated that an upper limit of 6,500 man years of work would be created, this against a backdrop when manufacturing was in decline and unemployment in the Hinckley and Coventry area was high. However it was also thought that the type of jobs available with the project would draw labour from a much larger area of the UK, so would not necessarily benefit the local community.
There were however some notable if not insurmountable flaws in the application. The project was really dependent on the rail link and this should have been regarded as a prerequisite for a successful application. It was forecast that 60% of production would go by rail, the route and construction of which was not really an issue as it would have involved partly reinstating an abandoned route with an equal amount of new. A new railway would have required Parliamentary consent (a long process) and yet almost unbelievably it was not included with the planning application and therefore could only be realised in the latter stages of the construction programme.
At this point the local authorities (apart from the yet to be convinced Solihull MBC) had generally agreed that with a large amount of production going by rail, the site location was deemed appropriate. The manufacturers local to Hawkhurst Moor (i.e. Massey Ferguson, Jaguar Cars and Wickman Bennet Engineering) had by now withdrawn any of their original objections.
The proposals fall down
The British Coal Corporation’s proposals fell down as it did not address certain concerns, and it was clear that wider ranging solutions should have been submitted with the initial application.
The scheme was therefore rejected despite Chris Patten’s acceptance that there was a need for profitable coal as oil was not viable and nuclear was too expensive. The Government’s energy policy at the time was vague. It was acknowledged that it would be in the national interest to have a low cost energy source but that was stated without mentioning coal.
There were no targets for coal production going forward and this was not helpful when considering a forward looking scheme.
A re-application was dependent on answering the questions raised when rejecting planning based on this inquiry. In a bizarre twist a new application would have to include the option of developing nearby Keresley and Daw Mill Collieries as an alternative to the new super-pit.
Meeting the UK’s coal demands?
‘Gapology’ was seen as the determinant of Need and BCC tried to establish that without Hawkhurst Moor, UK coal demands would not be met. This was not accompanied by any clear strategy and this application was the only one of the time. Profitability was probably the real determinant of Need.
Of course the future for coal was bleak. Daw Mill colliery closed in 2013, the Coal Industry Act of 1994 was passed and the BCC was wound up.
There was a fascinating reference to greenhouse gases under the section of the inquiry headed ‘Atmospheric Pollutants’
It is not generally accepted that the warming that has been observed can be unequivocally attributed to human activity.
Not much if anything to do with fossil fuels?
Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
Warwickshire County Record Office reference CR3418 /387. Sinking a new mine
Warwickshire County Record Office reference CR3418/403. Promotional Leaflets
Warwickshire County Record Office reference CR3418 /444. Public Enquiry for Super-pit
Warwickshire County Record Office reference CR3418 / 445. Letter from planner saying NO
Warwickshire County Record Office reference CR3418 / 509/511. Correspondence files relating to Proof of Evidence from Reading Agricultural Consultants