Badgers influence biomass site plans

Former Westfield OCC site
Former Westfield OCC site

A three-year extension on plans to build a biomass plant on the former Westfield open cast colliery site has been granted ... on one condition.

That the developer protects a badger sett now found to be occupying the site.

It’s understood the applicant - Scottish Biofuel Ltd - has prepared a mitigation strategy to be implemented prior to any construction work starting on the 13 hectare site 1.5 miles west of Kinglassie.

Badgers in the United Kingdom are protected under their own Act of parliament.

Original planning permission for the facility, which when completed will comprise of a combined 40MWR heat and power plant, pellet manufacturing facility and a biomass stockpiling and processing area, was granted back in September 2008.

But the five year permission period, which ended on September 17, 2013, was not met by the developer, reportedly because of the current economic climate.

Councillors took the decision to extend planning permission at Wednesday’s meeting of the Central Area Planning Committee, (CAPC).

Concerns were raised over possible environmental changes to the site that could in turn impact on the surrounding communities.

But case officer James Wright told members that updated reports from SEPA and Fife Council’s own contaminated land team confirmed the site was consistent with original assessments made presented at the time of the original application and that no significant new environmental issues had been found.

Glenrothes councillor Altany Craik, said the committee took the common sense approach to grant the the extension.

He said: “It was the obvious and sensible decision the committee could take, no new environmental issues has occurred other than that of the badgers and it was reasonable at this stage to allow the developers the extension.”

A rich seam of history runs through Westfield

The first public announcement of plans for the Westfield open cast site were made on August 23, 1948 by Mr L. R. Milligan, area depute manager of the National Coal Board at Kelty Flower Show.

It begun in 1955 on the site of the former Kirkness Colliery, with production commencing in 1956.

At its most productive the site produced 20,000 tonnes of coal per week, approximately 40 per cent of Scotland’s open cast capacity at that time.

It was the biggest open cast site in Britain and reported to be the largest and deepest hole in Europe.

Production, which from 1961 yielded around 22 million tonnes of washed coal (coal in which certain impurities have been removed), ended in February 1985.