‘FUNDAMENTAL concerns’ relating to a strip of former green belt land once home to several mines - which is earmarked to become Barnsley’s largest development site in the next decade - have resulted in the Coal Authority objecting to the controversial scheme.

Site MU1, which separates communities such as Barugh Green, Higham and Pogmoor, stretches along the M1 corridor and has been mooted to be built on for more than a decade.

However, a planning application for 1,500 homes, business units and a school - which were resubmitted by Sterling Capitol and Strata Homes, who make up the Barnsley West Consortium (BWC) - has now been criticised by the Coal Authority.

A Barnsley Council consultation phase, which ended last month, resulted in the public body reiterating its stance of objection following months of debate about ground stability sparked by ex-mine managers and nearby residents.

Melanie Lindsley, the Coal Authority’s principal planning and development manager, wrote to the council following the first application’s submission to object and again after its revision.

“In formulating this response, the Coal Authority has taken full account of the professional conclusions reached by the competent person who has prepared the coal mining risk assessment or other similar reports,” her letter said.

“The Coal Authority is of the opinion that building over the top of, or in close proximity, to mine entries should be avoided wherever possible, even after they have been capped.

“Our records indicate that there are 12 mine entries within MU1 and a further two mine entries within 20 metres of the site boundary.

“We hold no treatment details for any of the mine entries, although our records do indicate that some features may have been removed by the surface mining activity, but this is not confirmed.

“It was requested that the applicant provided the findings of intrusive investigations to locate the coal mining features present in the area of the full application, specifically the area residential development.

“This information should also identify the remedial works necessary and should include a plan which shows the relationship of the development layout to the mining features present.

“The Coal Authority is a statutory consultee for developments in what is called a ‘high risk area’, prior to the granting of planning permission.

“It is the responsibility of the developer to identify any historical coal mining features and demonstrate to the local planning authority, through a risk assessment, that the site can be made safe and stable for the proposed development.

“No information on this element of the development proposed appears to have been provided to address our previous concerns.

“On the basis of the information currently available to review, we maintain our objection.”

Former mines such as Craven I, Craven II and Hunters Cottage - which are located in the northern, central and southern parts of MU1 respectively - have had extensometers fitted in order to monitor stability and any movement.

In their response to the council, the South Yorkshire Mining Advisory Service (SYMAS) which did not give its approval or rejection said underground assessments must continue if planning permission is granted due to its history.

It’s been recommended that boreholes are made in uncertain areas, trial pits are dug across the site and extensometers are continually monitored.

A spokesperson added: “The site is located within a Coal Authority mining referral area due to the presence of opencast backfill, shallow workable coal, potential shallow coal mineworkings and mineshafts.

“The land is therefore potentially at risk from coal mining legacy risks such as ground instability and fugitive gas migration.

“Responsibility for securing a safe and sustainable development rests with the developer.”

Members of campaign group Keep It Green - which was set up in 2014 to protect the land from being built on - met last week with representatives from BWC and praised the Coal Authority for confirming its stance.

“Keep It Green has repeatedly expressed strong concerns about the suitability of site MU1 for housing and employment development because of its mining legacy,” a statement said.

“The Coal Authority has also again clearly reiterated its own concerns, including the fact that the developer has not demonstrated MU1’s suitability for the development proposed.”

A council spokesperson said: “The objection relates to the lack of sufficient information provided by the applicant about where the development platforms for the site and associated infrastructure will be fixed into the ground.

“The applicant has been informed of this consultation response and is working to provide the necessary information to address the issue raised by the Coal Authority.”