COUNCILLORS have approved a retrospective planning application relating to the open cast coal mine at Halton Lea Gate.

The application related to the introduction of a coal washing plant and lagoons to hold the necessary water, as well as the use of articulated lorries as opposed to fixed axle wagons.

The site had already been using articulated lorries for around two years without any incidents, and the coal washing site had already been built.

The application was unanimously approved by the county council’s strategic planning committee – but councillors criticised applicants the mine’s operators, HM Projects, for ignoring the conditions up to now.

Coun. Jeff Reid said: “It seems to me that these people have been using these wagons all this time. “I can’t say I’m impressed. The reason I’ve supported it is the neighbourhood will only have to suffer this for another six months.” Coun. Reid suggested that the committee write to HM Projects and warn them not to ignore planning conditions again.

Coun. John Gobin also raised concerns about an allegation that coal slurry had been washed into the Hartley Burn last autumn, as a result of poor water management at the site.

However, Katherine Robbie, senior planning officer at the council, replied: “It was an allegation that has been made. It hasn’t been proven either way in a court situation.”