The watershed located between Todmorden and Bacup was once part of the ancient Forest of Elmet. Over the centuries it has been deforested, extensively mined, used as a dump and generally neglected. The tributaries of the River Calder have suffered badly due to polluting heavy metal leaching from old mine workings. Attempts at environmental reclamation from open cast mining have been unsuccessful, leaving ugly scars on the landscape. The area is prone to regular erosion and resulting landslips, with major mudslides in 1947, 1982, 1991, and 2001.
The devastating floods of June 2000 demonstrated the need to improve the "environmental health" of the watershed. During the storm, one month's average rainfall fell within the space of 24 hours, and at its height one million tonnes of water per hour were falling on the Upper Calder valley. Over 700 local homes were affected in Todmorden and Hebden Bridge.
Ecological restoration of the watershed is now an urgent necessity. The aim of the Appeal is twofold: to repair the damage and restore an area of outstanding natural beauty designed to prevent flooding and erosion and to prevent further environmental exploitation.
The campaign against open cast mining dates back to the late eighties and early nineties, when a planning application was submitted for an open cast mine on Heald Moor to extract 150,000 tonnes of coal.
In 1992, to huge local relief, the application was rejected by Lancashire County.
However, a more extensive mining application was made in 1999. Several groups joined together to create "The Watershed Campaign", which argued the case that siting a one mile long trench at the river's source would worsen problems of flooding, increase heavy lorry traffic and result in over 300,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.
The campaign was unsuccessful in getting support from the Environment Agency but a major publicity campaign eventually paid off when Calderdale Council's Development Committee agreed to rescind a prior decision and object to the application. Finally, on November 7th 2001, Lancashire County Council rejected the plan, on traffic grounds.
Not unexpectedly, the mining company has appealed against Lancashire's decision, and has submitted an amended application.
This means that there will be a public inquiry in the next few months, when a final decision as to the fate of Heald Moor will be made. The Watershed Campaign will be represented by Treesponsibility at the inquiry.
The land near the proposed mine is badly degraded as a result of past open-casting, and the company is claiming that their remediation scheme offers "the only hope" of repairing this damage.
Treesponsibility has an alternative ecological restoration strategy, which will be presented to the inquiry to disprove their case and hopefully stop further applications for open cast mines at Heald Moor.
The Watershed Campaign is also fund-raising to buy a neglected clough, near the source of the river as part of their environmentally friendly solution. To find out more visit the campaign's site.
Treesponsibility, 10 Broughton Street, Hebden Bridge, HX7 8HA.
Tel: 01422 843222
The public enquiry into the proposal to allow open cast mining to go ahead on Heald Moor will be heard at Burnley Town Hall from the 25th to the 28th of November. The campaigners are hoping for a large turnout to ensure the planners consider the long-term environmental impact very seriously.
For more information contact the campaign on 01422 843222
The company behind the proposals - HRM Resources can be contacted
at: HRM Resources, West Parade, Wakefield, West Yorkshire
Tel: 01924 371898