Happendon Wood Occupied! New Direct Action Camp Against Scottish Coal
Early evening on Sunday 12th September a group of autonomous individuals successfully occupied a new site in Happendon Wood, South Lanarkshire! Coal Action Scotland are inviting people to join The Happendon Wood Action Camp (THWAC) to help defend the wood from destruction by Scottish Coal, and to take action in solidarity with communities in the area resisting the expansion of the coal industry in the Douglas Valley.
40 people have occupied areas within Happendon Wood, South Lanarkshire (1) to defend it from destruction by Scottish Coal, part of the Scottish Resources Group. They have begun to build shelters and defences on the site, with large banners hung from trees at the front of the site that say: “Defending the Douglas Valley” and “No Opencast Here”. The Happendon Wood Action Camp has come out of a long-term struggle by the local community and Coal Action Scotland (2) to halt coal expansion in the Douglas Valley which is already one of the most heavily mined areas in Europe.
The Scottish Resources Group have applied for planning permission for a mixed use development (3) on this land (which is in an area of Great Landscape Value) in the Douglas Valley, but they intend to opencast the area first. The South Lanarkshire minerals plan highlights areas within the new development as having recoverable coal deposits that can be excavated during the current local plan. Scottish Coal actually wouldn’t be allowed to build on the land without open casting it first, otherwise this would be “sterilising the nations asset” and therefore illegal. (4)
Scottish Coal have not yet publicly declared their interests in opencasting Happendon Wood but many members of the local community have expressed deep concerns that they will be blighted with yet another opencast coal mine. In a recent meeting about the development, MSP for Clydesdale Karen Gillon told local residents that she did not doubt that they would remove the coal, in spite of the fact that the area that SRG wish to develop takes in the opencast workings at Poniel, which are currently due to be restored. Local resident and Douglas and Glespin Community Council Chairperson Lindsay Addison is enraged by the behaviour of Scottish Coal in South Lanarkshire:
“We have serious concerns that this is an excuse for another opencast. We do not want this development, let alone another mine. We will fight it all the way and support the efforts of the wider community in its opposition to new coal in the Douglas Valley.”
SRG’s application for planning permission for this development is ongoing; the decision by the council will likely be made in the coming months. Questions have been raised about the close relationship between Scottish Coal and South Lanarkshire Council (SLC) resulting in SLC issuing each member of the Douglas and Glespin Community Council legal notices stating that proceedings against them are to begin at Lanark Sheriff Court over alleged libel claims. This move is seen by the community as an attack on their freedom of speech. (5)
Notes to Editors:
1. Location: In South Lanarkshire, about 30 miles south of Glasgow, Happendon Wood is an area just off the B7078, surrounding the Dewers warehouse site and Poniel Opencast workings. To reach the site, driving south along the B7078 from Lesmahagow (running alongside the M74), take the first left after Happendon Services onto the C-road; the site front is on your left after about half a mile. A map is available at http://coalactionscotland.org.uk/?page_id=1974#Where
2. Working with and supporting communities across Scotland, the Coal Action Scotland collective exists to challenge the advancement of coal as an energy source by informing people about the dangers posed by new coal, promoting alternatives, working with those involved, and directly challenging new coal exploitation from source to point of use. Mainshill Solidarity Camp was set up just along the road from Happendon Woods last year where people stayed for over seven months, ending in a five day eviction and a total of 45 arrests. See: http://coalactionscotland.noflag.org.uk/
3. This application is Poniel / Happendon Mixed Use Development application from the Scottish Resources Group (Scottish Coal). It is for “Mixed use development comprising industrial and storage and distribution warehousing, business units/office accommodation, hotel with conference and commercial leisure facilities, retail/restaurant floorspace, landscaping, open space and associated infrastructure (planning permission in principle)”, but it is expected that once they get permission for this they will actually be bound to opencast the area for coal. The planning reference for the application is: CL/10/0180.
4. The Coal Authority issue licences to coal companies. The following was discovered in correspondence between them and Scottish Coal:
‘Where development is proposed over areas of coal and past coal workings at shallow depth, The Coal Authority is of the opinion that applicants should consider wherever possible removing the remnant shallow coal. This will enable the land to be stabilised and treated by a more sustainable method; rather than by attempting to grout fill any voids and consequently unnecessarily sterilising the nation’s asset.’
5. For articles and quotations on the legal threats to the Community Council see: