Coal mines were once at the heart of Yorkshire's communities. Now, nearly two years on from the closure of the UK's last deep coal mine at Kellingley, they are back with a new role; a centre for jobs, recreation and living.
In recent years we’ve been involved in the future transformation of Kellingley into a manufacturing & distribution centre; Orgreave Colliery in Rotherham, into Waverley Advanced Manufacturing Park & Waverley new community (Yorkshire’s largest ever brownfield mixed use development); Skelton Opencast Coal site into Skelton Gate new community; and the former Waterloo Colliery into Temple Green Employment Zone within Leed’s Enterprise Zone, but there are numerous others across Yorkshire and beyond which are similarly re-imagining themselves. Growing up in the former mining town of Dinnington, I’m particularly excited to be involved in putting these spaces back at the centre of the community.
SINCE THE MID-1980’S APPROXIMATELY 68,000 COAL MINING JOBS WERE LOST IN YORKSHIRE ALONE.
Before Kellingley’s closure, mining had been declining from its peak in 1913 and since the mid-1980s approximately 68,000 coal mining jobs were lost in Yorkshire alone. This jobs gap in particular, had to be addressed – and not just with shiny new business parks, the regeneration proposed had to link with communities and offer those within them, real, long-term and accessible prospects. This matching of jobs - in terms of skills and quality - to the capabilities and potential of the surrounding communities is a key part of the regeneration programme at Kellingley. A partnership with Selby College was established to ensure training provision to upskill the community and provide linked STEM support for those making their way through the education system is fully accessible to all. On a project design level this accessibility goes right down to where apprenticeships are taking place and ensuring these locations are fully accessible via corresponding transport plans.
Successfully progressing regeneration
In addition to the landowners, the former regional development agencies and the National Coalfields Programme had a big role to play in colliery regeneration. Yorkshire Forward was instrumental in progressing the Waverley project, helping to attract the likes of Boeing, who now have a training centre on site. They also used an innovative vision, working in partnership with the landowner, local councils and University of Sheffield, for a sole focus on the advanced manufacturing sector within the park. As a result, reindustrialisation has now taken place and Waverley has become the go-to address for high-value manufacturers. That pulling power brings with it the supply chain and therefore further jobs and investment. In total, Waverley is now expected to contribute £1bn to the local economy during the next 20 years. Making sure ideas actually take shape is a challenge and partnerships between public and private organisations are key to driving schemes. But how does this work in the absence of the regional development agencies?
Today we do see some involvement from the Homes & Communities Agency, but many of my clients and the Local Authorities we work with feel we are left with a void that needs to be filled if we are to continue effectively developing these brownfield sites. Devolution may well be the solution here, but ongoing delays in the deals are causing continued frustration. Progress in the establishment of a South Tees Mayoral Corporation in the North East and its aim to regenerate the former steelworks site at Redcar, is an encouraging parallel. The Corporation is the first outside of London and if the model catches on, it could be exactly the type of organisation required to help us instigate the regeneration of former colliery sites.
Organisations like Harworth Group are also driving this type of regeneration, working closely with Local Enterprise Partnerships and local authorities to source national and regional funding and deliver a sustainable, one-team approach that has secured great success so far.
But it’s not all about business parks
New settlements – as well as housing sites like those being developed by Harworth in Barnsley, Pontefract and Skelton Gate, with 1,800 homes, a school and local centre - show housing is an important part of the story. Community engagement with those who surround these sites is crucial to progress and inclusiveness. At Waverley, this has also meant bringing in initiatives like ‘Well North’ – a partnership project that aims to improve health and wellbeing by offering mental health services and support in lifestyle choices, available to everyone in the regional community, not just new residents.
The character of the place we deliver is also important. Though people do want recognition of the heritage, nobody has ever said they want the colliery completely preserved. Harworth has been particularly good at reflecting the history in the design of schemes, the architecture and the public realm.
People are and always will be at the centre of these schemes and it’s right their roots are proudly remembered. Homes, jobs and infrastructure must all cater for this to make such significant regeneration successful.
The need to regenerate and transform brownfield sites, whether it be former mining sites, major industrial areas or former shipyards for a whole range of new uses, will continue across the region and beyond. Examples of best practice and lessons learnt through the visionary and masterplanning process, delivery models, stakeholder engagement and feedback should be shared and developed; in order for us to deliver communities with a lasting legacy that everyone involved can be proud of.
Featured in Update Issue 18
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