CAMPAIGNERS’ decade-old hopes that a controversial scheme to build 1,500 homes on a giant site along the M1 corridor would be quashed due to its ex-mining past have been dealt a huge blow - after the Coal Authority withdrew its previous objection to the plan this week.

Site MU1, which separates communities such as Barugh Green, Higham and Pogmoor, is the subject of plans to build 1,500 homes, a new primary school, warehouses for business use and a series of new roads and roundabouts.

It is the largest site in Barnsley Council’s so-called local plan - a blueprint which outlines future housing and business areas in the borough for the next ten years - and has long been sought for development Sterling Strata Barnsley West Limited.

The Chronicle can reveal a snag point in the plan - chiefly the Coal Authority’s official objection given concerns over ground stability and hidden, shallow mine shafts - has now been retracted and has the government-run body’s seal of approval.

A school trust - Delta Academies - also agreed to be the operator of the 420-place primary.

A spokesperson from the developer - a consortium made up of Strata Homes and Sterling Capitol - said: “We have received the green light from the Coal Authority who announced this week that they have withdrawn their objection to the plans which will transform the ‘Barnsley West’ site.

“The Coal Authority placed the objection pending the outcome of several technical questions which were asked of the developer.

“It was anticipated that in their role as a statutory consultee the Coal Authority would place a holding objection on this project given the complex nature and the site’s history.

“It is not unusual for them to initially object to schemes like this, however we knew we would overcome their concerns given the level of information we have on the site and the skills and experience our professional team have.

“We are pleased to have resolved this issue so quickly and this news demonstrates the landmark of a new working relationship between the developers and the Coal Authority.”

Former mines such as Craven I, Craven II and Hunters Cottage - located in the northern, central and southern parts of MU1 respectively - have come under scrutiny in recent months and had underground instruments fitted in order to monitor stability and any movement.

Site investigation work was also carried out, resulting in heavy-duty core drilling rigs being used on MU1, after the Coal Authority expressed concern due to ‘insufficient investigations’ in the original application which was subsequently amended.

A report, compiled by Melanie Lindsey - the Coal Authority’s principal planning and development manager - confirmed the objection had been withdrawn.

“We last commented on this submission in a letter to Barnsley Council dated January 18, 2024.

“We noted that risks posed to surface stability are deemed to be insignificant.

“We also noted that for this area - due to the presence of mining - more detailed consideration will be required in respect of foundation design for the buildings proposed.

“We advise that layouts are designed to avoid buildings straddling mining ‘highwalls’ in order to avoid risks posed.

“Six mine entries are recorded to be present on site - it is highly likely that these highwall features have been removed but these appear to be in an area of open space and not close to any built development in the plan.

“The Coal Authority withdraws its objection to the proposed development.”

Former Sunderland Football Club owner Sir Bob Murray, who heads Sterling Capitol, told the Chronicle the plan - which still requires approval from Barnsley Council’s planning board - will be transformative for the town.

“We are delighted to continue building on our 15-year heritage of working in Barnsley,” he added.

“I believe in the future of Barnsley and Sterling is committed to realising the potential of the area, by investing further.

“We will continue working with Barnsley Council and the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA) to bring forward this transformation that will deliver in the region of 2,000 new jobs, over 1,500 homes - 250 of which are affordable - and a new primary school.

“This is a win-win situation for Barnsley - we’re putting our reputation on the line but we’re going to deliver a scheme which will transform the town.

“It will have a huge economic benefit for Barnsley as it’s a motorway site and will gain significant interest due to its location.”