Clipstone headstocks’ future remains unclear

Clipstone Headstocks
Clipstone Headstocks

Hopes of clarifying the future of Clipstone’s controversial coal-mine headstocks have been dealt a blow after a report released this week recommended further investigation.

The two towers and adjoining powerhouse have been the subject of an independent report by property and land experts, Jones Lang LaSalle.

Commissioned jointly by Newark and Sherwood District Council and English Heritage, it follows an application to demolish the buildings, which have been defunct since Clipstone Colliery closed in 2003, to make way for development.

But while there are strong calls to tear down the mining relics by Clipstone Parish Council, the district and county council representatives, MP Mark Spencer, the police and fire service, as well as growing numbers of residents, the report could crush hopes that the site could finally be cleared.

Its conclusion reads: “We would suggest that insufficient evidence has been provided to support the case for demolition.

“It will be necessary, in our view, for the applicants to properly explore the scope for grant funding and look again at alternative options.”

The 66-page document takes an in-depth look at alternative uses, as well as permanent or partial removal.

Owners Welbeck Estate has applied for special consent to demolish the Grade II-listed buildings.

The report confirms that the ‘whole complex is in a poor condition’ with issues of trespassing, vandalism and theft.

A break-down of the costs to restore the buildings, put together by specialists JMC Engineering in 2009 and reviewed by Jones Lang LaSalle for the purpose of the report, puts the cost at an eye-watering £2.5 million.

The report outlines Welbeck Estate’s case, who said that efforts have been made to find a suitable successor, with more than 46 local and national charities approached, but with only four responses and no firm interest.

It was also reported that for a group to apply for Heritage Lottery Funding, a minimum 25 per cent of the project costs is required by the applicant, which given the predicted restoration costs, would mean more than £600,000 is needed before any hope of lottery grants are freed up.

Opposition to the demolition had come from the Clipstone Colliery Regeneration Group, who were no longer active. They believed there was a future for the structures and said they should be at the heart of the regeneration.

As a result, Jones Lang LaSalle’s concluded that the views are ‘clearly not unanimous’, but accepted there is a ‘majority view’ was in favour of demolition.

However, the reports raises questions over the reasons behind the pressure. A referendum held in 2004/05 found 75 per cent of people were in favour of flattening the headstocks, but the report hints that many locals were hoping to see retail development in its place, especially a major supermarket.

The report concludes that the site only had the potential for new housing.

It will be now be used by Newark and Sherwood District Council to decide if demolition will be granted, but parish and district councillor, Sheila Soar, believes the report could set the campaign to regenerate the site back by a decade.

“I am really disappointed in it,” said Coun Soar, who fears it will only serve to delay progress in either finding a suitable use, or demolition.

“Jones Lang LaSalle seemed to have ignored the fact that, as yet, no one in the open market has offered to take them on as a development opportunity, whatever that may be, or the feasibility of any community use being sustainable for years into the future.

“It will open the whole debate again which seems split between those who live in Clipstone and the others, mostly non-residents, who view the structures in a nostalgic and romantic way.

“A lot of Clipstone people will feel very angry about all this as they will feel their views and wishes have been totally ignored.

“To me this has created yet another pause in proceedings which will take another decade to resolve.”