One of the earliest and largest schemes in a programme to regenerate 56 former collieries is about to receive a boost with the news that a major portion of it is about to be developed. What was once a highly contaminated site will soon see start of construction of Britain's largest factory outlet village.
The new village operated by Freeport Leisure will occupy the first area to be reclaimed of the 136ha former Glasshoughton colliery and chemical works on the M62 near Castleford.
Development partners for the whole of Glasshoughton are English Partnerships and Waystone. They and their environmental and civil engineering consultant Scott Wilson have been working together on the scheme for more than three years.
Before its closure, the colliery was responsible for the production of tar, phenol, ammonia, pitch and associated byproducts. Some of these chemicals contaminated a thin layer of fill covering large areas of the northern part of the site housing the former works. They also penetrated the ground to depths in excess of 15m through fissures in the underlying sandstone.
At the southern end of the site was a colliery tip where contaminants were deposited as waste and various colliery lagoons stored unwanted byproducts such as spent oxides. The contaminated discharges from both disposal sites had the potential to pollute the groundwater and a stream which flows away from the site.
Physical challenges to the reclamation of Glasshoughton included uncapped shafts, shallow mineworkings, buried ducts and large foundations.
Waystone's managing director Stuart McLoughlin says that remediation of the northern half of the site had to be of a particularly high standard to allow the factory village development to take place.
'Our reclamation strategy involved deep excavation to remove the shallow mineworkings and deep contamination. We also constructed an engineered landfill in part of the southern half of the site to receive the heavily contaminated soils derived from the clean up operation,' he says. Another part to the remediation process involved placing a surface cover over the remainder of the southern half to minimise leachate generation and allow planting to create a landscaped open space.
Scott Wilson technical director John Holden says: 'We contributed to solutions to overcome the dereliction and contamination at Glasshoughton and we have been responsible for the design of roads and services within the site. In particular we advised on modifications to junction 32 on the M62 to allow access to the development.'
A programme of risk assessment was used to develop the reclamation strategy in line with current guidance and legislation. Every constituent material on site from redeposited fill material to natural strata was classified according to material type and the concentration of contaminants each contained. The associated risk each would pose to people, water and new development was a key element of the assessment.
The newly engineered landfill was constructed to make sure it met with the highest current safety standards. A liner consisting of a metre layer of colliery shale, worked to ensure a low permeability, was used together with a welded HDPE membrane.
Scott Wilson also worked closely with the Environment Agency to establish that the site did not pose an unacceptable risk to groundwater. 'Lagoons have been constructed to receive any contaminated groundwater and surface water generated by the reclamation,' says Holden. 'These are capable of treating the water using activated sludge and aeration techniques prior to discharge to the adjacent stream.'
When complete, the Glasshoughton project will have attracted more than pounds 100M of investment and generated 1,700 jobs. In addition to the Freeport factory outlet village, 200 homes, a hotel, railway station and extensive new industrial and commercial facilities will be constructed. It is thought the proposed 'leisure mountain', which will form the centrepiece of the redevelopment, is likely to capture the imagination of the visiting public. The structure, complete with a shell roof 200m long and 40m high, will house ski and toboggan runs on manmade snow slopes. There will also be a huge multiplex cinema, a 24 lane bowling alley and a fast food and restaurant complex.
English Partnerships senior development executive John Haymes says: 'Thousands of people will be attracted to the leisure mountain and Freeport Village Yorkshire each year. It is extremely satisfying to see such a project come from the regeneration of an area badly affected by the demise of the mining industry.'