EXPERTS claim that opencast coal mining is the only solution for the Broughton Moor site, a former senior member of Allerdale council’s Derwent Forest project team revealed this week.

The statement by Nick Fardon, former director of strategic resources, is bound to cause shock waves after the council’s regeneration chief David Martin last year said that opencast coal mining would be ruled out as part of any redevelopment of the 1,050-acre site.

Mr Fardon left the council on Friday. In an exclusive interview with the Times & Star, he said the only way that Broughton Moor would ever make financial sense would be to extract an estimated three million tonnes of coal from under the site and use the profits for the Derwent Forest project.

He said: “It’s the only thing that makes economic sense. I’ve read reports from experts, I spoke to these experts. I’ve spoken to people who want to develop the site. They agree that coal needs to be mined to reap the profits.

“It’s an emotional subject, as the council has promised in the past there would never be mining on there, but if you think about it logically, we have to clear the contaminated ground; if you’re going in there to churn up the ground anyway, you may as well get the coal out.

“In that hole, you can put any contaminated bits and you’ve made a profit to put into anything you want to on that site.

“To say there will never be coal mining there is a promise that no-one should have made as it certainly cannot be kept. It makes no economic sense to do so.”

Last year it was revealed that the Kier Group had bought coal rights to the 1,050-acre site, although it would still need planning permission to start mining.

The former RNAD armaments depot is the largest brown field site in the north, and Allerdale council took out an option to buy the land for £1 from owner the Ministry of Defence several years ago.

Wrangling over clean-up cash from the Northwest Development Agency put back the project, and a couple of years ago Allerdale joined with Cumbria County Council to buy the land.

It is now being marketed to private investors, and so far has had more than 50 expressions of interest in it.

The area is a key part of the Government’s Britain’s Energy Coast masterplan.

The Dump, as it is known locally, has 110 World War Two buildings. Several are used as roosts for bats, which are a protected species.

It is understood that the council can only demolish those buildings during October, when the bats are not there. It is unlikely that this work will happen next month.

Mr Fardon, who took voluntary redundancy, declined to comment on which firms had expressed an interest or what the situation was with the development agency.

It was reported last year that the agency would sell the Dump to the highest bidder by 2011, if efforts to land a regeneration scheme failed. If the councils succeed in signing up a developer, the agency will provide £9m to clean up contamination. But if the marketing exercise fails, the site will be re-sold on the open market.

n Full interview with Nick Fardon, Page 5