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Miners back Cinderford regeneration as land exchange is proposed

By citizengibbon  |  Posted: January 14, 2014

Les Ruck and Dave Harvey

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CINDERFORD’S regeneration moves ever closer, with another hurdle set to be cleared tomorrow night.

The redevelopment of the Northern Quarter means those parts of that site currently owned by the Forestry Commission have to be transferred to Forest of Dean District Council.

But statutory regulations mean the Forestry Commission can’t lose out on the total amount of land under its umbrella, so an exchange is on the cards.

In return for 7.9 hectares of Commission-owned land at the Northern Quarter going to the council, more than 32 hectares of council land will go the other way.

That means four times as much land for the Commission, which is duty-bound to make sure it is public access.

The sites earmarked for transfer from the council are all in Cinderford: Hollyhill Wood, a triangle near Laymoor Quag and a parcel of land near the sewage works.

These are additional pockets of land on top of others that have already been earmarked for transfer in Linear Park.

A report to be signed off at tomorrow’s cabinet meeting said: “The council has proposed inclusion of the Linear Park to make up the bulk of the exchange land for some time, but this is already public access land and open to grazing. The Commission is still keen to take on Linear Park but it can not be used to compensate for the loss of grazing and public access land.

“Securing additional areas would allow a formal extension to the Linear Park.”

The move comes as two former miners who worked in Cinderford’s pits have spoken out to pledge their support for the regeneration project.

It has faced opposition from some quarters who fear its heritage is being trampled on and who fear for wildlife there.

But Les Ruck, 87, and 75-year-old Dave Harvey are eager for the plans, which should bring £100million worth of investment with them, to be made a reality as soon as possible.

“You cannot live in the past, you have to look to the future and this is a project that is desperately needed,” said Dave, of Parkend.

“There is nothing I want more than to see this happen in my lifetime. After years of battling to bring Cinderford up to scratch, I just hope and pray that it finally goes ahead.”

Dave is famed as the subject of the wooden sculpture at the Dean Heritage Centre, which depicts his rescue and narrow escape from a pitfall in 1963.

“I came closer that day to losing my life than at any other time,” he said.

“I am proud to be a freeminer, I am proud to be a Forester and I am proud of my heritage – but that doesn’t mean that I oppose change.”

Les added: “Mining was my whole life and I have many wonderful memories of the community it created. But this regeneration is long overdue. The mines have been closed now for almost 50 years and it is a damn pity that nothing has happened since.”

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