The main announcement was for an extra £35 million for the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, taking its total investment to £150 million. It has already invested in training and education for 90,000 people, as well as funding community projects essential to rebuilding social infrastructure and employment in areas badly hit by pit closures.

In addition, Mr Prescott allocated £104.5 million, from the National Coalfields Programme budget, to clean up 240 acres of contaminated land in Chesterfield. The money will be used to create new jobs, homes, leisure facilities and nature reserves for local people around the former Avenue Coking Works – described by Mr Prescott as “one of the most polluted sites in Europe.”

He also announced an extra £12 million for an existing £25 million project to tackle low demand for housing in the Meden Valley. The project involves acquiring properties and undertaking a programme of demolition, refurbishment, new build and public works.

Speaking at the National Conference of Coalfields, at Matlock, Derbyshire, Mr Prescott said: “We have worked hard since 1997 to repair the damage done to our coalfields and today’s extra £35 million is part of a larger regeneration programme worth over £500 million. We have made a good start, but there is still a lot to do.”

Janet Bibby, Chief Executive of the Coalfields Regeneration Trust said the regeneration of the Avenue Coking Works marks an important advance in how brownfield sites are cleaned up.

“The area contains around 400,000 tonnes of wet slurry, contaminated with chemicals like cyanide, which will be treated on site, avoiding the 360 daily vehicle journeys needed to take waste to landfill,” she said.

The Coalfields Regeneration Trust is a key element of the Government’s programme to regenerate the coalfield communities.

By David Hopkins

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