THE restoration of an abandoned opencast mining site near New Cumnock has been completed – after council bosses stumped up millions of pounds of taxpayers’ cash to get the work finished.

East Ayrshire Council (EAC) had to find £3 million to complete the work at Garleffan andGrievehill after the failure to secure a sufficient“restoration bond” to pay the full cost.

The completion of the restoration comes aft er the collapse of the site’s operators in 2013-14, which resulted in the loss of £132m earmarked to clean up East Ayrshire’s opencast operations.

The then head of planning and economic development at EAC was dismissed in 2014 following a damning report into the collapses of Scottish Coal and ATH, parent company of Garlaffan and Grievehill operators Aardvark TMC.

Assessors had said it would cost close to £9m to restore both sites. But after the operators collapsed, it was revealed the council had only secured £1m.

As well as EAC, the Scottish Government provided £1m, with a further £1m in restoration bonds making up the remainder, a total of £5m.

Opencast mining took place atthe site from 1998 until 2013, when AardvarkTMC wentinto liquidation and the sites were left in a “substantially unrestored state”.

A new company, Mines Restoration Gareleffan Grievehill Limited (MRGGL), was subsequently set up, supported by the Scottish Government.

MRGGL acquired the site alongwith East Ayrshire Council, which took over parts of the site which were ‘disclaimed’ Opencast site restored after council pays up £3m to get work finished and became ownerless after liquidation.

In a report published last week, planners stated: “Due to various factors, the restoration bond value did not meet the restoration costs for the site.

“Independent engineers assessed the topographical data and estimated a cost of approximately £1.1m forGarleffanand £7.7m for Grievehill to restore the sites in accordance with the a p p r o v e d p l ann i n g permissions.

“An enforcement notice issued atthe beginning of 2020 allowed the alternative £5m scheme to get underway, rather than the original £9m plan.”

The report by the Ecological Clerk of Works (ECoW) noted that “the restoration of Garleffan and Grievehill has been completed to a high standard in accordance with the approved plans with the successful large scale turf restoration in the SPA being a particular feature”.

The only remaining element of operations which remains to be carried out atthe site relates to aftercare works.

Plans by Peel Energy for a wind farm on the Garleffan site were knocked back by EAC in 2016, and an appeal was dismissed by the Scottish Government two years later.

The developer said it would spend £1.5m restoring the opencast site if its plans were approved.