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Environment and History

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Environment and History

Yorkshire's 'Sloughs of Despond': An Inter-War Perspective on Resource Development in Britain

John Sheail

Environment and History 6(2000): 379-398

Not only do questions of environmental management have an intrinsic importance, but the manner in which they were addressed may offer insight into the relevance and robustness of the mechanisms by which they might be resolved. The paper provides a case study of the range of preoccupations which the statutory planner, agricultural interests and mineral developer brought to bear on the conflict arising from the early twentieth-century development of the Yorkshire 'concealed' coalfield. Where mechanisms existed for reconciling the sectoral interests within, say, a city and its immediate environs, there was increasing need in the inter-war years for such accommodation to extend to whole river-catchments or regions. Where the geographically-largest unit in local government, the county council, might appear to favour agriculture, central government was especially protective of local mining interests. Whilst the consequent impact of surface subsidence on land drainage created considerable acrimony, the raised political consciousness proved essential in sustaining the ill-defined, four-fold process by which agreement was achieved for the ameliorative action required.


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