A FARMER'S desperate battle with the Coal Authority still endures despite the organisation accepting responsibility for damage caused to his land.

John Keddie started noticing damage at Bogside Farm two years after Longannet Mine closed due to flooding in 2002 which lies underneath his fields.

Out of the 250 acres of farmland, he says around 160 acres have been affected where areas have collapsed and flooded, which he claims has left John's family hundreds of thousands of pounds out of pocket.

"At first, the Coal Authority was saying it wasn't them but it was just getting worse and worse," John told the Press.

"There were fields we could no longer cultivate or even walk on so I eventually put in a damage notice in 2016.

"I'm currently in the process of my third tribunal with them but everything has proved very difficult.

"I have tried to enlist the help of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) to force them to do something but they seem to just work in unison together.

"If you're a small business, they seem to just think they can destroy you and you're just powerless to do anything.

"A local farmer, James Gemmell Cousar, was fined £500 for pollution by SEPA in 2018 but if it's a big company they seem to just leave them alone.

"This is not just me but the community who have complained about pollution in the area by companies but they just don't do anything.

"It's astonishing!"

John's legal fees alone are now hitting £50,000 for his bid to get compensation but after admitting liability at an independent arbitration, the Coal Authority is yet to take any action treating John's land or cleaning up polluted areas like the Bluther Burn, where the water has turned orange.

His efforts have included writing to countless MPs, MSPs, councillors and even Nicola Sturgeon but the farmer says he is still waiting for justice.

"If you look at what is happening in Kirkcaldy you'll find that the Coal Authority is putting in treatment works there but the West Fife villages have just been abandoned," John said.

"There are five mines in the area but they have not done anything!

"I don't just say this because of me but the loss of mining has had a severe impact on the area and if places like Silica Sands are contaminated it will be a disaster for employment and business.

"If you ask anyone to find out something it seems like it's the Secret Service and nobody will you tell you anything – even though they will need to consult with me if they're going to be carrying out work!"

Bogside Farm, which John has owned for 40 years, produces cereals mainly but he claims they have lost major contracts due to the pollution and damage.

Donor horses were kept at the farm but he claims they started to get stomach and feet problems because of the chemicals on the land.

The loss of business has been described as "disastrous" by John.

He claims there has also been damage to buildings and that their home has had to be renovated because land is collapsing from underneath.

"It's been a horrible experience but I have to do something otherwise I won't have any land left!" John added.

"They just want you to go bankrupt or hope you just get fed up.

"They've admitted the damage, now I'm trying to determine the costs.

"If they just stepped up in their responsibility this could have been resolved and would probably have cost them less.

"You would think that I'm a compulsive complainer but this is real life for us and the West Fife villages deserve better."

Carl Banton, operations director at the Coal Authority, said: “An independent arbitration decision has determined that we have responsibility for damage to drainage and deterioration of part of the farmland at Bogside Farm due to ochreous water.

“We have been asked by the arbitrator to provide an independent report that considers the extent of the deterioration and impact on the value on the farm. This is currently under way and, when completed, will be provided to the arbitrator for them to make a final award, which we are expecting in the next few months.

“As part of our role to protect the environment in Scotland, we work in collaboration with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency to manage coal mine water discharges. We have several operational mine water schemes in Fife that provide significant environmental benefits. Other mine water discharges are assessed and ranked in terms of impact, and many factors are analysed to determine the feasibility of any future treatment solutions.

“We also work to keep people safe and provide peace of mind, and coal mine hazards can be reported to us 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by calling 01623 646 333.”

A spokesperson for SEPA said: “The Coal Authority is the UK agency responsible for the non-statutory programme of mine water treatment schemes. SEPA works with the Coal Authority to monitor the impacts of historic mining on the local water environment. This includes a programme of monitoring on the Bluther Burn close to Valleyfield, and additional monitoring and assessment is planned in the area.

“The Coal Authority operates four mine water treatment schemes in Fife; at Pitfirrane, Minto, Frances and Lathallan Mill, helping to improve our rivers.

“Tribunals relating to the coal mining subsidence arbitration scheme are not within the remit of SEPA.”