PLANS for a new opencast mine near Widdrington have been given the thumbs-up by Brenda Fordy-Scott, chairman of the village’s residents’ association.
Mrs Fordy-Scott, chairman of Widdrington Station Residents’ Association for over two decades, has given her backing to the proposals as Banks Mining prepares to submit a formal planning application for the Ferneybeds site to Northumberland County Council.
The County Durham-based firm recently held two public exhibitions to highlighted the changes made to its initial proposals in response to a concerns raised by villagers during a series of community workshops.
The alterations it has made include moving the locations of the access road and compound at the proposed site, revising the transport routes suggested to ensure that coal lorries do not use the stretch of Mile Road running into the village, cutting the lifespan of the opencast operation from five to three years and improving the screening of the site from the village.
Mrs Fordy-Scott said: “We live in an area where there is a valuable mineral asset, and, in my opinion, this needs to be worked in a way which brings maximum benefit to the community.
“There are lots of strong opinions in the area due to the past experiences we’ve had with other companies working in this area over recent decades, and Banks showed itself to be willing to talk and listen to the people who cared the most about this issue from the start.
“Not every issue that was raised led to amendments being made, but the changes that have been made to the original plan show that Banks has taken the consultation process very seriously.
“For example, re-routing the coal lorries to keep them away from Mile Road and reducing the duration of mining operations were issues about which we felt very strongly, and this was clearly recognised through the changes made.
“Our community stands to reap benefits from this project that would have a positive long-term impact for everyone living here.”
Banks is looking to extract around 750,000 tonnes of coal from the Ferneybeds site, to the south of Widdrington Station and eight miles north west of Ashington.
If its application is approved, the mine would employ about 40 staff.
Mark Dowdall, the firm’s environment and community director, added: “We’ve worked hard to actively involve as many local people as possible in the development and finalisation of our proposals for Ferneybeds, and it’s pleasing that the validity of our approach has been recognised by Mrs Fordy-Scott and other members of the community.”
“Banks already employs a large number of people in south east Northumberland, with local businesses in the supply chain also benefiting substantially from our operations, and it is our ambition to increase the amount of local jobs that we support both directly and indirectly through the substantial investment we would make in the Ferneybeds scheme.
“Our planning application is close to being complete, and we will ensure everyone in the area is made aware of progress as and when it is submitted.”