Concerns lead to rethink over plans for new opencast mine

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A MINING firm has revised its plans for a proposed opencast site near Widdrington Station to take concerns raised by villagers into account.

Banks Mining produced its initial plans for the proposed Ferneybeds site, to the south of the village, in early 2010 and has been consulting with residents since then in the hope of allaying any objections.

Community design workshops have been held to give residents a say in the development of the plans, and about 20 villagers have turned out at subsequent meetings to offer further opinions.

Their input has led to a rethink on the proposals, and the revised plans will be put on display at a public exhibition within the next few weeks.

The locations of the access road and compound at the proposed site have been moved, and transportation plans have been changed to ensure that coal lorries do not use the Mile Road running into Widdrington Station.

Improvements have been made to the proposed screening of the site.

County Durham-based Banks Mining has also had a rethink on how long it would operate the proposed surface mine for, reducing its suggested time frame from five years to three.

It is looking to extract around 750,000 tonnes of coal from the site.

If approved, the Ferneybeds mine would support around 40 jobs.

Banks Mining already employs more than 200 people, most of them at the Shotton surface mine near Cramlington and the Brenkley Lane opencast site near Seaton Burn.

Mark Dowdall, the firm’s environment and community director, says: “The active involvement of local people has been central to the development of these new proposals, and we’re extremely pleased to have achieved the positive outcomes that we had hoped for when we set up the design panel.

“We’ve gone to great lengths to respond to issues raised with us about this development and have implemented a number of changes that we hope will be welcomed by people in the area.

“The surface mining industry is still a significant employer in the north east, and we estimate that our existing operations here contribute around £20m to the regional economy, a figure which would rise significantly if these new plans are approved.

“Coal will remain a crucial part of the energy mix that the UK needs to meet its energy generation requirements, and we know that there would be great demand for the high-quality coal that we would extract from the Ferneybeds site.

“We have a strong track record of managing surface mines to the highest environmental and operational standards and hope that the many merits of these updated plans will be recognised by Northumberland County Council’s planning committee.”

A planning application is expected to be submitted within a matter of weeks.

Anyone wanting more information on the proposals can contact the firm’s project team on 0191 378 6100 or via enquiries@banksgroup.co.uk