Consultation to take place on proposed surface mine

A GROUP set up to give local people a strong voice in the development of a proposed new surface mine proposed in south east Northumberland is gathering momentum.

Regional firm Banks Mining set up the Ferneybeds community design panel at the start of the year to ensure that local people have an active voice in the development of the company’s proposals for the scheme, which would be located to the south of the village of Widdrington Station, around four miles north west of Ashington.

Numbers have been steadily increasing since the first panel meeting in March, with between 18 and 24 local residents and community representatives attending each meeting.

Further community design panel meetings will be taking place through the summer, with the next one taking place from 6.30pm on Monday, June 27, at ATAC in Widdrington Station, and Banks is hoping that even more people will come along to this and subsequent meetings.

The panel aims to help gather the widest possible range of views about the design of the scheme, and to also discuss the environmental, economic and social benefits that could be delivered if the scheme is approved.

The agenda for the meetings has been set by the local community, with a wide range of issues such as transport, landscaping, environmental management, site operation and monitoring, employment on site, local amenities and visual impact already coming under the spotlight, and independent facilitator Mary Coyle MBE ensures that the meetings are conducted so that everyone can have their say.

Mark Dowdall, Banks’ environment and community director, said: “We’ve been very pleased with both the considerable involvement of local people from across the community, and with the type of issues we’ve been able to cover so far.

“This is naturally a scheme that will attract a lot of interest and some strongly-held views, but by adopting an open approach to the discussions, we’ve been able to put in some extremely useful work that can only benefit all parties in the long run.

“We’re still keen to get even more local people involved, as we know that getting as many people as possible involved at this early stage, whilst there’s a real chance for everyone to directly influence the design process, will provide the best outcomes from the initiative.

“Having the meetings chaired by an independent facilitator means participants can move to express any points of view without feeling they will be prevented from speaking, and also shows that there aren’t any issues that stray off the agenda - proceedings are run transparently fairly, and the positive feedback we’ve had from attendees shows this is indeed the case.”

Anyone interested in becoming part of the design panel, or who just wants more information on the Ferneybeds proposals, should contact the project team on (0191) 378 6100 or via enquiries@banksgroup.co.uk