Opencast Bill in need of support

A NEW study on the extent of opencast mining in England reveals that the application for an extension of the Shotton opencast mine, which was approved by Northumberland County Council’s planning and environment on January 11, is just one of number of potential sites or extensions scattered across England, according to research undertaken for a group protesting against a planned opencast mine on the Minorca site in Leicestershire.

In all, research undertaken for the Minorca Opencast Protest Group (MOPG) reveals that there are another 40 potential opencast sites in England.

Of these, no less than 17 are in Northumberland.

They include Hoodsclose (Whittonstall, UK Coal), Ferneybeds (Widdrington Station, Banks Mining), Halton Lea Gate (HM Project Development) and others spread over much of the county.

The Minorca Opencast Protest Group produced its review entitled ‘English Opencast Coal Sites 2009-10 Part One: Current Sites’ and ‘Part Two: Potential Sites’, in support of their MP’s Private Member’s Bill, which is due to get its second reading in the House of Commons on February 11.

Andrew Bridgen’s 500-Metre Buffer Zone Bill (Planning (Opencast Mining Separations Zone) Bill), is intended to bring English law into line with the policies operated in Scotland and Wales, where a 500-metre buffer zone policy already operates to prevent opencast mining from occurring within 500 metres of areas of settlement.

At present no such law exists in England.

This research has lifted the lid on the extent of opencast mining in England.

We now know that this is a national problem affecting wide areas of the country and that it is not just our own local problem.

We now have a chance, if we all get behind the 500-Metre Buffer Zone Bill, of significantly reducing the risk of opencast mining in our area in the future.

I urge all concerned local people to write to their MP and ask them to support Andrew Bridgen’s Bill when it is next debated in the House of Commons, in the interests of safeguarding the amenities of many Northumberland residents likely to be affected, and so that English people enjoy the same safeguards as those in Scotland and Wales.

The review documents are free to download from

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