County Durham villagers have expressed their anger and disappointment at plans to set up an opencast mine close to their homes.
The inhabitants of West Rainton, Pittington and several other villages lost a fight last year to halt a plan by Hargreaves Services to dig for coal in nearby countryside.
After a public enquiry, Hargreaves Services was given the green light to extract 514,000 tons of coal and 83,000 tons of fireclay from what has up until now been farmland. And it has now been confirmed that work on the scheme will start soon.
The scheme will be implemented on Field House, a 56-hectare site. Hargreaves says that their project has undergone rigorous scrutiny and that it will be good for the local economy. After the mining has finished, the company says the site will be properly restored and looked after.
Hargreaves’ scheme will involve about 26 months of opencast mining followed by five years of aftercare on the site, which will in turn be followed by a decade of careful management.
In addition, the planning application’s approval was conditional on Hargreaves holding regular meetings with local residents to liaise with them throughout the scheme.
But residents object that the opencast mine will create a great deal of dust, dirt, and noise and light pollution as well as increasing traffic volumes considerably.
There are also concerns that the mine could spoil the area’s pristine countryside, that it could lead to health problems and that Hargreaves might seek to extend the mining beyond the current 26-month limit.
Local councillor Bill Kellet said, “We will be organising a meeting of the local action group. We are devastated to hear they are pressing ahead with their plans.”
“We thought that given the low price of coal and the fact that it doesn’t figure much in the energy policy that it probably wouldn’t go ahead, but it is.”
“Local councillors have been invited to a meeting with council officers and representatives from Hargreaves to sort things out.”
Hargreaves said, “We have a proactive approach to safety, health and the environment, and are committed to the highest practicable standards of safety and health management and the minimisation of adverse environmental impacts.”
Hargreaves is also a corporate partner of Durham Cathedral.