Concern over plans to import waste ash

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MOVES are under way to bring around 420,000 tonnes of power station waste to the Northumberland countryside.

The pulverised fuel ash would be stockpiled at the former Steadsburn opencast site as part of a scheme by Active Leisure.

The company says the material is needed to build a mound for a dry ski slope as part of a wider regeneration plan.

But with up to three train-loads of ash a day set to be delivered from power stations around the country, the proposal is causing some alarm.

Widdrington Village Parish Chairman Val Seddon said: “In Widdrington Village at the moment it just seems to be getting worse.

“We have had 70 years of opencasting, we are having two windfarms foisted on us and now the latest thing is to bring in waste from power stations and dump it on us.

“I can’t say we’re very happy about it. The Widdrington Regeneration Partnership (WRP) knew nothing about this and certainly the parish councillors are very concerned about it.”

The application states that 12 to 17 train-loads a week would bring the material to the site over six months, with 160 lorry-loads a day taking it from the railway sidings to the stockpile.

No specific source for the ash has been confirmed, but potential suppliers include Lynemouth power station, as well as facilities in Nottinghamshire, Gwent, Staffordshire and North Yorkshire.

Active Leisure says the creation of the mound and artificial ski slope will be an essential element of the regeneration plan and act as a catalyst for future redevelopment of the mining site into Europe’s leading active lifestyle resort.

It says the project will deliver a wealth of benefits, including state-of-the-art leisure and sports facilities, increased tourism, employment and business opportunities.

However, Coun Seddon said the stockpile application is premature when no plans have been approved for the leisure scheme.

“This plan is to sculpt the landscape because the mound that has been left is not high enough for the ski slope and Active Leisure wants to raise the height to make it more suitable, but considering that it hasn’t yet put in an application to do this scheme then it seems to be the wrong way round,” she said.

“The application to do the whole scheme should have gone in and this could have been part of that. What happens if the Active Leisure scheme doesn’t go ahead or if the planning application for the activity centre is turned down?

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What then will happen to this site that is being built up? Will it be taken down?

“The whole thing is causing great concern.”

The councillor also complained about a lack of consultation on the project.

She said: “Active Leisure doesn’t seem to want to talk to the local community. The community has led the regeneration project and now it is being left out. The idea was that we would do this leisure scheme as a community through the parish councils and WRP, but now that is not happening.”

Widdrington Station and Stobswood Parish Chairman Joe Sennett is equally concerned.

“There is going to be hell on about bringing in this ash. We will have to call an emergency meeting of the councillors to get their views,” he said.

“If this stuff gets wet it will set like concrete so what is that going to do to the local area? They say the trucks will be covered, but it will blow all over the place. If it then gets wet what will that do to the drainage system?

“It is going to cause a lot of concern.”

The application has been submitted to Northumberland County Council.

Active Leisure declined to comment.