Group presses for progress on park plans

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COUNCILLORS are hopeful that a recent site visit will be a useful step in resolving a long-standing issue.

The saga over the second phase of Banks Mining’s restoration works at Pegswood Moor has been going on for more than half-a-decade.

The dispute between the company and local parish councils developed when a lake at the site failed to fill up and was considered a danger.

In 2011, Banks said it was looking to fill the ‘leaking lake’ with up to a million tonnes of inert waste, such as rubble, soil and rock, from across the region. The project would take seven years in total and involve many vehicles bringing the material to the site each day.

This was strongly opposed by residents, as well as a liaison working group of Longhirst, Pegswood and Hebron parish councils, and Morpeth Town Council.

Banks agreed to go back to the drawing board and carry out further consultation and a potential proposal presented last November showed how the countryside park might be restored to allow safe public access, albeit with a shallower lake.

Members of the group welcomed this option, but were dismayed when the firm said the infill scheme was back on its agenda in February.

The councillors believe the restoration can be carried out fairly quickly. They have said that the lake is not as dangerous as in the past, because it is now moderately full and although it may still go down in dry weather, it is not going to drain dramatically.

Concerned about the lack of any further progress, the group organised a site visit with a county council planning officer earlier this month. Coun Paul Kelly, chairman of the authority’s planning and environment committee, attended for information purposes.

In a report to Pegswood Parish Council, Coun David Woodard, himself a member of the group, said: “After touring the area, the county council officer and the working group members were all of the opinion that the site needed some more aftercare and that a safe scheme based on some revision of the approved plan was possible and could be delivered within a year.

“The group outlined the vision of the local councillors involved in the neighbourhood planning process of the park area being part of an open countryside green belt between Morpeth, Hebron and Pegswood. Members expressed their view that it was still a wonderful recreational resource with footpath links and great potential for wildflower and wildlife habitat.

“The area close to the lake is now like an amphitheatre and is quiet, secluded and screened from traffic noise.

“The officer said he would contact Banks to see if some progress could be made. Hopefully, the firm can be persuaded to deliver a restoration based on the plan tabled last November.”