VILLAGERS could be facing seven years of landfill operations to resolve problems with a leaking lake.
Residents have been warned that approved restoration plans for the former Pegswood Moor surface mine will have to be revised as the proposed large lake has not filled up to the required level and is constantly losing water through leakage.
Now Banks Mining, which is responsible for the site, said its preferred solution will be to bring in waste from construction sites to fill the void, before creating a new landform incorporating a smaller lake, woodland or grassland.
Up to 700,000 cubic metres of rubble, soil or rock would have to be brought to the site near Howburn Wood, depending on the option chosen, with 40 to 80 lorries visiting the area each day for anywhere between two and seven years.
Public consultation about the plans is under way, but opposition is already mounting.
Pegswood county councillor David Woodard said: “It is a long time since Banks had a meeting with anyone here and then suddenly it comes out with this idea, which some of us find quite shocking.
“I don’t know that there will be anyone who is in favour of having the lake opened up as a site for landfill over a long period of time. It seems such a backward step.
“It is an almost unbelievable situation really. I would think that if you wanted to create a countryside park with a lake you would make sure the hole wouldn’t leak. Look at what happened with flooding and yet here we are with an area where there is supposed to be a new lake and it won’t hold water. It’s crazy.”
Pegswood Community Park was planned after mining finished in 2005. The first phase to the east of the B1337 is complete and most of the landscaping work for the second phase to the west has been done, but the problems with the lake have prevented the completion of a footpath and there are safety concerns about its steep sides.
An attempt was made to repair the lining of the lake in 2006, but it was unsuccessful.
Coun Woodard said: “I spent 40 years as a civil engineer trying to keep water out of excavations. This is the reverse process so I haven’t necessarily got the skills to keep water in, but if I was making a pond in my back garden I wouldn’t just dig a hole and fill it with water and expect the water to stay there.
“I don’t think it is beyond the realms of possibility for Banks to go to an expert and ask how to solve the problem.”
Longhirst parish councillor Peter Coates is also concerned.
“The parish council hasn’t had a chance to discuss the situation, but my own view is that I’m concerned about the proposal to remove the lake,” he said.
“We were promised that the final scheme would have a lake as a substantial feature. It does appear that the lake has been constructed and hasn’t filled properly so clearly something has to be done, but I’m not happy with the proposal to remove it altogether.
“I could be persuaded that the lake has to be partially filled and I could accept that fill has to be imported to some extent, but I’m not happy simply to use the hole as a landfill site for a significant length of time.”
Banks Mining says that feedback from residents will play a central role in deciding what actions to take.
Environment and Community Director Mark Dowdall said: “Despite a great deal of effort to find a workable solution to the difficulties with the lake, we have been unable to complete the site restoration as planned, which is a great disappointment to us and
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which leaves the park in a situation which does not match our normal high standards to provide new amenities and landscapes when restoring our sites.
“We’re beginning this wider public consultation exercise to understand what local people would like to see happen and to agree the best way to move things forward.
“Phase one of the Pegswood Community Park has been a real success and is very well used by local people. It is now a priority for us to complete phase two and we will continue to work with local communities through the coming months to ensure they’re kept fully up to date.”
A questionnaire about the options is being circulated and there will be exhibitions in villages.
For more information contact Emily Hooson on 0844 209 1515 or email firstname.lastname@example.org