Opencast bid next to exclusive estate

A FORMAL bid for an opencast site beside one of the region’s most exclusive addresses has been submitted.

Hargreaves Services has submitted a planning application to remove 130,000 tonnes of coal from farm land at Well Hill, near to Tranwell Woods.

Mining operations and the subsequent restoration would run for around two-and-a-half years, covering an area of 30 hectares.

Lorries would take the material along Bets Lane and on an unclassified road via Glororum to the A1.

An impact report commissioned by Hargreaves as part of the application says the site is of relatively low sensitivity.

But locals do not agree.

One resident, who does not wish to be named, said: “In my opinion it is a ludicrous scenario.

“Tranwell Woods has a Woodland Tree Preservation Order on it and guidance from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister states that this cannot be put on gardens unless they are of national significance. The council says the two belts of woodland are highly sensitive features of the landscape area and Tranwell Woods is a site of nature conservation importance by the Northumberland Wildlife Trust.

“You compare that with the ecology report submitted with this planning application and it says in landscape terms it is relatively low sensitivity.

“If you can have an opencast site next to a Tree Preservation Site of national significance and in an area of natural landscape value, and somewhere where it is clearly visible for miles around, you tell me what conditions you need for it to not to happen.”

He added: “The community seems to be split into two camps — there are residents who say let’s just get on with it for two years and get it over with, and there are those that just don’t want it at all, but I don’t think there is anybody who is happy about it.”

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County councillor for the area David Towns is also concerned, particularly about the impact on small, rural roads.

“I hope that the plans will contain sufficient mitigation for local residents, but somehow I still think it will be a bit of a burden on local people, especially at St Mary’s,” he said.

“They are starting the Bellway development at St Mary’s Hospital now so we can expect some increased traffic because of that development and now it is coupled with the potential for large lorries taking away stuff from this opencast site.

“I just don’t see that the local roads are suitable. My biggest bugbear with it is the proposed route to the A1 through Glororum. This route is totally unsuitable for that kind of heavy traffic. That is my concern

“It is not a big opencast site, but there would be enough going on and it just doesn’t seem that the access is suitable for that kind of project.”

He also spoke of the cumulative impact if a windfarm proposal for Tranwell Airfield also gets the go-ahead.

“Coupled with the four-turbine potential windfarm at Tranwell Airfield this could be a problem,” he said.

“If we are going to have a small windfarm somewhere up there this is probably one of the better places to choose because it is not next to lots of houses, but with the Whalton Road application as well there could be 20 turbines coming forward in this area, as well as the opencast site. It all seems a bit much in one go.

“There is a cumulative impact not just of the wind turbines, but with the potential opencast as well. The traffic, the noise and the disruption could be a nightmare.”

A spokesman for Hargreaves said: “It is part of the standard planning process for a proposal of this nature that an environmental report has to be submitted along with it. That has been drawn up for us and submitted in the accepted manner.

“The council having received the application will instigate a consultation period and a lot of what happens subsequently will be formed by that. In terms of discussing specifics at this stage I’m not in a position to at this stage.

“The proposal is for us to extract a quantity of high quality coal from the site over a period of about two to two-and-a-half years. That would include preparation of the site prior to any coal extraction and then a period at the end of the extraction for site landscaping.

“The overall objective is to remove this high quality coal and then return the site not only to its previous form, but in many ways the site will be enhanced.”