Opencast plans are changed following public debate

PLANS for an opencast mine on the edge of a Northumberland village have been changed following community input.

Banks Mining has updated its proposals for the Ferneybeds site to the south of Widdrington Station to change access and transportation plans, improve screening and cut the time-scale for works from five to three years.

The amendments, which will be included in a formal planning application expected to be submitted in the next few months, have come from a series of community design workshops, attended by about 20 local residents.

A wide range of issues were covered by the panel, including transport, landscaping, environmental management, site operation, monitoring, employment, amenities and appearance, with the feedback used by the Banks design team to refine their plans.

The new scheme shows significant changes to the original outline, such as measures to ensure that coal lorries do not use Mile Road.

Banks is seeking to extract around 750,000 tonnes of coal from the site, supporting about 40 jobs.

A public exhibition will be held in the coming weeks to present the plans.

Banks Environment and Community Director Mark Dowdall said: “The active involvement of local people has been central to the development of these new proposals and we’re extremely pleased to have achieved the positive outcomes that we hoped for when we set up the design panel.

“We’ve gone to great lengths to respond to the issues that were raised with us about this development and have implemented a number of changes that we hope will be welcomed by people in the area.”

Widdrington Station and Stobswood Parish Council Chairman Joe Sennett said the authority may consider carrying out a parish-wide survey to seek people’s views on the plans.

“I think the scheme is a lot more attractive now — it is going to be less than four years now, which makes a massive difference to people. It is much more positive.

“The lorries are not going to be coming down Mile Road at all and there a good few things about it so people might look at this in a different light and just say get on with it, get it over with and have done with it.

“Having said that, for the people in Ferneybeds and Lintonville it is going to be on their doorstep so that could be a problem for those people and there are a lot of houses there so there is still a concern.

“I think we need to ask people and see what they say.”

For more information about the project contact the design team on 0191 378 6100, or email enquiries@banksgroup.co.uk