COMMUNITY leaders have given the thumbs-up to new opencast coaling plans.
Banks Mining has submitted an application to mine 752,000 tonnes of coal over three years at a new Ferneybeds site to the south of Widdrington Station.
The plans come after extensive public consultation, which included setting up community design workshops for local residents to have a strong voice in the scheme’s development.
As a result, the applicant has changed the location of the site’s access and compound, amended transportation plans to avoid lorries using Mile Road, improved screening and reduced the time-scale for operations.
Now Widdrington Station and Stobswood Parish Council has written to Northumberland County Council, which will determine the bid, to express its support.
Chairman Joe Sennett said: “Our community is very used to surface mining and has sometimes been let down by other companies, but right from the start of the consultation process Banks was very up-front, explaining what was planned, listening to what we had to say and making changes to its plans in response to the concerns we expressed.
“Surface mining still plays an important role in our community from both an employment and economic point of view.
“There are families here with an industry heritage going back three or even four generations and many of the community facilities we now take for granted have been funded through surface mining.”
Banks says the mine will directly support 40 jobs, as well as boost the local economy and provide further employment through the supply chain.
There would be a £75,000 community benefits fund and a new nature corridor would be created through the restoration of the site.
Widdrington Station Residents’ Association is also backing the scheme, while Widdrington Village Parish Council has not raised any objections.
Chairman Valerie Seddon said: “We have decided not to write a letter of support for this, but we are not opposed to it.
“The reason why we aren’t objecting is because it is going to be of short duration and the land will be restored.
“Considering that we were against the recent approval of two windfarms that are going to be in our village for 25 years, we felt that this proposal compared with that is much better.”
However, the Coastal Villages Community Forum is opposed to the scheme.
Member Brenda Fordy-Scott said: “The community forum is against it on the grounds that it is too near houses, but the forum recognises what a good job Banks did in terms of consultation with the community and being prepared to change its plans to take account of issues raised by the public.”
For more information about the plans call 0191 378 6100.