A speedy resolution is required

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In his letter published in last week’s Herald, Steve Leary refers to the long-running saga of the ‘leaking lake’ at Pegswood Moor.

As a representative of Longhirst Parish, I first became involved with the opencast site and the Banks Group in 2001. It immediately became apparent that the company was proposing an unusual design for a country park including a deep, steep-sided lake and, in spite of a number of requests, I still await a logical explanation for the depth of the lake.

The lake was supposed to be lined with a two-metre thick layer of clay from which ‘all stone/debris will be removed’ (a quote from the approved specification at the time). Anyone visiting the site can see that the clay liner actually contains a large number of boulders up to 450mm (18 inches) across as these have been exposed wherever surface-water channels have cut into it.It also seems likely that there is less surface water running into the lake than originally intended and this, together with the ongoing leakage, means that the lake will almost certainly never reach its designed level.

Banks have recently stated that they may apply for planning permission to fill the lake with 1,000,000 tonnes of inert waste over a period of around five years which, allowing a year for the planning process and a further year for restoration works, will delay the completion of the project by a further seven years. In addition there can be no certainty over the figure of five years as this is dependent on a regular supply of suitable fill and the present financial climate is hardly stable for the construction industry.

Morpeth Town and Pegswood, Longhirst and Hebron Parish Councils formed a joint working group to meet Banks and the county council and hopefully agree a way forward. We have met several senior representatives of the company on a number of occasions, but the situation remains unresolved.

In our view, further extended delays are not acceptable and a speedy resolution is required. The level of the lake will vary, as we have seen in recent weeks, but we are satisfied that there is no real safety hazard and we would much prefer to retain this significant feature rather than lose another seven years and end up with a much less attractive grassy/boggy/bushy area as is likely to be proposed.

The Banks Group is understandably seeking to achieve a local reputation as a listening and caring concern and have achieved some notable successes, but there can be little doubt that they have got it badly wrong at Pegswood Moor. The overall scheme is already almost 10 years behind schedule and surely needs to be completed as a matter of urgency.

PETER COATES

Chairman, Joint Local Councils Pegswood Moor Working Group