Councils take opposing views of opencast plans

PLANS to more than double operations at a Northumberland opencast site have met with a very mixed response from councils.

Hargreaves Production Surface Mining is seeking to alter planning conditions for its Well Hill mine, near Stannington, to accommodate more excavation.

The company already has consent to extract 130,000 tonnes of coal, but has now found 190,000 tonnes of good quality fireclay and glacial clay, which could be sold on.

The extra work would increase lorry movements at the site from 20 a day over six days, to 44 a day, Monday to Friday.

An application to Northumberland County Council proposes sending half the number along the agreed route through Glororum, with the remainder travelling between Tranwell, Loansdean and Clifton and the A1.

Morpeth Town Council is fiercely opposing the plans, but Stannington Parish Council has voted in favour.

At a meeting of Morpeth’s Planning and Transport Committee member David Parker said: “This is not technically a neighbouring parish so we don’t have a statutory right to comment, but what is proposed would dramatically affect people in my ward.

“Because they are proposing to increase the number of lorries from ten in and ten out each day to 22 each way, they are proposing that it should not just be borne by the Glororum Road, which is the designated route, but they would bring wagons on to the A197 from the Whalton Road.

“That is outrageous. It will directly impact on an area with a fairly high density of population and a very busy road.

“My objections are the same that I put forward when it was proposed to use that road for access to the proposed windfarm at Tranwell and I propose that we object to this strongly.”

The committee agreed unanimously. Objections relate to road safety and congestion, potential damage to the road and noise disturbance to residents.

However, in Stannington councillors voted by four votes to two, with one abstention, to support the application.

Chairman Karen Carins said: “We supported the Well Hill application because the transportation is not fully in our parish. It was difficult because it affects two parts of our parish, or could do, but we decided that at this stage we would support it.

“It was really difficult because if this is turned down then Hargreaves might go for the approved route and Glororum couldn’t take anything else.

“We are going to be talking very seriously about the road there with both Hargreaves and Bellway, which is developing St Mary’s, and county Highways because the road is in a dreadful state.”

Coun Carins said a Well Hill Liaison Committee is due to meet next month when the issues will be discussed further.

Northumberland County Council will determine the application.