Think again, firm told

A MINING firm has been told to think again over plans to bring dozens of lorries through Morpeth town centre.

Banks Mining is seeking a solution to restoration problems at its former Pegswood Moor site as a deep lake has failed to fill up.

The preferred option is to infill the area with waste from construction sites for anything between three and seven years, depending on the scheme chosen.

And at a meeting of Morpeth Town Council’s Planning and Transport Committee, members were told that some of the delivery traffic would come through Morpeth via the A197 and Telford Bridge.

Banks Senior Development Planner David Gosling said no firm figures could yet be given for the amount of traffic it would cause, but it will be “significantly less” than the original suggestion of up to 80 lorries a day and will be a fraction of the 20,000 vehicles already using the road.

“Since we produced the newsletter in March, we have had further discussions on the number of vehicles that would be required on a daily basis,” he said.

“We envisaged an average size of lorry much smaller than what the industry now allows so it won’t be necessary for as much traffic to come through Morpeth as first thought.

“A significant proportion can come from the east, along the Pegswood bypass, so any traffic coming through Morpeth is going to be significantly less than 80 lorries. I’m not in a position to give a figure, but it will be less than that.”

However, councillors were horrified at the idea.

Coun David Parker said: “If you go for the importation option, bearing in mind the caveat about less than 80 vehicles, you are still talking about a significant number of lorries coming through daily.

“You are proposing to take a route through the town which is used a great deal every day, including Sundays, by large numbers of vehicles.

“In my view, you would have to consult all the residents along that route, going way back either side. I’m a member of the ward that covers a significant part of that route and I would be expecting that consultation to happen.”

He suggested instead that county council planners could insist that the lorries go through Stannington Station, the A196 to Guide Post, through Sheepwash to the Pegswood Bypass.

Committee Chairman Graeme Trotter added: “There is a feeling that this lake is a problem that needs to be resolved, but it is a problem of Banks’ creation. In a sense it is Banks’ responsibility to get this right.

“There are 15,000 people living in Morpeth and a substantial number would be affected by what you are proposing. Even with just ten or even five lorries a day, these are big lorries trundling through the town.”

However, Mr Gosling said there may be no way around the problem.

“The indication we have got is that most of the traffic that would come to the site would come from the south and south east,” he said.

“We always try to organise traffic routes to minimise any disruption and we recognise that sending traffic through Morpeth is rather contentious from some people’s point of view.

“It would be nice to be able to say it will all come along the bypass, but the practicalities of trying to achieve that would be very difficult on the ground.

“I agree there would be disruption, but I can’t stand here and say we can do that if the reality is that we can’t achieve it from a commercial point of view.”

He admitted that the company was unaware of plans by Dransfield Properties to build a new supermarket in Dark Lane, which could add to the disruption, but he said the scheme could create material that would help to fill the lake.

Following consultation with residents in Pegswood, Longhirst and Hebron the mining company is considering creating a smaller lake at the site, using waste such as rubble, soil and rock to fill the deep hole to the required level.

Parish councils have suggested an alternative to importing material would be to take it from the site itself, reducing the time-scale for restoration, as well as the need for lorry movements.

But while Banks has agreed to carry out further consultation in September, it has warned that the councils’ proposal may be impractical as the company does not own the land in question.

“This would be potentially faster, but it does involve digging up a very large area that has already been restored and had all the drainage and fencing put in,” said Mr Gosling.

“It seems from a planning point of view rather disagreeable having restored that land to dig it up again, but we have said we will look into exactly what it involves and make everybody aware of that.”

Coun Nic Best said: “It is going to be disruption on site for at most two years as opposed to disruption across five villages and Morpeth for up to seven years.”

And Coun Phil Taylor added: “It will cost you more as well.”

But Mr Gosling denied there was any financial motivation in rejecting the idea and said communities could benefit if the company receives income from importing material.

“If we were to go with a scheme that gives us some income it would be a nice bonus, but it also provides an opportunity for local communities to have a source of funding for projects,” he said.

Following further consultation, a planning application for the chosen option could be submitted by the end of the year, with work starting in summer 2012.