Opencast: Think of the road safety

May I express my grave concerns relating to the potential road safety implications the Banks Mining Group will create by using the A1068 coastal route, described as the entrance to an area of outstanding natural beauty, to transport coal from its proposed opencast site at Druridge Bay, which will be the biggest opencast mine in Britain if the application is granted.

Banks, via its own website, admits: “We always try to use A roads for the transportation of materials and try to keep down wagon movements as low as possible to minimise the impact on the local transport infrastructure.”

It goes on: “It is anticipated the main access point for the Highthorn site at Druridge Bay will be taken from the A1068 and will involve up to 150 loaded HGVs leaving the site in a day.”

For every 150 HGV vehicles leaving the site, a further 150 need to enter — that is 300 HGVs per day. This figure does not include other daily service and employee vehicles, therefore the total figure will be closer to 500 vehicles per day, whatever a day means.

Banks fails to mention what its interpretation of a day is. Last time I looked, a day consisted of 24 hours. If Banks classes a day as a normal eight or 12-hour operation, then 300 heavy HGVs leaving this site onto the busy A1068 will have an enormous impact on the current infrastructure and its users.

This is just what the already busy and hazardous A1068 tourist coastal route needs, an extra 300-plus heavily-loaded coal wagons dodging in and out of holiday traffic towing caravans and trailers, camper vans, tourist coaches, motor cyclist groups and pleasure cyclists. Not to mention the inconvenience for legitimate road users, visitors and emergency service vehicles travelling to and from the new hospital at Cramlington.

The A1068 has had so-called repair work carried out at great expense over the past 12 months. However, sections are still in a poor state of repair. What is the condition of the road going to be like in the winter?

Remember, we are talking about 20 years of coal wagons chewing this road up. Not to mention local residents who use this road 24/7, along with hundreds of commuters twice daily. There are also the large and slow moving farm vehicles, which are essential for farming needs and business, and let us not lose sight of the other expected large, slow moving, low loader wagons delivering windfarm materials, which will be situated on the other side of the A1068, directly opposite the proposed opencast entrance.

If Northumberland County Council encourages tourism, as it maintains, it will have a funny way of showing it if it agrees planning permission for this environmental disaster.

Finally, anyone can imagine the state everyone’s vehicles will be in during the wet, snowy and windy conditions with these extra 300-plus coal wagons spraying water everywhere.

On road safety grounds alone this application should be thrown out.

Name and address supplied.