Local residents invited to join Ferneybeds design panel

February 2, 2011 | Brenkley News

People living in the communities surrounding a proposed new surface mine development in south east Northumberland are being offered the opportunity to play an active part in the site’s design.

Regional firm Banks Mining is currently developing proposals for the Ferneybeds site, which would be located to the south of the village of Widdrington Station, approximately eight miles north west of Ashington.

As part of the extensive community consultation process being carried out around the plans, Banks is looking to draw together a community design panel made up of local residents to gather the widest possible range of views about the design of the scheme and to also discuss the environmental, economic and social benefits that could be delivered if the scheme is approved.

A series of local meetings, chaired by an independent facilitator, will be organised to enable participants to share their views on aspects of the scheme, and to help keep the community informed of the detail of the final proposal that Banks submit for planning approval.

Initial investigations suggest that the Ferneybeds site contains an estimated 750,000 tonnes of coal, and if the site goes ahead, it would support around 40 jobs, as well as supporting many others in local supply chain businesses.

An initial scoping has been submitted to Northumberland County Council in advance of a planning application going in later this year.

The proposed site offers easy access to the nearby A1068, thus negating the need for arriving or departing HGVs to travel through Widdrington Station, and it is also a sufficient distance from the village, ensuring that environmental issues are minimised in line with the county council’s requirements.

Banks has worked surface mines in south east Northumberland since the 1980s, and  currently operates the nearby Shotton and Brenkley Lane surface mines on the Blagdon Estate to the west of Cramlington.

Mark Dowdall, Banks’ environment and community director, says: “Effective consultation with communities plays a central role in the development and refinement of all our proposals, and facilitating direct contact between Banks’ design team and people living in the local area through initiatives like the design panel provides a valuable way of finding out exactly what the community’s opinions and priorities actually are.

“We want any local people with an interest to be part of the Ferneybeds community design panel, so we can ensure that we take local views into account to come up with the best possible project design for all concerned, and all ideas will get an equal hearing during the discussions that take place.

“The coal industry continues to make a significant contribution to both the local and regional economy, and coal is also a crucial part of the ‘energy mix’ required to meet the UK’s power requirements.

 “We believe that, if approved, the Ferneybeds scheme would continue our long-established track record of operating safe, responsible and efficient surface mines in south east Northumberland to the highest standards.”

Anyone interested in becoming part of the Ferneybeds community design panel, or who just wants more information on the proposals, should contact Jan Gill at The Banks Group on 0191 378 6100 or via ferneybeds@banksgroup.co.uk

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