‘Get involved’ call to local residents around surface mine design panel

April 27, 2011 | Brenkley News

People living in the communities surrounding a proposed new surface mine development in south east Northumberland are being urged to get involved with a group that has been set up to help shape its design.

Regional firm Banks Mining has set up a community design panel to ensure that local people have an active voice in the development of the company’s proposals for the Ferneybeds scheme, which would be located to the south of the village of Widdrington Station, around four miles north west of Ashington.

Eighteen people from across the area took part in the first panel meeting in March.  Topics discussed included the way in which the site would operate and priority issues that participants wanted to highlight.

And now, with the next meeting set to take place in early May, Banks is working to maximise the number of people taking part.

The community design panel is part of the extensive community consultation process that Banks is undertaking around the Ferneybeds proposals.  It aims to help 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, have been 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 was submitted to Northumberland County Council in 2010 in advance of a planning application going in later this year.

Katie Perkin, Banks’ communications manager, says: “Earlier this year, we wrote to every household, business and local authority representative in the area – around 1,400 contacts in total – to try to attract potential members of the new panel, and we were pleased with both the number of responses we got and the number of people involved in the first meeting.

“However, we’re still keen to get even more local people involved, especially local representatives such as councillors, as we believe that the more local people and organisations that we can get involved at an early stage, whilst there’s a real chance for everyone to directly influence the design process, the better for all concerned.

“The panel members set the agenda, telling our representatives what the priorities are that they want to discuss, and all the meetings are being chaired by an independent facilitator, to ensure that participants feel able to express their points of view without fear of censure, and so that those who are not in attendance know that proceedings have been run fairly.

“Effective consultation with communities plays a central role in the development and refinement of all our proposals, and we want to encourage everyone interested in the Ferneybeds scheme to become part of this panel, so we can ensure that we take local views properly into account as we develop the best possible project design for all concerned.”

The next community design panel meeting takes place on 4th May starting at 6.30pm, and will be held at the ATAC in Widdrington Station.

Anyone interested in becoming part of the design panel, or who just wants more information on the Ferneybeds proposals, should contact the project team on 0191 378 6100 or via ferneybeds@banksgroup.co.uk

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