Planning application submitted for proposed Ferneybeds surface mine

October 12, 2012 | Brenkley News

A planning application for a proposed new surface mine in south east Northumberland has been submitted to Northumberland County Council. 

After carrying out an extensive public engagement programme to ensure all interested parties could comment on its plans, regional firm Banks Mining has finalised its design for the proposed Ferneybeds site, which is located to the south of the village of Widdrington Station, around eight miles north west of Ashington.

Banks’ plans to extract around 752,000 tonnes of coal from the site over a three-year period would support around 40 local jobs, and would also help bring substantial new revenues into the local economy and support many other jobs in supply chain businesses.

A new community benefits fund worth around £75,000 would enable Banks to continue to deliver a range of community and environmental improvements in partnership with local people, and a new nature corridor would be included in the restoration of the site to help enhance the habitats for local wildlife. 

The detail of the planning application has been finalised with the help of around 20 local residents and community representatives who took part in a series of community design workshops which were set up by Banks in order to give local people a strong voice in the scheme’s development.

A wide range of issues were covered by the panel, and the outcomes of the discussions were used by the Banks design team to help refine and improve their proposals in line with panel members’ comments.

The locations of the access road and compound at the proposed site have been moved, and transportation plans have been changed to ensure that coal lorries do not use the Mile Road which runs into Widdrington Station.  The duration of the scheme has been reduced, and improvements have also been made to the screening of the site from the village. 

Banks Mining, which was voted Surface Miner Of The Year by its industry peers earlier this year, already employs more than 200 people, most of whom are employed at the Shotton surface mine in south east Northumberland and the Brenkley Lane surface mine in Newcastle, and has maintained an operational presence in this area for more than three decades.

The company recently instigated a new apprenticeship scheme in south east Northumberland, which will see four local young people working with Banks’ plant maintenance team at the existing Shotton and Brenkley Lane surface mines, as well as receiving a comprehensive two-year training programme that will be delivered by Northumberland College.

Mark Dowdall, Banks’ environment and community director, says: “We’re very pleased to have reached this milestone, and especially to have had such active involvement from local people in getting to it – we’ve gone to great lengths to respond to the issues raised with us about this development, and have included a number of measures in our application which we believe fully address them.

“The surface mining industry is still a significant employer in this area, and we estimate that Banks’ existing operations here contribute around £20m to the regional economy, a figure which would rise significantly if these new plans are approved.

“Coal remains a crucial part of the ‘energy mix’ that the UK needs to meet its energy generation requirements, and we know that there would be great demand for the coal that we would extract from the Ferneybeds site, so hope to be given the chance to meet this demand and thus provide a further boost to employment and investment in the area.”

Anyone wanting more information on the proposals should contact the project team on 0191 378 6100 or via enquiries@banksgroup.co.uk

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