Local Parish Council backs planning application for new Northumberland surface mine

January 21, 2013 | Brenkley News


Plans for a new surface mine in south east Northumberland put forward by regional firm Banks Mining have won the backing of the local parish council.

Widdrington Station & Stobswood Parish Council has written to Northumberland County Council to express its support for Banks’ proposed Ferneybeds scheme, which would be located to the south of the village of Widdrington Station, around three miles north west of Ashington.

Banks is looking to extract around 752,000 tonnes of coal over a three-year period from the site, which would directly support around 40 local jobs, as well as bringing substantial new revenues into the local economy and supporting many other jobs in supply chain businesses.

The Parish Council letter “commends Banks in taking notice of comments made at Community Workshop meetings” that were held as part of the public consultation process around the project, and for “taking on board residents concerns in regard to access and egress of the site.”

The detail of the planning application was 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 were moved, and transportation plans have been changed to ensure that coal lorries do not use the main Mile Road which runs into Widdrington Station.  The duration of the proposed scheme was also reduced, and improvements were made to the screening of the site from the village.

Cllr Joseph Sennett, chair of Widdrington Station & Stobswood Parish Council, says: “Our community is very used to surface mining and has sometimes been let down by other companies that haven’t lived up to the promises they made, but right from the start of the consultation process, Banks were very upfront, explaining what was planned, listening to what we had to say and making changes to their plans in response to the concerns we expressed.

“Surface mining still plays an important role in our community from both an employment and economic point of view.  There are families here with an industry heritage going back three or even four generations, and many of the community facilities we now take for granted have been funded through surface mining.”

Banks Mining 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.

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

Banks recently instigated a new apprenticeship scheme in south east Northumberland, which has seen four local young people join 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 work very hard to inform, involve and listen to the communities in which we’re looking to locate new operations, and to provide them with every opportunity to influence our design work with their opinions and ideas.

“Taking this approach has enabled us to understand the views of people living around the Ferneybeds site, and to amend our initial plans to reflect what they have told us.

“The very welcome support that Widdrington Station & Stobswood Parish Council has given to our proposals reflects the quality and suitability of the design that we have put forward for the Ferneybeds site, and we hope we are given an opportunity to provide a further boost to employment and investment in the area through its approval.”

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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