March 21, 2014 | Brenkley News
Children from a Northumberland first school have been helping a North East employer reach a major milestone in the restoration and landscaping of its mining sites.
Nine members of Stannington First School’s “Green Team” went on site at Banks Mining’s former Delhi surface mine to plant the one millionth tree that Banks have planted as part of the landscaping work it carries out at its operational and restored surface mine sites.
The Stannington Green Team includes children from Reception to Year Four, as well as 13 teachers, and aims to encourage everyone in the school community to think more about taking environmentally-responsible actions, as well as working on the school’s Eco Action Plan.
The children were joined at the event by Viscount Ridley, on whose Blagdon Estate the Delhi site is located, and worked with members of Banks’ landscape team on a range of different tasks during their visit.
The tree planting at the Delhi site is part of the recreation of a 200 year-old parkland landscape on the Blagdon Estate which was originally designed in the style of famed Northumberland-born landscape architect Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, but which was removed by previous mining activity on the Estate in the 1950s.
Further tree and hedgerow planting has already been completed at Banks’ nearby Shotton and Brenkley Lane surface mines as part of the company’s “restoration first” approach, where work is undertaken to return land that is no longer required on operational sites, rather than waiting until the end of operations. It was this approach which led to the creation of the nearby Northumberlandia landform in which Banks and Blagdon Estate invested around £3m.
Banks Mining has been working in the area for more than three decades, and is one of Northumberland’s largest private sector employers. More than 200 people work at its Shotton and Brenkley Lane sites, which jointly contribute around £35m to the regional economy every year through wages, investments and the local supply chain.
Richard Hutchinson, landscape manager at Banks, says: “Restoration design and work differs according to the needs of each individual site, but includes tree and hedge planting, reinstatement and improvement of agricultural fields, creation and enhancement of ecological habitats and enhanced footpath and bridleway networks, and is part of a long-term aftercare plan that we design and deliver for each operational site.
“The Stannington First School pupils who were on site for this special event will be the young people who will see the restored landscapes around them maturing over the decades to come, and we’re grateful to them and to Viscount Ridley for helping us reach this fantastic milestone.”
Helen Stokoe, headteacher at Stannington First School, adds: “Our children love coming to school at Stannington. They enjoy learning about the natural world and also the impact that man can have on the environment, and we are delighted to have been involved in a project that will help to maintain the environment that surrounds our school.”
Bob Downer, chief executive at the Blagdon Estate, says: “The Estate is thrilled to see the park being restored to its former glory – this work is a huge improvement on what was there before the mining operations were undertaken and will provide pleasure for generations to come.
“Visitors who come to the various open days throughout the year will have the opportunity to drive through the newly-restored park and appreciate the improvements that have been made.”
Banks Mining is currently looking to extend its operations into new areas at the Shotton and Brenkley Lane surface mines, which would enable the excavation of around one million additional tonnes of coal across the two sites, but which would not require any extension of their present operational timelines.
The Durham-based family business is also currently conducting a public consultation around the proposed Highthorn surface mine, to the east of the village of Widdrington Station, which would sustain over 150 local jobs for more than a decade and provide an opportunity to add new and improved community and tourism resources to the area.
Mark Dowdall, Banks’ environment and community director, says: “The restoration of our surface mines provides a great opportunity to deliver environmental, landscape, ecological or recreational benefits.
“The former Delhi mine is one of the many schemes that we’ve successfully operated on Blagdon Estate land which have enabled us to become a major local employer, and we’re now looking to sustain this position through extending the work that we’re currently carrying out at the Shotton and Brenkley Lane sites.”
For more information on Banks’ Highthorn proposals, please visit www.banksgroup.co.uk/highthorn