A committee formed from people living in the communities around a proposed new County Durham surface mine has held its first meeting.
North East employer Banks Mining invited representatives from the communities closest to the site of the planned Bradley surface mine to be part of a project liaison committee it was setting up to ensure information on all aspects of the scheme and its operations could be shared between the company and the local community.
The meeting was held at the Dipton Jubilee Centre, with Durham County Councillor Alan Shield being elected as committee chair and fellow Councillor Ivan Jewell chosen as Vice-Chair for its first year.
Meetings will now be held regularly in alternative locations in the coming months, while Banks Mining continues with preparations for potentially commencing work on and around the site later this year.
Cllr Alan Shield says: “The role of the liaison committee will be to ensure that this project transitions through its preparatory, operational and restoration phases as smoothly as possible, and that the promises being made about how the site will work are properly kept.
“We want to see all views and opinions, including those who object to the mining operation, represented at these meetings, so that issues and ideas can be raised and addressed directly with the project team, and to make sure that the communities of Leadgate, Medomsley and Dipton are not unduly affected by this development and realise the benefits that this scheme should deliver over the long term.
“There was a good turn out to this first committee meeting, with lots of pertinent questions being asked and answered, and the liaison committee will strive to work cohesively with Banks to alleviate any issues as the development progresses.”
Permission to extract around 500,000 tonnes of coal from the 71 hectare Bradley site, which sits off the A692 between Leadgate and Dipton, was granted to UK Coal a number of years ago.
Preparations and mining at the site would be scheduled to run for between two and three years with all on site activity complete in 2021. Restoration will include the creation of a new nature reserve and parkland area, as well as the return of some of the land to agricultural use.
Around 30 new jobs will be supported at the Bradley site, along with others in the local supply chain, and a related community benefits fund would be created which would be available to support local projects and initiatives.
Lewis Stokes, community relations manager at The Banks Group, adds: “The liaison committees that we set up around our projects provide a vital and very effective link between our teams and the local community, and enable members to ask direct questions or request information that can be passed back to others living in the area.
“The first meeting was held in Dipton with several community groups, organisations and local residents represented. We’re grateful to our committee members for giving their time to this project and look forward to working closely with them throughout the operational and restoration phases of the project.
“We are continuing to talk to people across the local community about the progress being made with the Bradley project, with many of the comments we’ve been getting on the doorstep recognising both the importance of bringing new jobs and supply chain opportunities to the area, and the positive, long-term impact that the project’s community benefits fund would have on the facilities available to local people.
“Coal has been used to meet more than a quarter of the country’s energy requirements during the recent spell of cold weather, which clearly demonstrates the importance of its use to provide an essential and resilient part of a balanced mix of energy generation sources over the medium term.
“As a North East business which operates both surface coal mines and onshore wind farms, we’re pleased to be continuing to contribute to meeting the UK’s energy requirements through using indigenous means of production during this very challenging time.”
For further information on the Bradley surface mine project, please visit www.banksgroup.co.uk/projects/mining/Bradley