The number of letters sent by people living close to the Bradley surface mine in County Durham in support of a small extension to the site has outweighed the number of local objections by a ratio of almost four to one.
North East employer Banks Mining is looking to extract around 90,000 tonnes of high-quality coal for supply to UK industrial customers and 20,000 tonnes of fireclay for use by regional brickmakers from an 18.5 hectare area between the western edge of the current Bradley site and the roundabout on which the Jolly Drovers pub sits at the eastern edge of Leadgate.
The planning application is set to be considered by Durham County Council’s planning committee on Wednesday 1 July, with the Council’s planning officers giving it a recommendation for approval.
And with the formal consultation period now closed, 124 letters of support for the project have been received by the Council from people living within a one mile radius of the site, compared to just 33 letters of objection from residents across the same area.
Banks Mining has committed to completing operational and restoration work on the extension to the same August 2021 deadline to which the existing Bradley site is operating if it is able to move the project forward through a positive local planning decision.
Local resident Jack French, who lives on Pont Road in Leadgate, close to the Bradley surface mine, says: “We’ve watched the site take shape over the last couple of years and have hardly noticed any impact on our area, if any at all.
“The extension will be closer to where we live, but it’s not a concern for us and Banks has been in regular touch to let us know what they’re hoping will be happening there.
“If we’re going to use coal in the UK for industry, there’s more sense in mining what we have instead of having to pay to ship imports from overseas.”
Lewis Stokes, community relations manager at The Banks Group, adds: “Since the announcement of the original Bradley scheme, we’ve worked very hard in local communities to show people how we work, highlight the benefits that our operations bring to the area and answer any questions that crop up.
“The levels of local support we’ve had for the extension reflects the responsible way in which we’ve worked at the Bradley site over the last two and a half years, and we’re very grateful to all those who’ve written to Durham County Council to express their backing for our extension plans.
“It’s been more than disappointing to see many spurious objections being lodged to our planning application which reference local issues arising at our current Bradley site by people living in all sorts of far-flung parts of the UK who would most likely struggle to locate County Durham on a map, let alone Leadgate.”
The Bradley West extension would provide continued employment for the 39 people currently working at Bradley, more than half of whom live within ten miles of the site, as well as additional investment in the local supply chain.
It would also allow Banks Mining to increase its support for local community groups and charities by providing a further £48,000 for the Bradley community benefits fund.
Lewis Stokes continues: “British industry still needs coal and fireclay for a range of essential manufacturing processes including the steel, cement and brick sectors, and while this remains the case, it doesn’t just make economic sense to use the coal we can produce here, but social, ecological, environmental and climate sense too.
“Given the extraordinary public health, economic and employment challenges now facing the North East and the wider country, it makes greater sense than ever to meet UK industry’s continuing need for essential minerals like coal and fireclay from UK resources, rather than continuing to increase our reliance on overseas supplies which release greater greenhouse gas emissions through their mining and transportation.
“Doing so also supports much-needed and highly-skilled northern jobs and supply chains, delivers regional environmental and conservation enhancements, and boosts the UK’s balance of payments.
“Our highly-skilled team has been producing high-quality coal at Bradley for more than two years in the safest, most efficient and most responsible way possible, and we very much hope that Durham County Council will allow us to produce more of the coal that British industry very much needs within our home county.”