Tracy Gillman, a local resident and campaigner, put together this potted history of the 30 year community struggle against opencast at Pont Valley (near Dipton and Leadgate in County Durham).
The local community have been fighting applications on this site for 50 years. The first application was approved but overturned by the then Secretary of State. UK Coal’s first application was rejected by planners in 1986. In 2001 a second application was rejected. During this period the UK was far more dependent on coal than it is now.
This application was unanimously rejected in February 2011. The Councillors for Durham Council called UK Coal “thugs,” “vandals” and said they were trying to bribe them with their promises of sorting the local roads. In Autumn 2011 there was a three-week appeal which UK Coal lost. The coal company took this to the High Court in London who said that the decision was perverse and ordered another appeal.
The second appeal happened in Autumn 2014 and lasted three weeks. Both appeals were well attended by local people, tens of whom spoke out against the mine with incredible passion, dedication and knowledge.
The Coal Action Network have been working since local residents against this mine since 2009, including giving evidence at the planning appeals.
The Campaign to Protect Pont Valley continues to protest the proposed open-casting of Pont Valley which is designated an Area of High Landscape Value. Banks Mining Group working with a security firm – Steadfast Security – continue to, by turns, harass and ignore the local community.
The concerns of the local community regarding planning permissions irregularities have been continually rebuffed and ignored by Durham County Council; including inadequate dust monitoring, the re-direction of public footpaths, lack of adequate and preparatory wildlife mitigation – constituting significant wildlife crimes which have been reported to Durham Constabulary but not investigated, and the concurrent winning and gaining of coal before an access road is completed in contravention of Section 106 of the planning conditions.
4 Things you can do
1) We need anyone who lives in County Durham to contact their local councillor to complain about the breaches of planning. It doesn’t matter which ward you live in; all County Durham councillors should be concerned about breaches of planning as it sets a precedent.
Find your County Durham councillor here
Things to include are:
- Breaches of planning regarding dust monitoring – planning conditions stated that monitoring was supposed to start 12 months before works commenced and it hasn’t.
- Breaches of plannning re; works related to mining were not authorised to start until the access road was completed. The access road has not been completed (This is important as mining works had to start by the 3rd of June to ensure that planning permission did not run out)
- Nesting birds have been disturbed, both in the hedges and ground nesting birds, which is a wildlife crime.
- The habitat of Great Crested Newts is partially destroyed, another wildlife crime.
2) Write to James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government about the issues above, particularly about the planning breaches. He has the power to revoke planning permission. He should reply within 15 working days.
firstname.lastname@example.org (Do not use his MP address as it will be ignored)
3) Write to Laura Pidcock MP (for the local area). email@example.com
4) Complain to the Durham County Council Planning authority. The official form is here.