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‘We will stop them’: Pont Valley community takes on Banks Group’s latest coal scheme
25th November 2019
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Campaign to Protect Pont Valley has launched a new campaign to oppose Banks Group’s new application to expand the existing Bradley opencast coal site to the west towards Leadgate. The company last week announced their plan to extract a further 90,000 tonnes of coal and 20,000 tonnes of fireclay.

Annie Lee, local resident and member of Campaign to Protect Pont Valley said “Banks Group have got a real fight on their hands. Last time they were able to avoid going through the planning process by buying up the existing permission from UK Coal. This time they can’t evade public scrutiny. They have been unsuccessful so far in their ongoing applications to mine at Druridge Bay and at Dewley Hill. Let’s not forget that no new opencast coal mines have been approved since January 2016. We are more ready than we ever have been to stop them, and we will stop them.”

Inspired by Defend Dewley Hill, which this summer garnered over 4,000 objections to Banks Group’s proposal to opencast near Newcastle, the local campaigners near Bradley are confident they can raise ‘a mountain’ of objections by the time the application goes before the planning committee in spring 2020.

Barbara Seale of High Stables, 300 metres from the current site said ‘We can already hear intense and regular noise from the machines and from the blasting with explosives, not to mention breathing in dust which we see settle in our gardens. Meanwhile our complaints go ignored. Banks claim they offer ‘development with care’ but the community here feels it has been treated with nothing but contempt.’

The proposed expansion will be closer to people’s homes than the current project; 150 metres from Pont Lane, and 80 metres from the Jolly Drovers pub.

A local resident of Leadgate whose grandfather worked in the deep pit said ‘The use of explosives will be more intense than the current site. This particular seam on the Durham coalfield was known by the Eden Miners as ‘the bastard seam’, because you need to blast through a thick layer of sandstone to get to the coal. This will create even more harmful dust and loud noise.’

Banks Group are this week appearing in the High Court amid allegations of wildlife crime at the current Bradley site, raised by local resident, Don Kent. Mr Kent said, ‘I have evidence to show that Banks Group destroyed the habitat of protected species in their pursuit of coal on the current site. This is not only a breach of planning conditions, it is a criminal offence They simply cannot be trusted to develop the site to West Bradley, which is full of protected species of birds, plus bats, deer, badgers and diverse fauna.’

Scarlet Hall from Coal Action Network added ‘Banks Group have already embarked on a transparent misinformation campaign to back their new project. They claim they offer ‘habitat enhancement’ but this proposal will put further stress on the diverse habitats of protected species which are already threatened by the current mine. They claim they are saving carbon emissions in transport because the coal is ‘local’, but they are adding to the UK’s huge surplus of coal, which is being increasingly exported abroad and contributes to climate change wherever it is burned. They claim their coal is essential for steel manufacturing but have provided no evidence that that is where it’s going. The community is ready to take on Banks’ PR machine and stop this bullying company destroying the valley yet more and polluting for profit.’

Planning Officer Claire Teasdale said the following about how to make representations on the application, “The statutory overall expiry date for representations is 12 December 2019. The Council will however accept representations up to determination but recommends that they are submitted earlier to allow consideration of the issues raised.” Representations can be made online to the Durham County Council planning portal, by searching ‘Bradley’ at http://publicaccess.durham.gov.uk, in writing to Durham Council planning department via email to planning@durham.gov.uk or in writing to Durham County Council Planning Development (Strategic), Room 4/123-128, County Hall, Durham DH1 5UL

If you would like to get involved in the campaign add your details here https://docs.google.com/…/1FAIpQLSffKyetW7c-maTATP…/viewform and someone will be in touch.

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