1st July 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Controversial opencast coal mine rejected: campaigners celebrate
Interviews: Anne Harris, Coal Action Network contact email@example.com
June Davison, local campaigner, Campaign to Protect Pont Valley can also speak
Further info: firstname.lastname@example.org
This morning Durham County Council planning committee voted to reject Banks Group’s controversial proposal for ‘West Bradley’ an extension to the current ‘Bradley’ opencast coal site between Dipton and Leadgate which would have caused another 90,000 tonnes of coal to be extracted over a further 1 year period.
The application was rejected on the grounds that the environmental impacts of the scheme could not be outweighed by its proposed benefits, after nearly 12,000 objections were received.
Councillor Mark Wilkes who proposed the motion to refuse the opencast explained, said “Is it in the national interest to pump out more co2 and other pollutants into atmosphere and stymie the development of alternative technologies? The government have committed to a Clean Steel Fund. We have to protect the local community and the nation from the adverse environmental impacts.”
Of the local impacts, a key contentious issue was that the site would be 33m from the nearest homes, where 250 metres had been the acceptable standard in the past, where opencast coal mining includes blasting rock with explosives and releasing dust particles into the surrounding area. Of this point Cllr Wilkes added: “This is where people live and sit in their gardens and want to breathe clean air. This is 2020 not 1820.”
Speaking at the hearing, Alan Holmes of Campaign to Protect Pont Valley argued that approval was inconsistent with Durham’s future plans including climate mitigation plans: “The County Durham Plan asserts climate change issues should be considered in every aspect of strategy and decision making. The Officer’s Report recommends no weight is afforded to the emergent County Plan, even though it will form the basis of decision making well into the future.”
Michael Litchfield of Derwent Valley Protection Society also spoke against the mine at the hearing saying “There is no national need for the open cast coal that could possibly outweigh the environmental and social cost of this opportunistic scheme.”
Anne Harris from Coal Action Network said that “Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick should take note and decisively reject Druridge Bay, a 3 million tonne coal mine in Northumberland which is still awaiting his decision.
“In contrast to the dodgy developer lobbying we have seen in the news in recent weeks, the community groups and individuals who have petitioned, door-knocked, written letters, have managed to convince planners that a coal mine is not in anyone’s interest. We applaud the councillors who listened to the community and took the only right course of action in a climate emergency. The impact of this decision will be felt nationally as more mines are set to go before planning committees.”
Banks Group’s proposal for another opencast coal site, Dewley Hill near Newcastle, is awaiting a planning hearing date, and has also been countered by a community campaign.