FRUSTRATED villagers fear a coal company is planning to press ahead with a controversial landfill operation to finally solve the problem of a leaking lake in Northumberland.
Local councillors say Banks Mining has now indicated that it intends to finally get rid of the faulty, man-made lake at Pegswood, near Morpeth, by using it for the disposal of up to one million tonnes of construction and demolition waste.
They say the proposed seven-year landfilling operation will be strongly opposed by local people and have called on the company to stick to its pledge to retain the lake as a local leisure asset.
It was first revealed two years ago how the restoration scheme at Banks’ former Pegswood Moor opencast coal site had been undermined by the unexpected failure of the lake, which was the intended centrepiece of a new community park.
The original plan for the 12-acre lake – suitable for sailing, sub-aqua sports and fishing – had to be dropped after it developed a leak and failed to fill up to the required depth. It has left a half-filled void with steep sides, and public access to the area is still denied because of safety concerns. Lengthy discussions have taken place between Banks Mining and a joint working group representing the parishes of Pegswood, Longhirst, Hebron and Morpeth, in a bid to find a resolution to the problem.
Now the group says its latest meeting with the company involved a detailed presentation about using the lake as a landfill site and restoring the area to grassland with no permanent water feature.
Yesterday, Peter Coates of Longhirst, who chairs the group, said: “We want to keep the lake as the significant local asset we were promised in the first place. That is what we agreed to and we believe Banks can do that within 12 months.
“We don’t want this in-fill scheme, which is going to take seven years, when we are already many years behind the site restoration programme.” Pegswood parish Coun David Woodard said: “We expect Banks to do the decent thing and give us something very similar to what we were promised in the first place.”
Mark Dowdall, Banks’ environment and community director, said last night: “We were disappointed with the feedback to our latest proposals that we received from the parish council representatives, but remain fully committed to finalising this work as appropriately and efficiently as we can.
“We will continue to work with all interested parties to make this happen as quickly as possible.”