OWNERS of a multi-award-winning pub in Northumberland say it may close if controversial plans for an opencast mine nearby are given the go-ahead.
Helen Greer and Rhian Cradock, who own the Feathers Inn at Hedley on the Hill, near Stocksfield, fear having to shut the highly successful venture and lay off 25 staff if UK Coal is allowed to start digging at Whittonstall.
The couple claim the mine would put people off visiting the area, taking away their business and leaving them with no option but to close.
However, the developer last night insisted the effect of its operation “would be much less than some people fear”.
Helen, 35, and Rhian, 32, took over the pub in 2007 and live on the premises with children Luke, three, and six-month-old Grace.
In their time at the helm, the business has won a series of accolades and was named tourism pub of the year at the North East England Tourism Awards just last week.
However, the couple are now fearing for the future as a result of the opencast proposal, which would be 1½ miles from their property as the crow flies.
The company is seeking to mine 2.05m tonnes of prime coal and 500,000 tonnes of fireclay from the Hoodsclose site on the eastern fringe of the isolated village, over a seven-year period.
Ms Greer has written to Northumberland County Council, which will determine UK Coal’s planning application in the coming weeks, stating the couple’s opposition.
Last night, she voiced fears that the development would destroy the area’s “beautiful” countryside which attracted them to the pub, as well as bringing noise, dust and heavy vehicles, which would deter people from visiting.
Ms Greer said: “This business we have created, this tourist attraction, I do not see how that is possible with lorries and trucks and explosions and dust. With this scar in the landscape, this big hole, it is going to look awful.
“The business cannot survive something like that. It is not like we can just sell it and move somewhere else. Who is going to buy a pub in that situation?
“If the pub closed, it would have a knock-on effect for the broader economy because of the money we spend that all goes into the local economy – hundreds of thousands of pounds.”
Ms Greer also has concerns that dust generated from the mine could impact on the health of her husband and son, both of whom have asthma.
A total of 466 objections had been received by the council recently, with residents having formed the Whittonstall Action Group. Governors at Whittonstall First School are also opposed.
The council received 228 letters of support.
Simon Taylor, director of UK Coal Surface Mining, said last night: “We stand by everything we have said in our various meetings and events with local people – the effect of our operation would be much less than some people fear.
“All of our sites are worked to the highest environmental standards, and the Hoodsclose scheme would be no different.
“We are proud of our track record of working closely with residents and supporting businesses near our sites. Our experience is that our schemes help local businesses and provide new jobs in the area.”