Halton Lea Gate villagers’ anger at new opencast plan

A NEW wave of objections is set to greet a fresh bid for an opencast dig in a remote Northumberland village.

Residents of Halton Lea Gate, from left: Stan Rowntree, Wendy Green, Nick Kennon, Stephanie Armstrong, Tom Potts and Jeremy Ancketill

A NEW wave of objections is set to greet a fresh bid for an opencast dig in a remote Northumberland village.

Four environmental groups as well as the local parish council and 81 individuals have lodged protests against plans to take 140,000 tonnes of high-grade coal from a field adjacent to the Cumbrian border at Halton Lea Gate.

Houghton-le-Spring-based HM Project Developments, which was turned down by planners 16 months ago, has come back with an amended application. The area is close to the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the villagers anxious to preserve their rural lifestyle are determined not to be beaten.

Councillors from the county planning and environment committee will pay an official visit to the 75-acre site on April 8 to assess the situation.

But the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Natural England, the RSPB and the Tyne Rivers Trust as well as Hartleyburn Parish Council and the county ecologist have all stated their cases against the controversial plans.

The CPRE says landscape and visual impact as well as noise, dust and disturbance to nearby houses would be unacceptable, while Natural England says there is a “reasonable likelihood” of protected species of wildlife being affected.

The Tyne Rivers Trust believes there would be threats to river habitat and restoration, hydrology and water management and there are claims from the RSPB that the new application does not adequately assess ecological impacts.

In addition, the Northumberland county ecologist says the new application does not provide the required assessment of impact on special-protection areas.

Hartleyburn Parish Council cites noise, dust, light pollution, road safety, water environment, damage to the area’s archaeological heritage, and the closeness of the site to village houses as grounds for objection.

Nick Kennon, chairman of the North Pennines Protection Group and a resident of Halton Lea Gate, said: “The level of new objections demonstrates the depth of feeling and opposition to the new opencast application in Halton Lea Gate.

“The village remains united against the proposals and is determined to fight them all the way.

“We welcome the planned site visit on April 8 and trust the planning committee will take our views fully into account, views which we have made clear many times over the years.”

This is the third time in 12 years that the villagers have fought against opencast developers.

As well as HM Project Development’s initial application, in 1999 a separate application from mining firm Andrew Golightly was also fought off.

Extraction of the coal from five seams would take three years, and HM Projects Developments boss Paul Murphy has previously pledged to restore the land and build a holiday and equestrian centre.

But locals say there is no demand or wish to have such a complex in the village. Mr Murphy was unavailable for comment yesterday.

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