Planning application for Northumberland opencast bid withdrawn

Opencast developer's bid to alter the boundary of its approved site at Halton Lea Gate in Northumberland is withdrawn

Residents of Halton Lea Gate
Residents of Halton Lea Gate

A planning application for an opencast developer’s bid to alter the boundary of its approved scheme in Northumberland was withdrawn last night.

HM Projects Development (HMPD) already has planning permission to dig 140,000 tonnes of coal at Halton Lea Gate, 200m from the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, for three and a half years.

Now, the company has lodged a request with Northumberland County Council to amend a condition of the approved scheme, to remove an area it no longer has access to.

But last night the application had to be withdrawn and a new one has to be submitted as the shallow, old mining workings underneath the site must be stabilised and that aspect has to be included in the application.

However, the initial bid has faced 32 letters of objection from residents, one from the local parish council and another from the Campaign to Protect Rural England. The Tyne Rivers Trust has also voiced concerns when it went before planners.

The planning application was thrown out by the county council in May 2011. However the developer appealed, triggering a public inquiry, following which a planning inspector gave the scheme the green light last August.

In September last year, Hartleyburn Parish Council sought a High Court judicial review of the inspector’s decision.

Three months later, HMPD asked for the challenge to be dismissed.

Earlier this year, a judge at the High Court in Leeds ruled in favour of the developer.

HMPD currently has an application with the county council to amend a condition of its approval, to remove an area it no longer has access to.

However, the proposal faced opposition from the parish council, 32 residents and the CPRE. Concerns are based on residential amenity due to impacts from traffic, noise and dust; adverse impacts on ecology, landscape and visual impacts; impacts on the AONB; adverse effects on health, and impact in terms of highways safety.

The parish council also questioned the sustainability of the development given the proposed reduction in the amount of coal to be extracted from the site.

The Tyne Rivers Trust expressed concern regarding the potential risk of operations in proximity to nearby watercourses in terms of pollutants and excess fine sediment.

HMPD’s managing director Paul Murphy, said ahead of the meeting that the change was required as a result of a landowner who had originally allowed his property to be used, changing his mind.

Mr Murphy said the exclusion of the land from the project “makes very little difference” to the scheme other than that part of the site will have to be accessed differently.

Meanwhile, the parish council is still seeking to drum up the money it needs to cover the costs of its failed judicial review.

The High Court asked the parish to pay £6,000 towards the developer’s costs, £4,000 to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government as well as its own expenses. No deadline was set for the payments by the court.

The parish last month said it was still in talks over how the bill would be paid, with talk of an increased precept – tax on members of the parish – or a loan from the county council, unless a “secret millionaire” was found.

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