MULTI-million pound plans to redevelop two former Northumberland colliery sites will finally go before county councillors next week – more than six years after the last of them closed.
The projects – drawn up by Britain’s biggest mining company, UK Coal – envisage 500 new homes, employment units and shops to transform the disused sites at neighbouring Ellington and Lynemouth.
Housing-led regeneration proposals were first submitted by UK Coal’s property arm, Harworth Estates, more than two years ago, and there have been protracted discussions with council planning officials prior to the outline schemes being put before councillors next week.
At Ellington Colliery – whose closure in January 2005 finally ended the region’s once-mighty links with deep mining – Harworth Estates proposes 300 houses, almost 20,000sq ft of offices, 18,622sq ft of shopping space and eight units where people can both live and work.
At the 65-acre Lynemouth Colliery site, it is planned to build 200 homes, 20,000sq ft of industrial units, six acres of open storage and five live/work units.
The redevelopment of the former collieries was part of a £25m masterplan drawn up by consultants with the aim of regenerating the area following Ellington’s closure, with the loss of 340 jobs.
Residents have been told that the plans will also include community facilities, public open space and a football pitch.
Next week, members of the county council’s south east area planning committee will be recommended to defer making decisions on the two separate planning applications until their October meeting. They will be recommended to arrange site visits to help them assess the potential impacts of the schemes on the two neighbouring villages and their residents.
Yesterday, Ellington and Linton Parish Council chairman George Jackson said locals felt any redevelopment of the former colliery should include some community gain and an element of low- cost housing.
He said: “We have not discussed these plans for a while, but there was a consultation process and we were keen on pushing things like affordable housing and some kind of benefits for the community. As a parish council we would expect some planning gain from all this, and I’m led to believe that will happen unless things have changed.”
Coun Milburn Douglas, who represents the area on the county council, said he was sure local people would generally welcome the regeneration of the two sites, as long as community benefits were linked in.
He said: “There could be a few teething problems with the applications, but I’m sure that with negotiations and some forward thinking, all parties can provide what residents want to see.
“Other former mining sites in Ashington and Pegswood have had new homes built on them and, although some people are always a little bit against change, I see this as regeneration for the area.”
A report by principal planning officer John Dowsett says the plans involve major applications adjoining relatively small settlements, and have potentially significant implications for the area.
“In order to clearly appreciate the proposal, the context of the sites in relation to neighbouring properties and the concerns of residents, it is considered that a site visit by members would be appropriate,” he adds.