Residents oppose plans for surface mining in Blyth

Families living on the Heather Lea estate in Bebside, Blyth, were shocked when they received leaflets from UK Coal on their proposals to mine the land behind their homes

Derek Leathard on the site of the proposed opencast mine
Derek Leathard on the site of the proposed opencast mine

People in a Northumberland town have been left outraged by plans for surface mining behind their homes.

Families living on the Heather Lea estate in Bebside, Blyth, were shocked when they received leaflets from UK Coal on their proposals to mine the land behind their homes.

The-158 hectare site, just off the A189 Spine Road, has been earmarked by UK Coal to extract 860,000 tonnes of coal if its application gets approval from Northumberland County Council. The firm said it would also bring 80 jobs to the region.

But residents in the surrounding area have expressed concerns over health and environmental issues and voiced their views to representatives from UK Coal at two public meetings this week.

Derek Leathard lives on the Heather Lea estate with his 13-year-old daughter Georgia and said he and his neighbours planned to fight the proposal. “The health of our children comes first and if there are risks we do not want them there,” said the 53-year-old retired firefighter.

“The other issue highlighted at the meeting is the housing estate we live on is yards from where it’s going to take place, there will be a mountain of earth to separate and we do not think people will want to live there, anyone wanting to sell would not be able to”

UK Coal said residents’ opinions would be taken on board before the application was submitted to the council next month. If plans were approved the company said it hoped to be on site by spring next year. The organisation is also planning to offer residents the chance to visit one of their other mining sites to see how it operates.

A spokeswoman for UK Coal said: “Working with the Environmental Health Officer of Northumberland County Council, UK Coal will develop a Dust Action Plan and agree future appropriate trigger levels for dust on the Bebside site.”

She added: “UK Coal employs good site management techniques and best practice guidance. Site generated dust can be controlled to well within acceptable levels in line with The National Planning Policy Framework. The best available techniques will be employed at Bebside in a co-ordinated approach to the control and management of dust.”

Mining on the Bebside site would be carried out over a three-year period before restoration was carried out on the site. In total UK Coal would be on the land for around four-and-a-half years. Coal extracted from the site would be taken by train once a day to Drax station in Yorkshire.

This is not the first time this site has been looked at for mining with another application being put forward in the mid-1990s.

Blyth MP Ronnie Campbell said there was even more reason to oppose this application because there was more housing surrounding the area now.

“We opposed that in 1996 and it’s even more opposable now because there’s so many more houses around it now,” he said. “I think if we opposed it then we will do it again. It is too near houses, far too near.”

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