People in a Wearside village are gearing up for an open-cast pit battle.
About 150 people attended a packed meeting ahead of a public inquiry regarding a bitterly opposed surface mine near West Rainton.
A planning application for the Field House Farm site was rejected by Durham County Council’s planning committee last summer, after widespread protests and petitions from concerned residents.
However, applicant Hargreaves has lodged an appeal, and a public inquiry to help decide the outcome of the appeal will begin next month
A group named ‘Stopwr: Stop the Opencast in Pittington and West Rainton’ organised a meeting at Hallgarth Manor Hotel in Pittington to garner support, and £143 was collected for a ‘fighting fund’.
Steve Leary from Loose Open Network Against Opencasting (LAON) gave a talk on how to oppose opencasting.
Group members are concerned that should the appeal be upheld, Hargreaves could extend operations south, from Low Pittington towards Sherburn, facing directly onto the Priors Grange housing estate.
Durham County Councillor Bill Kellett said there was interest expressed in this further piece of land – referred to as Pittington South – several years ago, and he is worried that this could still be in the pipeline.
Coun Kellett said he was particularly concerned about a paragraph in the report referring to an agreement to limit the extent of working on land adjacent to the Field House Farm site.
The section states, however, that they “have not entered into an agreement precluding further applications within the Pittington/ Sherburn electoral wards”.
The Sherburn ward councillor said: “Quite simply, to me at least, this seems to indicate a strong possibility that they would attempt to opencast the Pittington South site which approximately extends from Low Pittington and towards Sherburn Village.”
A spokesman for Hargreaves said: “Any operation at Field House would be governed by a binding legal agreement with the local authority.
“That would detail all the planning conditions the development would need to adhere to including restricting any extension, detailing hours of operation and other controls as well as providing restoration guarantees.”
The next meeting will be held at West Rainton Jubilee Hall at 7pm on September 2.
The public inquiry opens at 10am on September 29, in Pittington Village Hall.