Mining proposals slammed

Residents listen to views at the public meeting.

Residents listen to views at the public meeting.

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PLANS to begin opencast coal mining on the Sunderland-County Durham border have met with fierce opposition.

Residents living near two green belt areas either side of Pittington have expressed concerns over a number of issues relating to the possibility of digging for coal in the area.

About 3.3million tonnes of reserves could be mined from the sites, with the biggest area to the east of West Rainton and going towards High Moorsley.

However, an open meeting held last night at Sherburn Village Working Men’s Club heard neighbours voicing their disapproval.

One Sherburn resident said: “The amount of traffic that passes through here is absolutely horrendous anyway.

“This will only make things worse if it happens.”

Representatives from West Rainton, Belmont, Pittington and Sherburn parish councils were among those who put their views forward.

Although jobs could be created with the move, many cited an increase in traffic passing through Sherburn as a major factor in not wanting the plans to be given the go-ahead.

Objectors fear an increase in noise pollution, as well as harm to wildlife.

Interest from mining firm ATH Resources was revealed during consultations for part of the County Durham Plan, which aims to produce a strategy for future developments – including minerals and waste – up to the year 2030.

The firm wants Durham County Council to declare the two areas as strategic coal sites.

Rick Long, principal planner at Durham County Council, said any plans that were going to be approved would have to be “environmentally acceptable” before they could be allowed to pass.

“This isn’t just about minerals or coal,” he said.

“It is about a development across County Durham over the next 20 years.”

Durham County councillor Carol Woods told the meeting she would be happy to put objections from residents forward to Durham County Council.

She said: “If a planning application comes in, the county council will keep you informed.

“We (councillors) don’t want to take over this issue.

“I am sure there will be huge objections to this.”

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