Paying price of mining legacy

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COLLIERY communities are still living with the health legacy of coal mining 20 years after the pits closed, according to research out today.

A Durham University-led study shows problems such as long-term illnesses including chronic arthritis, asthma and back problems, are significantly more likely in some coalfield areas.

But the results, published in the journal Health and Place, also reveal some less deprived coalfield areas are faring better, suggesting regeneration schemes and strong community spirit have a part to play in health as well as economic recovery.

Report co-author Professor Sarah Curtis said the findings reinforced calls for increased and better focused Government assistance.

She said: “Coalfield areas vary considerably and it’s essential that Government policy recognises the different levels of support that are needed and helps the areas with the greatest need.

“Some mining communities have struggled and need more assistance, while others have fared quite well, demonstrating considerable resilience in the wake of the huge job losses that affected these regions,” she said.

“A lot can be learnt from the success stories and regeneration schemes that have worked well. It will be helpful to share knowledge about the conditions fostering that success.”

Researchers at the university’s Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience worked with Dalhousie University in Canada, and Teesside University to look at how 26,100 people nationwide rated their own health and found people living in coalfield communities were 27 per cent more likely to report having a limiting long-term illness.

“Communities that ‘bounced back’ from the pit closures of the 1980s may have been more able to adapt and may have had more local resources to overcome the job losses that hit them,” said Prof Curtis.

“The aim of regeneration is to help all mining communities to do this.”

Andy Lock, assistant director at the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, said: “The study confirms our experience of working in coalfields over the last 10 years. We know health problems are still very severe in some places.

“Activities such as our Midnight League and Sports Legacy programmes have engaged thousands of people in healthy lifestyle activities and we will continue to work with communities to reduce the health issues highlighted in Durham University’s study.”