UK Coal ' greenwash' Durham planner's! OPENCAST looks likely (near where Winter Moot will be in February)

Money grabbing UK coal have overcome one of the largest barriers in their plans to opencast the PONT VALLEY,

OPPONENTS of a large opencast mine in a picturesque valley fear the worst now that planning permission has been granted to move a colony of Great Crested Newts – a protected species.

Durham County Council planners agreed to an application by UK Coal to create four habitat ponds for wildlife near Leadgate, Consett, County Durham.

The company, which plans to extract 556,000 tonnes from the Bradley site, an area of 73,000 square meters in the Derwent Valley between the villages of Leadgate and Dipton, was hindered by the presence of the tiny animals on a pond in the middle of the area where it wants to mine. Now that councillors have approved the plans to create new ponds UK Coal will proceed with its application to mine.

A spokesman for the company said: “The proposals are to create a site of nature conservation involving additional planting and landscaping and new ponds on part of the site to form an extended wildlife habitat from the adjacent Billingside Wood Site of Nature Conservation Importance.

“The application for habitat ponds in construction terms is relatively minor in nature and has the potential for significant conservation and habitat enhancement opportunities for the local area.”

Eight letters of objection including responses from the Dipton Community Partnership and the Pont Valley Network were received.

Objectors argued that the application is part of the intention to opencast the site, known as the Bradley site and should not be treated separately.

But senior planning officer Mike Hempsall said the two applications had to be treated individually.

He said: “The proposal provides an opportunity for additional habitats that would be of ecological and landscape benefit to the area and can be carried out in an environmentally acceptable manner.

“The stated grounds of objection concerning determination of the application separate to the surface coal mine application, archaeological, landscape character, effects on public rights of way and wildlife impact are not considered sufficient to lead to reasons to refuse the application.”

UK Coal says the opencast proposal would create 38 jobs, produce 556,000 tonnes of coal needed for the British steel or electricity industry, and provide a new conservation area after mining is completed within three years. It intends to formally submit a planning application in the new year.

But Durham County councillor Watts Stelling said: “This area has been ravaged by industry in the past and should now be allowed to recover.

“Everybody knows the two applications are linked. UK Coal is not building new ponds due to any fondness for Great Crested Newts. It wants to dig a great big hole in attractive countryside.”

It should be noted that Durham wildlife trust didn't even respond when asked for an opinion by Durham County Council maybe this is because lots of funding for wildlife trusts comes from the aggregate industry or maybe their just lazy!

FAMILIES in a rural hamlet are calling on a development company to abandon its bid for an opencast mine in the Northumberland countryside after planners firmly rejected the controversial scheme.

Campaigners in tiny Halton Lea Gate near Haltwhistle say they are "overjoyed" after county councillors voted unanimously to refuse permission to dig 140,000 tonnes of coal from a 75-acre site, within the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

They urged applicant HM Project Developments to "get the message", admit defeat and not launch an appeal against the decision.

HM Project Developments’ agent, Newcastle-based firm Blackett, Hart and Pratt, did not comment.