Concerns over A500 opencast mining plans
VILLAGERS have raised concerns over plans for a new opencast mine on their doorstep.
UK Coal wants to extract 450,000 tonnes of coal from a site at Great Oak, Bignall End, near the A500, over 15 months.
Around 60 people would be employed on the scheme, which would be the first commercial coal mining in North Staffordshire since the closure of Silverdale Colliery in 1998.
The 200-acre site is close to the former Diglake Colliery, where 78 men and boys drowned in an underground flood in January 1895.
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Residents in the area believe any new plans for mining could cause resentment if not handled sensitively.
They have also raised concerns over potential problems with noise and dust.
Newcastle MP Paul Farrelly has written to UK Coal to highlight the issues and calling on the company to work with local residents.
He said: "The site is especially sensitive and any proposals to renew mining there could well aggravate deep-rooted concerns. I would be very interested to know whether the company has any plans to formally recognise the sensitivity of the site.
"I would strongly encourage the company to undertake open dialogue with the local community."
UK Coal has submitted a formal request for 'scoping opinion', ahead of a full planning application.
According to the proposals, the site would be restored to farmland following extraction, with the whole scheme taking two-and-a-half years. Access to the site would be via Jamage Road and Talke Road.
UK Coal says the coal produced would help the country become more energy self-sufficient and reduce the need for imports.
Carolyn Worrall, who lives opposite the site in Bignall End Road, is hoping UK Coal will consult fully with residents.
She said: "We are a bit upset that we weren't notified about this. I only found out through a neighbour who got a flier, but she lives further away than me. I'm concerned if they start blasting, there will be problems with dust and noise."
Bignall End resident Kelvin Chell, aged 55, said: "One of the biggest concerns for me is the fact that this will be very close to the site of the colliery. I think there might be some bodies from the disaster still down there, and there are lots of people in Bignall End whose relatives were affected. The company behind this need to sensitive to that."
A spokesman for UK Coal said: "We are extremely mindful of the sensitivities that surround any coal mining activity in the vicinity of the Diglake Colliery Disaster, however we are absolutely certain that we will not disturb the disaster area during the course of our operations. We realise this is an important issue and, as with all of our schemes, we are committed to full consultation with the local community."
A public exhibition will be held at Audley Methodist Church on Monday, February 4 between 4pm and 8pm, and at Red Street Community Centre on Friday, February 8 between 2pm and 6pm.