Thursday, 12 June 2014

Don't Undermine Us

Looking West from Whittonstall after a day campaigning in Hexham. 
UK coal have withdrawn their application for extraction of 2.5 million tonnes of coal and fireclay from land near between the villages of Hedley and Whittonstall in South Northumberland. I have been involved with opposing these plans on environmental grounds since 2010.

Restoration after opencast takes decades, the impact on biodiversity leads to populations that are more susceptible to disease and extinction. Unrestored opencast leaves us with land that is of no ecological value.

Whittonstall Action Group have been opposing this application for the past four years. Hours have been spent; looking at plans, amended plans and reports. Drafting letters, reports and press releases. The process has dragged on, the patience and resolve of volunteers has been tested.

The refusal is good news, The proposed opencast was in a scenic, rural corner of the Hexham constituency and would have operated for at least 7 years but victory for local activists, has not come in the way in which we had hoped. Withdrawal of this application rather than refusal, could leave the gate open in the future, for new applications in the same area.

The outcome is welcome - the diverse habitat close to Whittonstall first school is safe. There is however another positive outcome; When a single issue unites the people of a local community, personalities and skills emerge that otherwise remain hidden. leaders, negotiators, press officers, landscape archeticts, ecologists, researchers, web designers all working together. The single issue has gone, but I hope that Whittonstall Action Group remains to bring people from surrounding villages together, working on the issues that matter.

Further Reading: WAG Website

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