After years of campaigning I have today learned that the UK Coal appeal to opencast the Bradley site on the County Durham side of the river Derwent has been successful and that they have been granted permission to start work.
There has been a long protracted legal battle which follows the High Courts decision to quash the original decision by both the county council and the previous planning inspector to refuse permission to opencast. The local activists who want the rural landscape conserved including the campaign group the Pont Valley Network, will consider all options. The last practical step that local people can take is to at least ensure planning conditions are met; such as leaving agreed areas undisturbed and movement of coal at agreed operating times.
The decision highlights the unfairness in the planning system whereby developers can be refused permission on numerous occasions, re-appeal and re-apply over a period of several years (or in this case decades) until an they come across inspector or a planning committee who will capitulate to their wishes. I feel that a change in planning law is desperately needed. Local people have no other option other than to lobby parliament in order to effect change in legislation which address this inherent bias towards developers.
The inspectors assertion that biodiversity will be increased as a result of the opencast is incorrect and makes for particularly painful reading for me as I spoke on that subject at the enquiry. (Details here http://liamrcarr.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/succession-genetic-diversity-and-coal.html) It is disappointing that the inspectors report agrees with every assertion UK Coals highly paid lawyers and 'experts' put forward. Local feeling and local expertise has been ignored.
I hope that this decision does not have any implications for the rest of our rural outlook and that the rural area of the Northumberland-Durham border remains unspoilt. UK coal may have got their way this time, but I still believe that as a country we should look forward to renewables rather than to the fuels of the past. Coal is our heritage, not our future.