HOODCLOSE PLANNING APPLICATION WITHDRAWN
In light of UK Coal's last minute decision to throw in the towel and withdraw its planning application for a surface mine at Hoodsclose Whittonstall, I would like to thank all of you for your support throughout our campaign.
The Whittonstall Action Group waa overwhelmed by the number of individuals who came to the public meeting last year and the 585 people who took time to write letters of objection, an unprecendented number for such a small rural community. We are extremely grateful for everyone of them. We also had the full support and help of local businesses, other local and national campaign groups, organisations such as CPRE and the Newcastle and Northumberland Society, as well as moe than 20 parish councils, villages trusts and community groups. Others helped with website design, leaflet printing and distribution, donating their expertise or funding. Finally, I would like to recognise the planners at Northumberland County Council who have always listened to us, shared information when available, and treated us as an important consultee group.
Without everyone's support and encouragement throughout our 4.5 year long campaign we would not have been able to develop such a strong and compelling case against the application - which we firmly believe contributed to UK Coal's decision to back down. My sincere thanks goes to all of you from all of is at the Whittonstall Action Group.
Chair, Whittonstall Action Group
Stop Press: We heard today that this application will NOT be determined on Nov 5th. So yet more delays. Once we have a new date we will post it here.
Decision day approaching: It appears increasingly likely that the application will be determined at County Hall on November 5th at 6pm. This date will be confirmed by about Oct 24th - We will let you know then. Hopefully no more delays!!
Decision Day is looming: After a meeting with Northumberland County Council planning office yesterday we can confirm the target date for deciding this application is July 2nd. The number of objection letters is up again to 554 so thankyou! It would be fantastic if we could get to 600 - there is still time...
UK Coal financial situation: As you may have seen reported in national and local press, UK Coal is perilously close to bankruptcy after a fire at its deep mine at Daw Mill in February. There has been speculation about voluntary liquidation and possible government bail outs. We continue to monitor the situation but the council will still decide on the application, regardless of the applicant's financial status.
Hoodsclose Decision Delayed Again: We are still waiting for a firm date for this application to go to the central planning committee for determination. The size and complexity of the application and the number of objections (thankyou) is taking more time to process before planning officers are ready to make a recommendation. The council elections in May followed by time to train any new councillors means the decision is not likely to happen before 2nd July. So if you haven't written yet - there is still time!
Northumberland Local Development Plan - Core Strategy Consultation: The council is consulting on its core strategy until March 20th. Please take the time to look since these policies will guide future planning applications. Section 9 covers the minerals plan and policies 22 and 23 cover coal. Click here to view and comment on the plan. Whittonstall Action Group will be commenting in particular on the land "south of Whittonstall" including the visual and cummulative impact, transport, buffer zones, the need for full health and socio-economic impact assessments, and the importance of receation and tourism in the area.
Planning Decision Delayed Again: We've just heard the decision now won't be decided at the planning committee meeting in March - and is delayed until April 2nd. Here's hoping for no more delays!
News story filmed today by ITV: Another story broadcast on local news. See a summary of the story and a link to the film here.
Were you one of the people who couldn't get into the public meeting? If so you can still have your question/comment included in the meeting transcript to be passed to the planning committee. Please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will compile and submit them!
BBC Look North 1st Feb: The Hoodsclose application and Whittonstall Action Group featured on BBC Look North yesterday (2nd news item!). Available for 24hr on iPlayer here.
Planning Committee Meeting Delayed: We have been informed the decision meeting for Hoodsclose will not now be in February - we are hoping it will happen at the next scheduled meeting on March 5th.
More Press Coverage: Lots of press coverage over the last week or so including confirmation that the school governors' letter should be taken as an objection to the proposal, and the concerns of parents regarding the health of their son. Here are all the links:
"Villagers oppose big opencast plan" Northern Echo
"Whittonstall opencast would harm our sick boy" The Journal
"Whittonstall: United against plan" Hexham Courant
"Whittonstall tells mining giant to get out of village" Hexham Courant
Public Meeting: Thankyou to the hundreds of you who came to the public meeting on Jan 17th - despite the bitterly cold weather. The hall was packed and overflowing and we know some of you couldn't get in at all. The meeting has been well summarised in The Journal - click here. We will publish further articles as they are published. If you were one of the unlucky ones who couldn't get inside - why not write to the Council with the question you would have asked and insist it is not only answered but also recorded as an addendum to the minutes that the deciding Planning Committee will receive? In fact anyone can still write an objection letter.... they still count up to the day the decision is made!
Public meeting to be held on Thursday January 17th (6-8pm) at St John's Church Hall, Snods Edge: Northumberland County Council will be chairing this meeting to listen to the community point of view before making their decision on this application. Please come and ask your questions and make your voice heard. Just being there will show you care.
Road Works in the Whittonstall Vicinity: It has come to our attention that rumours are circulating that UK Coal have been granted permission and are already building the haul road - THIS IS NOT TRUE! The road construction on the C265 and cable laying on the B6309 is actually for the Boundary Lane Wind Farm (and a stark reminder of the cummulative disruption this small community is facing).
Halton Lea Gate Appeal: Anyone wishing to make a donation to the judicial review fund can do so by sending a cheque made payable to "North Pennine Protection Group" to 5 High Midgeholme, Brampton, Cumbria CA8 7LT. Alternatively by BACS payment to account number 01014587 sort code 40-23-06.
Halton Lea Gate: The residents of Halton Lea Gate have now filed for a judicial review of the government inspector's decision to approve an opencase mine in their village. They have launched a campaign to raise £20,000 for the anticipated legal costs. Details of how to donate will follow.
Press Coverage: There has been a lot of press coverage in the Hexham Courant recently including a 2 page spread on September 7th.
Halton Lea Gate: An opencast mine application at Halton Lea Gate has twice been turned down by Northumberland County Council (NCC) but this month a planning inspector ruled in favour of the mining company and approved the application! We are shocked and dismayed and have written to the Courant to express this. We will publish more information as we get it.
Public Meeting: Thanks to everyone who attended our public meeting in July. Close to 100 residents came, expressed their support and asked questions. Those who spoke to afterwards found it informative and useful. As a result we now have more than 300 letters of objection filed at NCC. Keep writing! You can read the Hexham Courant report on the meeting here.
PUBLIC MEETING SET FOR SATURDAY JULY 7th AT WHITTONSTALL CHURCH STARTING AT 10AM
The Whittonstall Action Group invites you to an open meeting to bring everyone up to speed on the latest developments. Please come and support us in supporting you!
UK Coal submit additional material: The Whittonstall Action Group has a copy of the new material and we are studying and evaluating the changes. We expect letters to residents to be sent shortly asking for comment. We are planning to hold a public meeting to share the implications of the new material, as well as timings and key reasons for objection. Date to come soon...
Objections: To date we have some 250 recorded objections recorded at County Hall! Thankyou to all those who have written in - and for those of you who haven't there is still time..... We also now have 10 display boards up with leaflets in various venues throughout the affected area. We are very grateful to all those businesses who have displayed boards for us. Thankyou!
Bradley Appeal: We are dismayed to learn that UK Coal have called for a judicial review of the inspector's decision to back the residents and council who rejected the opencast application in the Pont Valley. We will keep you posted.
PS: Still waiting for UK Coal to re-submit...
Press Coverage: Since the last update we have had 2 articles published in the Hexham Courant. The first on Feb 24th is entitled "Group against opencast mine gathers support" and includes the results of the business survey. The second published on Mar 16th is entitled "Opencast mine's rejection spurs on action group" and refers to the Bradley appeal decision and the relevance to the Hoodsclose application. You can click on the links to read the articles for yourself.
Bradley Appeal Full Report: If anyone would like to read the inspector's full report you can find it by clicking here. It is quite long but easy to read. The inspector's summary is on pages 29-30.
Bradley Surface Mine Appeal: We have just heard that UK Coal have been unsuccessful in their appeal to develop the proposed Bradley opencast mine in Pont Valley, County Durham. This is only a few miles from the Hoodsclose opencast application at Whittonstall. Congratulations to the NOTT campaign, Pont Valley Network and local residents who have been working tirelessly for nearly 5 years to get this application rejected!
Donations: We now have a bank account ready to receive any donations towards our fighting fund. If you'd like to help us out financially you can send cheques made payable to "Whittonstall Action Group" to The Treasurer, Whittonstall Action Group, Laurel Cottage, Whittonstall, Consett, County Durham DH8 9JW.
Leaflet Dropping has been completed to as much of the impacted area as our small group has been able to manage. Whittonstall, Stocksfield (all doors covered by NE43 publication), Hedley, New Ridley, and a significant part of the general Ebchester/Shotley area have been dropped on at least one occasion - and we now have in excess of 200 objection letters recorded at NCC. This number includes letters of objection from every impacted Parish Council.
Business Survey: More than 30 local businesses in the impacted area have been visited by the group, and their considered opinions recorded. The results are clearly strongly against the Hoodsclose development - many businesses expect a downturn or even closure - and there is great concern about the negative impact from trade resulting from the long term potential for the area to become known as coal mining territory rather than a tourist area. A report of our findings has been copied to all relevant Northumberland and Durham MPs, councillors, Parish Councils, survey participants and other significant parties. We currently await their responses.