Plans for opencast mining at Marley Hill are back on hold after a decision yesterday by Co Durham's planning committee to reject the application by UK Coal to extract one million tonnes of coal from a site south of the village. The situation is very complicated however as Gateshead Council has granted planning permission. The site is mainly in Gateshead but part of it crosses the border into Co Durham, hence the need for the application to be considered by both councils.
UK Coal now face three options: appeal, bring in a revised application or withdraw. As the person who led the campaign against the application, clearly my preference is for a withdrawal. I am not counting my chickens on that. A revised application could take another two years to get through the system if the recently rejected plan is anything to go by. My expectation therefore is that the company will lodge an appeal.
The rejection now puts the spotlight back on those Labour councillors in Gateshead who voted for this application. Eileen McMaster, who represents Lobley Hill and Bensham voted for the application. Were it to go ahead, 61 heavy lorries a day would pass through Lobley Hill. Gary Haley, who often likes to parade his green credentials, voted for it as well. It's time for them to answer for their actions.
Back to the Durham decision - I have to confess it came as something of a surprise. After Gateshead's decision and the recommendation by Durham planning officers to approve it, I was resigned to the application being given approval. After 27 years as a councillor in Gateshead, I need to learn to expect the unexpected.