Tyne & Wear

Banks' Bradley surface mine extension proposed

Defendants and supporters outside court Image copyright Campaign to Protect Pont Valley
Image caption Objectors want the company's current mining permit for Bradley revoked

The owner of an opencast site at the centre of environmental protests has plans for another site nearby.

Banks Mining's permission to extract 500,000 tonnes of coal from its Bradley surface mine near Dipton, County Durham is being reviewed by the government.

The firm wants to mine 100,000 tonnes of coal from land to the west of it.

It said the extension would "sustain the employment" of 41 people, but protestors said it was "arrogant" given the current review.

'Riding roughshod'

Coal Action Network, which is campaigning against the Bradley site, said the company was "arrogantly" pursuing the new plans while the communities secretary considered the original planning application.

"This is yet another example of the company riding roughshod over the local people whose commitment to protecting the local area and reducing climate change has been ignored for over thirty years," said Anne Harris, of the group.

However, Lewis Stokes, of Banks Mining, said: "Not producing good quality coal from local reserves is simply off-shoring not only much needed jobs and value but also environmental responsibilities."

Charity 'bribe'

The UK had increased its reliance on imports of coal from Russia, he said.

Banks said approval for the Bradley West extension at Pont Valley would enable it to "increase its support for local community groups and charities" from £52,000 to £100,000.

Ms Harris called this a "bribe", and said the local environment was "not for sale".

Banks Mining also has surface mines at Shotton and Brenkley Lane near Cramlington in Northumberland.

Its controversial plans for an opencast mine near Druridge Bay are being considered for a second time by the government after a High Court challenge to their prior rejection by the former communities secretary Sajid Javid.

The new communities Secretary, James Brokenshire, has also agreed to consider whether planning permission for Bradley should be revoked.

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