MP joins protesters fighting opencast coal mining plans

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18 Mar 2013

Newcastle’s Labour MP Paul Farrelly joined dozens of campaigners who staged a demonstration march against proposals to develop an open cast coal mine on farm land at Great Oak, Bignall End.

Mr Farrelly met dozens of placard-waving villagers who held the walk to highlight their opposition to proposals by UK Coal, which wants to excavate 450,000 tonnes of coal from the site between Bignall End, Chesterton and Red Street.

If approved by Staffordshire County Council, the company’s proposals will mark an unwelcome return to open cast coal mining in an area scarred by centuries of coal working, according to Mr Farrelly.

“The company’s proposals are causing fear, blight and anxiety among many local residents who thought they had seen the end of open casting after the completion of the Bateswood scheme more than 10 years ago,” said Mr Farrelly.

“The company’s declared intention is to extract only a relatively small amount of coal from the site over a 15-month period and local people are rightly worried that this is disproportionate to all the noise, dirt and environmental nuisance that would be involved,” he added.

The Great Oak site is located close to the former Diglake Colliery where 80 local men and boys drowned in an underground flood in 1895 and some of the bodies of those who perished have never been recovered.

To mark the sensitivity of the area, the open cast protesters completed their walk at the Wedgwood memorial overlooking the Great Oak site, where they held a minute’s silence in memory of the miners who died in the Diglake disaster.

Mr Farrelly is pictured with Newcastle Borough and Audley Parish Councillor Ann Beech and Claire Hansbury, chair of the Great Oak campaign group.