Pupils in plea to MP over open cast coal plans

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07 Jul 2014

Campaigning school children have written to Newcastle MP Paul Farrelly to add their voices in protest against plans for an open cast coal mine on farmland near their school.

Year Four pupils from Crackley Bank Primary School wrote to Mr Farrelly telling him the proposal to excavate 450,000 tonnes of coal and clay at Great Oak, Bignall End would threaten the habitats of wildlife and create dust, noise and traffic nuisance for local residents.

Last Friday, Newcastle’s Labour MP visited the school to thank the children for their letters and to discuss their arguments against the coal mine plans, which have been put forward by the energy firm, UK Coal. 

Mr Farrelly said: “The letters were well-written and very persuasive. It was evident that the children had thought clearly about the environmental problems that they think will be caused by these controversial plans to bring open cast mining back to Newcastle.”

Now Mr Farrelly has written to both UK Coal and Staffordshire County Council, enclosing copies of the children’s letters and asking the Council to take the pupils’ views into account when it decides whether or not to recommend approval of the company’s planning application.

The Great Oak land adjoins the site of the infamous Diglake Disaster of 1895, in which 77 men and boys drowned. A total of 70 bodies were never recovered from the flooded mine workings. 

Mr Farrelly has already urged the County Council to reject the proposals and has called on both the UK Coal and Business Minister Michael Fallon to drop the scheme.

In his response, so far the Minister has declined to back local residents, and now the children, saying it is a commercial matter for the company. UK Coal, meanwhile, has yet to reply.

The company is in the process of being wound up, and parts of it sold off, because it is insolvent. Its    financial difficulties raise fears, therefore, about whether it would ever complete the restoration of the site when mining comes to an end.

• Mr Farrelly is pictured receiving the Year 4 pupils' letters from Head Teacher Sara Stevenson