Objection to Birklands Opencast Plan Submitted

Tagged as: environmentalism social_struggles
Neighbourhoods: sunnysidegateshead

An objection to Hall Construction Servixes for an Opencast Mine at the Birklands site in Gateshead has now been submitted. The objection is based on a number of factors, the rate at which power stations are being closed or converted to burning biomass; that it is Government policy to encourage Power Generators to switch from burning coal to burning biomass; that the expected decline in the need for coal for power generation purposes is expected to drop by 34% by 2017 and how easy it is to ship any coal that is needed into the Port of tyne amongst other reason. The pres release also draws attention to problems with the Growth and Infrastructure Bill now before Parliament. 




PR 2012 -12                                                                                    8/11/12


In an objection to the proposal to quarry to take out 275,000  tonnes of coal from the Birklands Lane Opencast site in Sunnyside, Gateshead, the Loose Anti Opencast Network (LAON) makes the following points:

  • By the end of 2016, six heavily polluting power stations which were using coal to produce electricity will be closed. This is equal to a third of the UK’s coal burning generating capacity. These power stations are Ferrybridge (Yorkshire), Ironbridge (Shropshire) Cockenzie (nr. Edinburgh), Kingsnorth (Kent), Tilbury (Essex) and Didcot (Oxfordshire)
  • It is now Government policy to phase out the use of coal for Power generation purposes
  • It is also now Government policy to use a new subsidy system to encourage the remaining coal burning power stations to switch to burning biomass. As a consequence, Tilbury Power Station has already been converted to burning biomass, Ironbridge is to be converted. In addition, half of the UK’s biggest power station, Drax (Yorkshire) is to be converted by 2017 and another large power station Eggborough (Goole on Humberside) is also to be converted.
  • New Department of Energy and Climate change figures predict what the consequence of these changes will be for the demand for coal for power generation purposes in the UK. In 2011 the UK used over 40.5m tonnes of coal. By 2017, the date by when coal extraction on the Birkland Lane site is most likely to finish if planning permission was granted anytime soon, demand is expected to have fallen to 26.6m tonnes, a drop of about 34%.

The use of coal for power generation purposes is becoming history and for the foreseeable future this trend will continue as Power Generating companies continue to reduce the country’s capacity to burn coal.

In addition, the objection points out how easy it is to import coal.

“ All the years of disturbance and nuisance local people will suffer could be avoided if 4 loads of 76,000 tonnes of coal could, instead, be unloaded in the Port of Tyne and transported by a far more environmentally friendly method of transport, rail, to the power stations where it is needed.

This would also mean that the current generation of residents would not have to wait for 23 years before the site began to look mature, assuming that this was in fact a 3.5 year ‘Green to Green’ proposal, with no submission of a future plan to extend the site.”

Steve Leary, who wrote the submission, is the Co-ordinator of the Loose Anti Opencast Network. He has addressed groups elsewhere on planning issues to do with opencast coal applications and recently submitted evidence, which was accepted, to the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government on inadequacies in the way the present planning system deals with opencast mine applications.

He commented

“We in LAON have decided to lodge this objection to make the public, planners and Councillor’s aware to the results of our research. We are entering a new era as far as power generation is concerned and coal will not be part of that picture for the foreseeable future. - Coal for power generation purposes is becoming history. Therefore one of the questions  which Gateshead Councillors will face is knowing that this is the case, is 4 shiploads of coal worth saving local people from  3.5 years of disturbance plus innumerable traffic movements by road, if account is also taken of journeys made by employees and suppliers servicing the site in addition to the known estimated heavy lorry movements.  This is a stark choice that the Planning Authority has to take. The case being put here is that protecting local people from the loss of amenity caused by working this site, if permission is given, is worth 4shiploads of coal, especially when the use of coal for such a purpose is becoming history.

LAON also has to alert local people to another threat which may impinge on the decision about Kirkland Lane. Currently, the Government is seeking further changes in the planning system that might make it easier for such proposals such as Kirkland Lane to gain planning permission. In the Growth and Infrastructure Bill currently before Parliament, Clause 21 will give the Secretary Of State power to define certain developments as ‘Major Infrastructure Projects’. If quarrying and surface mining are so defined, as some commentators think is possible,  then the decision will be made by means of a Public Inquiry and not by the local planning authority, thus making it far more difficult for local people to object to such proposals. So far The Government has refused to define what it means by ‘Major Infrastructure Projects’. It would be deeply ironic if that were to be case in view of the predicted decline in the use of coal.”

The Loose Anti Opencast Network would be willing to work with those who have already objected to this application to ensure that planning permission is not granted.

About LAON

The Loose Anti-Opencast Network (LAON) has been in existence since 2009. It functions as a medium through which to oppose open cast mine applications. At present LAON links individuals and groups in N Ireland (Just Say No to Lignite), Scotland (Coal Action Scotland), Wales (Green Valleys Alliance, The Merthyr Tydfil Anti Opencast Campaign), England, (Coal Action Network), Northumberland, (Whittonstall Action Group, North Pennine Protection Group) Co Durham (Pont Valley Network), Leeds, Sheffield (Cowley Residents Action Group), Kirklees, (Skelmansthorpe Action Group)  Nottinghamshire (Shortwood Farm Opencast Opposition), Derbyshire (West Hallum Environment Group, Smalley Action Group and Hilltop Action Group) , Leicestershire (Minorca Opencast Protest Group) and Walsall (Alumwell Action Group).

Contacting LAON

Steve Leary LAON’Ss Co-ordinator, at infoatlaon@yahoo.com

You can now follow LAON on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/Seftonchase




Email Contact email: infoatloan@yahoo.com