A DECISION on whether a firm should be allowed to opencast in countryside on the outskirts of Durham is drawing near.

Hargreaves Surface Mining wants to dig up to 514,000 tonnes of coal and up to 83,000 tonnes of fireclay from under farmland known as Field House, between West Rainton and Pittington, east of Durham City.

A planning application was submitted some months ago and the issue is expected to go before Durham County Council’s strategic county planning committee within a few weeks, possibly as early as Tuesday, March 4.

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Local county councillors Stephen Guy and David Hall are urging villagers to make their views known on the proposals by emailing: dmstrategic@durham.gov.uk or writing to: Planning – Strategic, County Hall, Durham, DH1 5UL.

The planning reference is CMA/4/107.

In a statement, the councillors said: “We have both received numerous questions and representations about the proposal, mainly by local residents and businesses who have concerns about disruption to their lives and business operations.

“The level of interest in the proposal locally has led us to meeting with and supporting a local group who are working together to research the potential impact of the proposed mining operation on their communities.

“Their findings and concerns will be presented to the county council and factored into the decision making on the Hargreaves Surface Mining Limited application.”

A debate on the issue was held tonight (Monday, February 3) in Durham.

The mining would last about two years and three months, followed by years of restoration work.

Esh Winning-based Hargreaves says the project would create jobs, boost business and eventually improve the landscape.

Villagers are concerned about noise, traffic and dirt from the operation.