LEADERS of a growing community campaign say it would be crazy to allow coal mining in open countryside on the outskirts of Durham.

Supporters of the Stop The Opencast Between Pittington and West Rainton (Stopwr) group has been working to defeat Hargreaves Surface Mining’s bid dig up to 514,000 tonnes of coal and 83,000 tonnes of fireclay from farmland known as Field House, a few miles east of Durham City.

They say the opencast would generate noise, dirt and dust, lead to traffic problems and light pollution, ruin the countryside and cause health problems for decades to come.

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No date has been announced for the application to go before Durham County Council’s planning committee, but campaign chair Denise Harland said: “It’s completely crazy. We’re ready to fight our cause whenever we need to.”

Ellen Osborne, a Gilesgate GP and mother-of-two, highlighted 1992 research from Wales linking opencast mining to increased prevalence of asthma.

Field House is close to three primary schools, in West Rainton, East Rainton and Hetton-le-Hole.

The campaign has the backing of both local county councillors.

Coun David Hall said: “It’s such a big development in such a big area for such little benefit: three years’ disruption and a variety of health impacts for a few weeks of coal.

“The selection of site seems crazy. It’s three feet from some people’s back gardens.”

Coun Stephen Guy, a former miner and son of the late Durham Miners’ Association president David Guy, added: “There seems to be a dash for coal in Pittington when in other areas they’re closing underground coal mines.

“If there is such a demand, let’s keep those open and keep this beautiful countryside the way it is.

“This would be a mining disaster for West Rainton.”

Hargreaves, which is based in Esh Winning, near Durham, says the opencast would create jobs, boost business and eventually improve the landscape.

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

Mrs Harland criticised Hargreaves’ public engagement, saying there had been no contact since a series of exhibitions early last year.

Campaigners have been distributing leaflets, canvassing support, erecting protest placards and are running a Facebook page.