A PUBLIC exhibition for people to discuss concerns about plans to create an opencast coalmine in north Durham was held over the weekend.

Experts from Hargreaves Surface Mining staged the display at Pittington Village Hall on Saturday, to give residents the chance to examine the proposals in more detail.

The company wants to extract around 500,000 tonnes of high quality coal and around 83,000 tonnes of fireclay from the Field House site, between Low Pittington and West Rainton, over a period of about three years.

Residents have previously expressed concerns about the impact of noise, traffic and dirt from the scheme.

Hargreaves spokesman Mike O’Sullivan said: “The scheme comprises a single excavation area, worked in phases over a period of around 26 months.

“As we begin each new phase, the previously-worked area will be infilled, bringing the site back up to its original ground levels.”

Normal working hours will be from 7am to 7pm and from 7am to 12 noon on Saturdays.

Mr O’Sullivan added: “Sensitive and appropriate restoration is a vital part of any surface mining scheme.

“We aim to bring back the site’s existing characteristics and also enhance it considerably, with new tree and shrub planting, the creation of a network of ponds and ditches, hedgerows and grassland, all complementing agricultural after-use."

Mr O’Sullivan said the route will be strictly controlled with HGVs exiting the site by turning left along Robin Lane and then left onto the A690 and then to the A1.

HGVs will not be permitted to turn right off the A690.

No planning application has been submitted and a further exhibition will be held in Jubilee Hall, West Rainton, on Saturday, March 2, from 10am to 2pm.