VILLAGERS are running the rule over controversial plans to opencast a wide area of mainly farmland between neighbouring villages.

The company behind the proposed scheme to surface mine a 133-acre site north-east of Durham City is putting on show its proposals for public viewing in villages on either side of the county boundary with neighbouring Sunderland city area.

Hargreaves Surface Mining is seeking to extract 500,000 tonnes of what is considered high quality coal, plus 83,000 tonnes of fireclay from the Field House site, between West Rainton and Low Pittington.

The scheme has attracted the opposition of Durham county and parish councillors in Sherburn and in nearby Pittington.

Parish council chairman Bill Kellett has also sought the support of the Loose Anti Opencast Network, a nationwide lobby group opposed to the scars of surface mining.

Villagers have expressed initial concern about the potential blight from added noise, traffic and dirt if the scheme proceeds.

A petition is already being drawn up with forms delivered to homes in the vicinity.

Public exhibitions have previously been staged in West Rainton and Pittington, but Hargreaves is now putting the plans on show in villages just on the Sunderland side of the boundary.

The first was taking place at St Cuthbert’s Parish Hall, in East Rainton, today (Wednesday April 3), with the other at The Village Centre, on Moorsley Road, Moorsley, near Hetton-le-Hole, on Monday (April 8), both between 4 and 7pm.

Hargreaves has asked anyone with views about the proposals to pass on their comments via, by a deadline of Monday April 22.