COMMUNITY groups near an opencast coalmine are being invited to put ideas forward for projects that could win financial support from its new benefits fund.

Banks Mining, which opened a new surface mine near Dipton last year, will direct around £50,000 of the revenues generated at the Bradley site, to worthy schemes in the area.

Over the next two-and-a-half years, grants of up to £3,000 are going to be made available.

The Bradley Community Benefits Fund is being independently administered by the County Durham Community Foundation, and a funding committee comprised of community representatives has now been set up to help ensure the money is spent in ways which meet local priorities.

Lewis Stokes, community relations manager at The Banks Group, said: “We are committed to delivering tangible benefits to the local communities that host our developments, and involving community representatives in making funding decisions will help us to provide support to those projects which meet local priorities.

“We are keen to start hearing from as many different local groups as we can, so we can start making a positive contribution towards local community groups’ work as soon as possible.”

Councillor Ivan Jewell, of Durham County Council, was appointed as chairman of the funding committee, with Andy Plant of the Leadgate Area Partnership becoming its vice-chairman.

The nine-member committee, which also includes Father John Bagnall of Our Blessed Lady and St Joseph Church in Leadgate, Fiona Maddick of Durham Constabulary and Cllr Alan Shield of Durham County Council, will meet every few months to consider applications for funding.

Mr Stokes said: “As well as generating money for this fund and local employment opportunities, the high quality coal that now being produced at the Bradley site is helping to meet the UK’s continuing demand for it to satisfy a range of essential commercial, industrial and electricity generation needs.”

Groups looking for grant funding should contact James Eaglesham, donor services manager at the County Durham Community Foundation, on 0191-378-6342 or visit