A NEW campaign is underway to prevent the expansion of an existing opencast coalmine.

The Campaign to Protect Pont Valley is opposing Banks Group’s application to expand the Bradley opencast coal site, near Dipton, to the west towards Leadgate.

The company has announced plans to extract a further 90,000 tonnes of coal and 20,000 tonnes of fireclay.

Annie Lee, who lives nearby, said: “Banks Group have got a real fight on their hands.

“Last time they were able to avoid going through the planning process by buying up the existing permission from UK Coal.

“This time they can’t evade public scrutiny. They have been unsuccessful so far in their ongoing applications to mine at Druridge Bay and at Dewley Hill.

“Let’s not forget that no new opencast coal mines have been approved since January 2016. We are more ready than we ever have been to stop them, and we will stop them.”

Barbara Seale, of High Stables, 300 metres from the current site, said ‘We can already hear intense and regular noise from the machines and from the blasting with explosives, not to mention breathing in dust which we see settle in our gardens.

“Meanwhile our complaints go ignored.”

It is expected to go before planners from Durham County Council in spring.

Tracy Bone, David Graham and Jack French, who all live on Pont Road directly adjacent or close to the site, have all given their support to the proposals.

Jack French, who moved to the area four years ago, says: “We’ve watched the Bradley site take shape over the last couple of years and have hardly noticed any impact on our area, if any at all.

“The extension will be closer to where we live, but it’s not a concern for us and Banks has been in regular touch to let us know what they’re hoping will be happening next year.

“If we’re going to use coal in the UK for industry, there’s more sense in mining what we have instead of having to pay to ship imports from overseas.”