A PARISH council has withdrawn an invitation for a coal mining firm to discuss its proposals to dig a new opencast, after the company refused to talk in public.

Pittington Parish Council asked Hargreaves Surface Mining to take questions on its plans to dig coal from Field House, an open countryside site between Low Pittington and West Rainton, at its meeting next Tuesday (February 19).

Hargreaves was prepared to brief councillors privately but wanted to take residents’ questions at two upcoming public exhibitions.

Now the council has withdrawn the invitation to address the meeting. Chairman Bill Kellett said: “If they’ve got nothing to hide, they could have come to an open meeting.

“I’m not willing to exclude members of the public.”

A Hargreaves spokesman said public meetings intimidate many people and public exhibitions were the best possible vehicles in which to engage meaningfully with local residents.

“We have nothing to hide – as will become evident at the exhibition events,” he added.

Mining on the site could last two-and-a-half years.

Residents are concerned about noise, traffic and dirt.

No planning application has yet been filed.

The exhibitions will be held at Pittington Village Hall on Saturday, February 23, and Jubilee Hall, in West Rainton, on Saturday, March 2, both from 10am to 2pm.