Anger over mine plans

A CAMPAIGNER has slammed a decision to allow a former mine to be used to store hazardous waste.

NPL Estates submitted plans to use the former anhydrite mine, in Billingham, as a long-term tip, to start a long-running saga which has lasted three years.

Earlier this week, Stockton Borough Council’s planning committee rubber-stamped the plans, which will see waste stored under Belasis Hall Technology Park and the Cowpen Industrial Estate.

The firm said no waste would be stored under any homes and nuclear waste would not be placed in the mine.

The mine has been closed since 1971 and the two mine shafts were capped off in 1979.

The scheme will create up to 80 new jobs but there were 29 objections handed to planning officers as well as a 3,000-name petition from people opposed to the plans.

Ian Tate, who set up the petition, is angry the plans were passed and feels the decision should have been deferred to allow more people to air their views.

Mr Tate, 39, from Fielding Court, Billingham, said: “Billingham is a big place, so it wouldn’t have been possible to knock on every door and urge people to sign a petition against this.

“But we had a stall at Billingham market and 3,000 people signed it saying they were against it.

“The people of Billingham haven’t been properly informed. This decision opens the doors for Billingham to become a dumping ground.”

Mr Tate, a single dad who cares for his disabled daughter Emily, nine, added: “My concerns are purely and simply about the health of people living near this tip.

“The waste being put down there is hazardous ash from incinerators, which is being brought in by wagons. It’s a health risk and the environmental impact has to be taken into account.

“The petition and the objections weren’t listened to.”

NPL Estates managing director Simon Towers said: “The company believes this proposal represents the best way forward for the facility and gives additional safeguards over the future use of the mine to the people of the area.”

A spokesman for Stockton Borough Council said: “It would be wrong to suggest that the petition was not taken into account. We do have the petition and although the planning process would not allow the planning committee to consider it directly, it did form part of the representation by the local MP, Alex Cunningham. A clear reference was made to the petition in the report on which the committee based its decision.”

The Committee also discussed the petition during its debate.

“The petition was presented to the council in 2007 at a time when the applicants were still developing the proposals and well before they lodged their planning application.

“The Committee considered all views provided during the recent consultation including those received from the Environment Agency (who consider the impact on ground water), the Environmental Health Unit, the Mine Inspectorate and members of the public.”