Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Opencast company pays up in Gateshead

A company that attempted to appeal against refusal to grant planning permission to set up an opencast mine near Whickham, Gateshead, has had to foot a £75,000 bill.

Hall Construction Services of Rushyford, County Durham, were all set to take the rejection of their plans by Gateshead Council to an appeal but withdrew it days before the planning inquiry was due to start in 2007.

But in the meantime, Gateshead Council had notched up a bill of tens of thousands of pounds to prepare the case in support of the decision to reject the application.

The plan to opencast the site at Skons Park, which overlooks the historic Gibside Estate, was rejected in October 2005 following a campaign led by local Liberal Democrat Councillor Jonathan Wallace.

He co-ordinated a petition which was signed by over 16,000 people – the largest ever handed in to Gateshead Council – which called on the plans to be rejected.

Residents feared the plan would lead to damage to the countryside and heavy lorries on local roads whilst damaging the growing tourism industry of the area.

Dr Wallace, who represents Whickham South and Sunniside on Gateshead Council, said, “There is no way the taxpayer should have to pick up the bill for the actions of this company.

“A great deal of officer time and council resources were put into preparing the case against the appeal. The decision by Halls to withdraw their appeal at the last minute should not lead to Gateshead residents being out of pocket.

“I am therefore pleased that the costs of £75,000 have been paid by Halls to Gateshead Council to recompense the authority and, more importantly, local taxpayers.”

The announcement that the cash had been paid by Halls was made at Gateshead Council’s planning committee on Wednesday 13th January.

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