Protestors block road for more than 28 hours to stop work on access road of opencast site in County Durham

Protestors fighting against a new opencast coal mine in County Durham have blocked the road in a rolling resistance for more than 28 hours to prevent the mining company, Banks group, to finish building the access road. At 8:30 pm on Saturday 2nd of June, the first pair of protestors were blockading with a ‘lock-on’ device on the closed lane of the A692 between Leadgate and Dipton, in front of the Bradley opencast site. No traffic was affected.

At 6pm the next day, two new protestors locked-on in the same lane whilst the original pair was still in place. All protestors have now been arrested. Work stopped at 8:30 pm on Saturday and is yet to recommence.

Simon Daniels, one of the protestors locked-on says “I spent four years studying the science behind climate change. Today, I am taking the data to its logical implications. Coal has got to stop. My actions are necessary.”

Protestors say that it is essential to stop Banks Group from building the access road to ensure that the opencast does not go ahead. They say that the mine will have devastating effects on the health of the community as well as irreversible impacts on the environment. A number of protestors, including local residents, have taken direct action to delay Banks in their work.

At yesterday’s action, the police chose not to manhandle the first pair of protestors, and instead called in the help of the fire brigade rather than that of a specialist cutting team, to free the arms of the protestors who were locked-in.

Campaigners disapprove of the involvement of the fire brigade: they argue that a specialised cutting team should have been dealing with the ‘lock-on’ devices as the lives of the protestors were not endangered. Robyn Clogg, a local resident of High Stables, said: “After speaking to the Secretary for Durham Fire Brigade Union, it was obvious that the Union did not feel that this was an appropriate use of their time and resources.”

The second pair of protestors arrived on site at 6pm yesterday. The police chose to carry the pair to the pavement while their arms were still attached in the ‘lock-on’ device. Supporters on the road were concerned that this move would have put the protestors’ health and safety at risk. The protestors freed themselves from the lock-on a bit after twelve.

This comes two days after three protestors locked-on in front Tynedale Roadstone on the Newburn Haugh Industrial Estate, in Newburn, Newcastle to prevent the delivery of tarmac to the opencast site. After several hours the company created a new entrance by taking down their security fences in order to allow lorries to leave the depot.

Mike Terrison, a protestor, said that ” Direct action has been effective in taking a defiant stand against Banks Group and their intent to destroy the Pont Valley and push us to catastrophic climate change in their endless pursuit of profit.”

Suzanne Leigh, a local resident, said: “If Banks think we’re going to leave them be, they can think again. Local people have fought for thirty years to keep this Valley green, keep the air breathable, and keep fossil fuels under the ground. In that time this country has moved past coal. Coal is our heritage but the Valley itself is the asset we value most here.”

Tracy Gilman, local resident, said “Banks Group have now missed their deadline to complete their access road by 3rd June, yet have already started mining, showing a flagrant disregard for planning conditions. There are also unanswered questions about inadequate wildlife mitigation and consequent wildlife crimes, inadequate dust monitoring without a 12 month baseline and cumulative impact, that need to be investigated. Now it’s time to hold them to account for their failure to commence this project according to their planning constraints. This opencast is unlawful and must be stopped NOW. We will work to save as much of the valley as we can for however long Banks are allowed to continue. If Banks think this is over they’re wrong – it’s only just beginning.”

Sunday was the deadline for Banks Group to trigger planning permission for the opencast site which aims to extract 550,000 tons of coal for use mainly in UK coal-power stations. Banks Group claim to have commenced work despite failure to complete their pre-commencement works.


Photo credit: Simone Rudolphi / Campaign to Protect Pont Valley

This text was updated with new info on 04/06/2018