Thursday, 24 April 2014

Families protest opencast mine plans on site of Diglake disaster burial ground

Outraged descendants of miners who drowned in a colliery disaster staged a protest against plans to build an opencast mine on the site.

The group waved banners outside the civic offices before Newcastle councillors decided whether to support or oppose a scheme to extract 450,000 tonnes of coal from a site at Great Oak, Bignall End over 15 months.

Campaigners say the proposal is disrespectful to those who died in the 1895 Diglake disaster as dozens of bodies are still trapped beneath the ground.

Staffordshire County Council will make the final decision.

Judith Edgeley’s great-great grandfather William Roberts was killed in the Diglake disaster.

The 48-year-old of Red Street, near Audley, said: “This is effectively a burial ground, we have no idea where those bodies are.

“I have asked UK Coal countless times about how they would make sure that they are not going to disturb the bodies and I’ve had nothing to reassure me. All they say is they’re not digging in the area where the disaster happened – but no-one can say where they actually are.

“If you look at the size of the lorries and equipment to dig up other sites, there’s no way they would be able to tell and we could have a situation were UK Coal are ferrying the remains of 40 miners up the A34.”

A total of 77 men and boys died in the Diglake Collliery flooding on January 14, 1895, when water from an underground reservoir burst into the pit.

Three unidentified skeletons that were recovered from the mine in the 1930s. The remaining bodies have never been recovered.

Claire Barnish, chairman, of the Campaign Against Great Oak Opencast (CAGOO) organised the protest outside the civic offices.

The 33-year-old, of Raven’s Lane, Bignall End, said: “There are so many reasons to object to this mine.

“The site is an unofficial graveyard for the families of the Bignall End area.

“Not only that but the mine would destroy a beautiful area of greenbelt and cause noise and air pollution for people in the village.

“I’m pleased that the borough and parish councils have sided with us on the matter. I hope the county see it our way too.”

Newcastle Borough Council unanimously objected to the plans at Tuesday’s meeting.

Councillors added recommendations to their planning officer’s report that UK Coal must set up a fund to reinstate the area back to its former glory if the plans are approved – after concerns were raised over the financial security of the company.

Councillor Sophia Baker, said: “We need to make it clear to the county council that Newcastle Borough Council objects to these plans in the strongest possible terms.”

Councillor David Stringer added: “I’m quite sure if we would refuse this application tonight if we could.

“If it does go through, we have got to make sure that restoration fund is in place to protect the people living in the area.”

Thursday 24 April 2014

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