A plan to build wind turbines in Teesdale could see them collapsing into old mines, worried protestors say.
Banks Renewables is working on plans to build a wind farm between the village of Woodland and Hamsterley Forest.
But concerns have been raised about the safety of the route for construction vehicles.
On March 16, George Gwilliam had a lucky escape when he was driving on Nettlebed Lane between Morley and Woodland.
The road sunk into a hole and his car was flung 15ft into the air, coming down on its bumper and narrowly missing a tree.
The Coal Authority is now investigating to find out whether the road had fallen into a disused mine. The accident has led to fears of further collapses if the plan for wind turbines goes ahead.
Peter Shield, from Hamsterley and Upper Gaunless Action Group, said: “Nettlebed Lane is part of the route that Banks Developments have said they intend to use to reach their proposed wind farm site just to the south of Hamsterley Forest.
“The installation of wind turbines involves perhaps as many as 4,000 journeys by construction vehicles, some of them carrying weights of up to 120 tons.
We have informed them of the risk of bringing heavy vehicles along the roads in this area all of which, not only Nettlebed Lane, are equally vulnerable to sudden collapse due to past mining activity.” Mr Shield said mining maps show there were many workings in the area, some shallow but many with deep shafts.
Registering a map of underground workings did not become compulsory until 1872, and many of the pits in this area were closed before that date.
This means that there is no definitive map, Mr Shield said.
He said: “As a result, the maintenance of local roads can only be on a reactive basis, repairing them as and when they collapse.
“ There is no way of identifying in advance where they may be vulnerable.
“Fortunately, on this occasion, the driver, Mr Gwilliam, was unhurt – but local people relate many similar instances of road collapse and resultant accidents on earlier occasions, including a fatality on almost the same stretch of road in 2000.”
“They are also very familiar with holes developing in local fields and gardens, of which there are plenty of examples visible at present, not least one at the bungalow adjacent to where the recent incident occurred.”
No one from Banks Renewables, which is based in Tow Law, was available for comment at the time of going to press.
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