The discovery of an old colliery near a proposed wind farm site proves the plan is unsuitable, objectors say.
Protestors had feared the existence of mine workings at Crake Scar, near Hamsterley Forest.
And they have now found records and maps that show there was a significant mine at Crake Scar Farm in the 19th century.
Banks Renewables wants to build a wind farm nearby and residents say the land will be accessed from roads going over the old colliery. Objectors say those rural roads will collapse under the weight of machinery.
Part of a field adjacent the proposed site has also began to sink into a hole, they say.
Banks Renewables has declined to say which route would be used to get to the wind farm.
It is not clear whether public exhibitions on the wind farm scheme next month will include the information.
One resident, who asked not to be named, said: “The information we have found is that Crake Scar Colliery was significant. It went down to 300ft, employed 115 people below ground and 59 above ground in 1896. It certainly wasn’t just one shaft and our maps show this area was heavily mined.”
A second section of highway near Crake Scar Farm had recently been reported to highways officers after showing signs of collapse near the verge. Workmen have since filled in the hole with top-soil.
“Will these roads be able to support 120 tonnes loads? If Banks haven’t made up their mind on the access route, how can they have organised an exhibition to tell everyone about the proposals?” the objector asked.
In March, a local man had a narrow escape when nearby Nettlebed Lane sank into an old and previously unknown mine shaft.
The Coal Authority has spent the past month working to shore up this road collapse. It is understood that 400 cubic metres of resin is also being pumped into an adjacent garden.
Banks Renewables was asked whether it was aware of Crake Scar Colliery’s existence but did not comment.
Phil Dyke, development director at Banks Renewables, says: “The forthcoming exhibitions are the latest part of our ongoing community engagement process, and will enable local people to view and provide further feedback on updated proposals for the Windy Bank scheme.
“We have worked very hard to gather the widest possible range of opinions from local people and organisations over the last 24 months, and believe the scheme that we are putting forward is efficient, environmentally acceptable and will bring significant benefits to local people.
“Ensuring the stability and suitability of any access routes that we create is of course included within our development plans, and we will ensure local communities are aware of our access plans as the planning process progresses.”
Meanwhile, Hamsterley and Upper Gaunless Action Group (HUGAG) has published a dossier listing why the plan should be rejected. It will be used when the group holds its own public exhibitions in early June. Concerns include effect on the landscape, tourism, wildlife, access, and health and safety.
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