Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Blasting Decision Dismays Families; Company Insists Work Is Essential

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Blasting Decision Dismays Families; Company Insists Work Is Essential

Article excerpt

Byline: Joanne Butcher

FAMILIES on Wearside say they are worried for the safety of their homes if blasting starts again at an old quarry.

People living near Houghton Quarry at Houghton-le-Spring have been warned that blasting work could begin soon at the controversial site, which is now used for landfill.

Waste management company Biffa have also hinted to residents they want to carry on tipping there for another quarter of a century.

In April this year, 150 local residents held a public meeting protesting about the blasting work which Biffa wanted to carry out in the quarry.

Biffa said blasting the rocks was "essential" after a health and safety inspection identified a section of rock face as unstable and in "imminent danger" of collapse.

But people living in streets nearby say previous blasting - in the years when the quarry operated - used to cause their house walls to crack, belongings to fall and shatter, and tiles and chimney pots to topple from their roofs.

They also accused the company of simply wanting to blast away the rocks to make more room for tipping. After the meeting, the blasting plans were shelved pending further discussions with Sunderland City Council.

But last week, residents in Newbottle were suddenly told the work could start any day, potentially continuing until November 7. Biffa also sent a leaflet to handful of houses in streets nearest the quarry suggesting it wants to extend its planning permission and continue tipping at the site for up to another 25 years, adding up to 20ft more waste.

Families living near the site say the plans could mean many more years of smells, noise and dust in their homes.

It is understood the company's planning permission for the site runs out in February, and no extension has yet been granted by the council.

Earlier this year Biffa was fined pounds 27,000 for persistent odour problems at the landfill site, after admitting two charges of failing to comply with environmental permit conditions. A local campaign group, Residents Against Toxic Site (RATS), has campaigned against the site for many years.

RATS secretary Coun Sheila Ellis said: "In April the blasting was called off because of public opposition. …

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