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Slater’s delight as mine is able to open once more

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Claude Smith Collyweston Slater feature - Nigel Smith at work in the Collyweston slate mine'Photo: SM170212-062js
Claude Smith Collyweston Slater feature - Nigel Smith at work in the Collyweston slate mine'Photo: SM170212-062js

Rare Collyweston slate will once again be produced in the Mercury area after councillors granted permission for a mine to reopen.

East Northamptonshire District Council approved Claude N Smith Ltd’s application to reopen the mine in Slate Drift, Collyweston, at a meeting on Tuesday last week.

The firm specialises in the material which was historically used on roofs around the area and the country. But its mines have not been used since the 1960s.

Nigel Smith, who runs the firm, believes there is a 10-year supply of true Collyweston slate in the mines. He was delighted to see councillors give permission for the mine to reopen.

He said: “The mine was in use up until the late 1960s when it was closed as a result of changes in health and safety regulations and an abundance of available reclaimed Collyweston slate.

“In recent years, however, this supply has diminished significantly and it is increasingly difficult to source reclaimed slate.

“Tuesday was a fantastic day for the future of the Collyweston slate cottage industry and we have had a lot of support from the local community who are proud of their local slate.”

Collyweston slate can be seen on the roofs of buildings across the area, and must be preserved on listed buildings and in conservation areas. Famous buildings with Collyweston slate roofs include colleges in Cambridge and Oxford, the Guildhall in London and Croyland Abbey in Wellingborough.

While district councillors supported the plan to reopen the mine, Collyweston parish councillors were not so keen. They submitted a lengthy objection to the proposal.

Among councillors’ concerns were an increase in traffic along Slate Drift, putting pedestrians at risk; potential damage to the road itself; vibrations from mechanical equipment disturbing foundations of neighbouring dwellings; noise nuisance; and doubt over the sustainability of the mine.

The council’s objection said: “Collyweston slate is no longer a sustainable building material, and that substitutes like Bradstone will be increasingly called upon to refurbish Collyweston slate roofs, as reclaimed Collyweston slate is becoming a rarity too.”

Responding to these concerns, Mr Smith said : “The reopening of the mine in Collyweston thankfully means this will not be the case. My father Claude Smith set up the business 50 years ago and his grandfather before him mined the slate. I’m delighted that this will allow the unique skill of Collyweston slating to continue and be revitalised.”

The firm hopes to take on apprentices having successfully protected the jobs of the existing slaters.

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