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Council supports opencast mine in north-east England

Words: Laura Edgar
Druridge Beach

Proposals for a surface mine at Highthorn, Widdrington, have been approved by Northumberland County Council.

The decision was in line with the council’s strategic planning committee recommendation and will be passed to communities secretary Greg Clark for his consideration.

The proposed site is located west of Druridge Bay’s beach.

Banks Mining’s plan would see the creation of a surface mine to extract coal, sandstone and fireclay, by 2023.

Plans include restoring the site once work is complete. Extraction would take place over five years, with the total operation lasting seven years. The company says the scheme would create at least 100 full-time jobs during the working of the site. Around 50 new jobs and 50 jobs staff would also be transferred from its other sites.

Grant Davey, leader of the county council, said he appreciated that it was a controversial issue, but the mine would bring much-needed jobs to the area and boost economic growth in the county.

“I fully accept this has been a long and difficult process, with strong feelings on both sides, but I do believe this decision is in the best interests of Northumberland and its residents.”

He noted that objections have come from as far afield as Madagascar and Bangladesh, while more than 1,000 local people indicated they wished to support the application.

“It’s also important to stress that the CBI and the North East Chamber of Commerce have written in support of the application.”

He said they highlighted the positive impact these plans would have on the North-East’s economy and the “importance of investing in meeting the country’s energy needs as part of building a more prosperous and competitive UK economy.”

Friends of the Earth, however, has criticised the decision, stating that more than 10,000 people have objected to the plans.

Friends of the Earth campaigner Guy Shrubsole said the decision is “terrible” for the local community and the environment.

“Druridge Bay is an incredibly special place. An opencast coal mine would damage its beauty, cause massive disruption and drive away tourists – all for the sake of a dying source of energy that’s wrecking our climate.”

He said the council “failed to allow” objectors to the mine to speak for more than five minutes in total - despite more than 10,000 objections being received. He said the secretary of state should call it in to “allow the evidence to be properly heard”.

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