‘Don’t rule anything out at this stage’

Councillor Scott Dickinson
Councillor Scott Dickinson

The county councillor for the area where there are proposals to build the largest opencast mine in England has said that all the opportunities need to be explored.

A consultation event was held earlier this week by The Banks Group regarding their Highthorn opencast mine proposals for a site between Widdrington and Ellington and near to Druridge Bay.

Following that meeting, two parliamentary candidates for Berwick urged the company to continue listening and responding to residents’ concerns.

The ward councillor for the area, Scott Dickinson, who is also the Labour candidate for Berwick, has said that at this stage, ahead of any planning application, it’s about letting the community and the mining firm have their say.

He said: “I think the important point is that this was a community workshop and the politicians should listen and not use this issue, I’ve been quite clear on that. It’s my view that until a planning application is submitted, it would be irresponsible to rule anything out. We need to see the detail of the impact, potential job creation and contribution to the local economy.

“I know many Banks workers in my ward, I also know they have an ageing workforce and will create opportunities for young people. No county councillor in their right mind should turn away that without exploring the opportunities.

“Equally I’ve been working incredibly hard on this since July 2013, listening and talking to Banks, parish councils, having site visits etc, resulting in a much-reduced surface footprint, well before anyone else (politically) became interested. It’s important that we follow the process and deal with the application if/when it’s submitted. Then everyone will have the opportunity to convince the planning committees either way.

“The important thing also which clearly others have missed is this plan looks at progressional restoration – it takes place during operation – something I know they raised, but really is irrelevant on the outline plans indicated to the community. I always like to hear from and work with the wildlife trust and others especially those who have experience elsewhere of managing places like Druridge Bay Country Park and other nature areas next to these kind of developments.”

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