Major plans for a new surface mine near a Northumberland beauty spot have split opinion of residents in the area – with petitions to both support and oppose the scheme.
Banks Mining is behind the Highthorn project, earmarked for the east of Widdrington Station, inland from Druridge Bay.
The company says it would sustain local jobs for more than a decade and provide an opportunity to add new and improved community and tourism resources to the area.
However, the Save Druridge group has been set up to oppose the development, claiming that it will cause massive environmental destruction next to one of the county’s most beautiful and loved beaches.
The group set up an e-petition on the county council’s website which has attracted more than 1,000 names.
But, on the Facebook page Widdrington Residence, there has been support for the scheme and an e-petition in favour of the bid has been submitted to the county council.
Banks is proposing to dig around seven million tonnes of coal, starting in 2016, with a view to complete extraction by 2027, and restoration and aftercare ongoing until 2032.
Concerned Druridge Bay resident Sarah Blythe is part of the Save Druridge group.
“The main concerns for us relate to health issues, increased traffic and the impact on wildlife and the area,” she said.
“The length of time that is proposed for the opencast and restoration will span some youngsters’ entire childhood.
“We want to raise the profile of our campaign and get as many signatures as possible. We also have a website, save druridge.co.uk”
But the scheme also has its supporters. On the Widdrington Residence Facebook page, Helen Wilson said: “I think most people wish an opencast was not necessary, but the country needs coal and the local area needs jobs.”
Cheryl Wade told the page that an e-petition in favour of the scheme has been sent to the county council for approval.