OPENCAST: We cherish our unspoilt views

The reduced area of the proposed Highthorn surface mine scheme.
The reduced area of the proposed Highthorn surface mine scheme.

Last week was the first Banks workshop I’d been able to attend. I’m so sorry that I missed several more opportunities to be patronised.

The bottom line is that this is not a consultation exercise, this is a fait accompli, all over bar the shouting.

This is about offering a sop to an unhappy community in the form of a new roof for the village hall, a few swings for the kids, something to illustrate their commitment to working ‘with’ local communities. This was not a community workshop – we weren’t talking, we were talked at.

They were unmoved by the strength of feeling against the proposals in that room and simply reiterated their determination to proceed with their plans.

The presentation from the landscape architect, which he seemed to believe would set our minds at rest, produced gasps of dismay at the photo montages of different viewpoints, as people watched their cherished views disappear behind mounds up to 25 metres high.

Much was made of Banks’ commitment to restoration (in 10 to 15 years’ time).

The thing about Northumberland is you have to really love it. You have to really want to live here, because it’s not the most convenient place to live.

Public transport is infrequent in many areas, and the Metro system is unaware of our existence. Therefore, the people who live here are truly passionate about it.

We don’t want another Northumberlandia, thank you. We don’t need additional tourist attractions, we already have them in the form of one of the most beautiful and unspoilt coastlines in the world.

For too long, south-east Northumberland has been the dumping ground for industrial blight and it’s time the promises that there would be no more mining at Druridge were kept.

For myself, I was born and bred in Northumberland, but circumstances forced me away.

Eleven years ago, I came back and I’m now retired. I want nothing more than to enjoy our beautiful county.

I want to walk on clean beaches. I want to watch brown hares crossing the dunes, and red squirrels darting through the hedgerows, and most of all I want to enjoy the peace, the wonderful light and the big Northumberland sky above the sea, without the rumbling of massive machinery as a theme tune, without the inevitable dust and dirt, and huge mounds of earth, artificial hills desecrating this ancient and glorious landscape.

Finally, I don’t know if I’ll still be around in 20 years, which of us does? But as the Banks’ representative stated, when asked by a local resident what the benefits for him would be, as he couldn’t see any at all, ‘it’s not about benefits for individuals, it’s about schemes for the whole community’.

So, there you go, talk about selling your souls for a mess of pottage, mess being the operative word.

Kate Bromwich-Alexandra

Newbiggin by the Sea