In a packed council chamber, members of Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee today approved the scheme for a 325-hectare site between Druridge Bay and Widdrington Station.
The proposals have prompted strong emotions on both sides of the debate, with objectors concerned about the impact on climate change, potential damage to tourism, the impact on wildlife and ecology, road issues and negative effects on residential amenity, including noise, dust and air pollution.
But Banks Mining and its supporters have pointed to jobs and economic benefits for the wider area as well as the restoration plans for the site following the five years of extraction of coal, sandstone and fireclay.
Jeannie Kielty, development relations coordinator at The Banks Group, welcomed the committee's decision.
She said: "Banks Mining will invest around Â£120million in the North East economy through the Highthorn project, and will create at least 100 jobs on the site. Contracts worth a total of Â£48million will be put out to tender as part of realising the project, with locally-based suppliers being used wherever possible, and around Â£3million will also be contributed to the public purse through business rates.
"Our Discover Druridge initiative will see a coordinated approach involving local people, tourism and conservation bodies that will help deliver a tourism offer which will sustain the Druridge Bay area for years to come, and will give the area the infrastructure required for managing the increasing numbers of visitors that the scheme hopes to draw in.
"We have worked hard over more than three years to ensure that accurate information has been available to local people, groups and businesses on the details of our Highthorn proposals, and are very grateful to all those who have given us their backing during that time.
"We fully understand the responsibilities that will come with operating the Highthorn scheme, as well as the importance of living up to the commitments we have made to creating a tangible legacy for the area through its restoration, and as we do at all our sites, we will strive to work Highthorn to the very highest environmental and operational standards."