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Date set for decision on Northumberland surface mine

Map of the proposed site boundary for Highthorn.
Map of the proposed site boundary for Highthorn.

The date for a final decision on the proposed Highthorn opencast mine has been announced.

In July 2016, Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee met to decide if Banks Mining’s proposal, near Widdrington and Druridge Bay, should get the go-ahead. And members voted to follow the planners’ recommendation and approve the seven-year scheme, for a 325-hectare site.

However, in September that year, it was announced that the bid would be decided by the Secretary of State, Sajid Javid, after he decided to call in the plan.

A 14-day public inquiry took place last June and the Planning Inspector then submitted his report to the Secretary of State on November 29 last year.

Now, it has been confirmed that a decision will be issued ‘on or before’ Monday, March 5.

The proposals are for the extraction of three million tonnes of coal and a total of 20,000 tonnes of fireclay and sandstone over a five-year period with total operations lasting seven years, taking account of the time to set up the site and complete restoration.

Banks Mining and its supporters point to jobs and economic benefits for the wider area as well as the restoration plans for the site following the extraction.

However, objectors said that the mine would destroy a stunning part of Northumberland. Concerns also include the impact on climate change, potential damage to tourism, the impact on wildlife and ecology, road issues and the negative effects on residential amenity, including noise, dust and air pollution.