Green leader returns to opencast mine fight in Northumberland

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett will tomorrow be supporting a rally against a proposed opencast mine in Northumberland ahead of a decision on the planning application.

Monday, 4th July 2016, 1:50 pm
Updated Monday, 4th July 2016, 2:52 pm
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett met members of the Save Druridge campaign group and the Green Party at Cresswell in January. Picture by Jane Coltman

As we reported last week, Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee will decide if Banks Mining’s proposed Highthorn surface mine, on land south-east of Widdrington, should get the go-ahead at its meeting tomorrow. The scheme, on a 325-hectare site between Druridge Bay and Widdrington Station, has been recommended for approval.

Prior to the 2pm meeting at County Hall, members of the Save Druridge group, which has been campaigning against the proposals, will gather for a protest and they will be backed by Natalie Bennett.

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Today, she said: “I visited Druridge Bay in January and saw the beautiful environment with flourishing wildlife and an accompanying tourist industry providing many jobs with the potential for more. I also saw the cairn marking an earlier struggle to protect the Bay against a proposed nuclear power station – a reminder of how a previous generation was able to protect it.

“I hope that the Northumberland County Council committee will tomorrow consider the thousands of objections from the public against the opencast mining proposal, its destructive environmental impact and the threat to existing and future tourism jobs.

“There’s also of course the pressing urgency of climate change. At a time when we’re seeing record global temperatures month after month, when the international treasure that is the Australian Great Barrier Reef is experiencing massive bleaching, this is not the time to be taking more of this heavily polluting fuel out of the ground.

“Greens support the call of the Wildlife Trusts for the development of a series of interconnected wildlife areas in and around Druridge Bay and the surrounding farmed land as well as the creation of sustainable local jobs.”

Following Ms Bennett’s visit in January, Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at The Banks Group, said: “Coal remains a central part of the UK’s current energy mix, with around 30 per cent of the electricity that we all use to power our homes, businesses, schools and hospitals being produced using it, but over 85 per cent of the coal we use currently comes from overseas.

“It makes far greater environmental sense to mine and use our own indigenous coal reserves through strictly-regulated and sensitively-operated schemes such as our planned and operational sites in Northumberland, rather than transporting lower-quality materials thousands of miles to the UK from potentially-unstable overseas markets.”