Contentious and controversial plans for a surface mine on the Northumberland coast have this afternoon been given the go-ahead.
As previously reported, Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee was meeting today to decide if Banks Mining’s proposed Highthorn surface mine, on land south-east of Widdrington, should get the go-ahead.
And in a packed and passionate council chamber, councillors voted to follow the planning officers' recommendation and approve the scheme, for a 325-hectare site between Druridge Bay and Widdrington Station.
However, the members are 'minded to approve' the scheme as a request has been made for the Secretary of State to 'call in' the application, which could lead to a public inquiry and a final decision by a planning inspector.
Ever since the proposals were unveiled three years ago, in July 2013, there has been plenty of strong emotions on both sides of the debate.
Concerns from objectors included 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 on the other side, the company and its supporters point 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.
The meeting, at County Hall in Morpeth, was preceded by a gathering of protesters outside, which was attended by Green Party leader Natalie Bennett.