HIGHTHORN DECISION: Reaction

Protestors against Highthorn opencast at Druridge Bay demonstrating at Morpeth County Hall in July 2016. Picture by Jane Coltman
Protestors against Highthorn opencast at Druridge Bay demonstrating at Morpeth County Hall in July 2016. Picture by Jane Coltman

Campaigners, supporters and politicians have reacted to the High Court decision to quash the Secretary of State's rejection of the Highthorn opencast mine.

Banks Mining is calling on the new Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government James Brokenshire to allow it to progress its Highthorn surface mine as quickly as possible.

The proposed Highthorn opencast mine site.

The proposed Highthorn opencast mine site.

Gavin Styles, managing director at Banks Mining, said: "We felt that we had a strong case for quashing this decision and are very pleased that all aspects of our challenge have been validated by the High Court."

But Lynne Tate, from the Save Druridge campaign, said the group is taking legal advice before deciding on its next steps.

She said: "The judge has made his decision and has quashed the decision made by the Secretary of State. This means it goes back to the Secretary of State to look at again. We are taking legal advice and will have a meeting next week with core members. We have nothing further to say at the moment."

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, MP for the Berwick-upon-Tweed constituency, who supported the Save Druridge campaign and spoke alongside conservation expert Bill Oddie at a rally on the issue in May 2016, said: "“I am, of course, extremely disappointed by the High Court’s decision and I am seeking an urgent meeting to discuss this with the Secretary of State.”

Friends of the Earth campaigner, Simon Bowens, said: “The original decision to say no to the Druridge Bay opencast coal mine on climate grounds was the right decision for the right reason. Since then, the case for ending our dependence on fossil fuels has only grown stronger, with the world’s leading climate scientists warning that we need to act fast to avoid climate chaos.

“James Brokenshire must take heed of the science and again reject this destructive proposal. All opencast schemes should now be banned by the government, and space should be made instead for a low-carbon future.”

Labour's Scott Dickinson, county councillor for the Druridge Bay ward, said: "For us locally, this will be bittersweet, for those who secure employment and those who believe in the nature improvements will undoubtedly be pleased, for those who were against these plans they will no doubt be concerned and bitter about the judgment. I have always stayed out of the political football that some chose to seek with this application and maintained my position that whatever the outcome I would work with it and in the interests of the community I represent and bring a divided community together.

Coun Dickinson also said the decision was "embarrassing for those who have done nothing but try to score political points' over the issue.

He said: "I am concerned to see the judgment in terms of what the High Court Judge remarks as 'totally inadequate reasoning', only yesterday we see a newsletter given to residents by Anne-Marie Trevelyan claiming to have prevented Druridge Bay Opencast rather than the application Highthorn Opencast.

"Today, we have the decision of the Secretary of State overturned and its all a little bit embarrassing for those who have done nothing but try to score political points. Clearly, those attempts to gain political points on a planning matter have spectacularly backfired and, in actual fact, caused more concern and issues locally. I think this judgment should be a warning to Northumberland County Council and MPs who are playing fast and loose with applications at present and appear to judge applications on political gain rather than planning law."

Alnwick county councillor Gordon Castle said: "I was a member of the strategic planning committee that unanimously gave permission for Banks Mining to proceed, since there were absolutely no planning grounds for refusal, as the court and the planning inspector have since confirmed. Banks Mining are an excellent company whose other local operations were shown to committee members and found to be beyond expectations."