Northumberland opencast mine looks set to get go-ahead

The fully-booked public meeting in February to discuss the Highthorn scheme.
The fully-booked public meeting in February to discuss the Highthorn scheme.

Controversial plans for a surface mine on the Northumberland coast are recommended for approval by councillors next week.

The proposed Highthorn surface mine, which would be subject to a series of conditions, goes before next Tuesday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee.

It follows a fully-booked public meeting in February, at which both objectors and supporters spoke passionately, on Banks Mining’s scheme for land to the south-east of Widdrington and close to Druridge Bay.

The 85-page report to the committee concludes: ‘It is considered that the national and local benefits that the proposal would provide clearly outweigh the harm to the local landscape and visual amenity and so the proposed development would accord with national policy. It is therefore recommended that planning permission is granted.’

The nine-part conclusion does recognise that there would be negative impacts, but it is suggested in these cases that the mitigation is adequate or that the harm is outweighed by the benefits.

For example, ‘there would be some disturbance from the operations to the amenity of those living nearby associated with noise, dust and blasting; these would be at acceptable levels and could be controlled through the imposition of suitable mitigation measures and planning conditions.’

Also, ‘the proposal would result in the loss of 250 hectares of moderate quality agricultural land during site operations but this would be reinstated on restoration,’

In terms of ecology, the officer writes: ‘A significant impact has been identified on pink footed geese and yellow wagtail and the applicant has identified measures that would provide acceptable mitigation for these species during site operations. Whilst there would be some loss of ecological features and some disturbance to wildlife, it is considered that the mitigation measures proposed are such that the proposal would be acceptable in this regard.’

Plus, the report goes on to explain that the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) states that ‘great weight should be given to minerals extraction, including to the economy. This is a national benefit that carries significant weight.

‘There are also a number of other benefits proposed which would bring significant ecological benefits to the wider Druridge Bay area as well as supporting wider tourism objectives.’