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Open-cast mine plan is a ‘hard one to call’

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A controversial scheme for an open-cast mine has its ‘pros and cons’ and is a ‘hard one to call’, councillors have said.

Banks Mining has submitted a planning application to Northumberland County Council for its proposed Highthorn site, earmarked for the south-east of Widdrington.

The Durham-based firm says the development would create at least 50 new jobs, while 50 existing roles would be transferred from its current surface-mine sites elsewhere in the county.

Banks states that Highthorn would bring social and economic benefits, including The Discover Druridge project which aims to create an enhanced tourism offering and new wildlife habitats in and around the Druridge area. New footpaths, as well as wildlife and wetland habitats, would be among the improvements.

However, objectors have raised concerns on a number of grounds. They believe it threatens the ‘wide Druridge hinterland with noise, dust and light pollution’, will spoil one of Northumberland’s ‘most accessible, open and beautiful areas’ and would harm birds, animals and plants.

They say a petition against the scheme has attracted more than 4,250 signatures, while one in favour has just over 100 signatures.

The application was discussed at Monday night’s East Chevington Parish Council and members admitted they could see both sides.

Parish council chairman Paul Claridge said: “There are pros and cons. The employment side comes into it, but on the other side, you don’t want the area disturbed.”

Coun Scott Dickinson said: “This application is dividing opinion and there is a split.

“It was always going to be contentious but I am urging people to have their opinion, but to respect the views of other people. It is a hard one to call.”

Coun Thelma Morse said it was important that Banks keeps to its promises, while Coun Fred Thurgood said ‘let’s get the best deal we can’.