Plans lodged for controversial mine proposals

Gary Morgan, business development manager at Banks Mining, with a visitor to the recent exhibition of the Highthorn proposals.
Gary Morgan, business development manager at Banks Mining, with a visitor to the recent exhibition of the Highthorn proposals.

The company behind a hotly-contested surface-mine scheme has lodged a formal planning application, saying it will create jobs and bring real social and economic benefits.

Banks Mining this week submitted its bid to Northumberland County Council for its proposed new Highthorn site, earmarked for the south east of Widdrington.

The 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.

The company, wanting to mine around three million tonnes of coal during the project, says it has made a number of changes and scaled back the formal application following public consultation.

Banks states that the time between the proposed start of work at the Highthorn site in 2016 through to the completion of restoration would now be no more than seven years, rather than between eight and 10 years, as had previously been planned, and the site has been moved further away from the south and east of Widdrington village through the removal of 283 hectares of land.

The company has highlighted a community benefits package, which includes an employment, skills development and training fund, as well as a major initiative, known as The Discover Druridge project, which will aim to create an enhanced tourism offering and new wildlife habitats in and around the Druridge area. Banks claims that improvements delivered throughout Highthorn’s lifetime include around eight kilometres of new cyclepaths, bridleways and footpaths and more than 100 hectares of new wildlife and wetland habitats.

If the scheme is approved, Banks says that the annual removal of up to 62,000 tonnes of sand from the beach and dunes at Druridge Bay – set put in permission not held by Banks – will be stopped.

But the plan has sparked fierce opposition. Objectors are concerned about a number of issues, including noise, dust and light pollution, environmental damage close to Druridge Bay and the impact on wildlife. A petition against the proposals has been signed by thousands of people.