Politicians urge mine firm to listen to local views

The proposed site of the Highthorn opencast mine.
The proposed site of the Highthorn opencast mine.

Politicians have urged the firm behind a bid for opencast mining near a north Northumberland beauty spot to listen to residents following last night’s consultation meeting.

A packed community consultation meeting was held at Widdrington Community Centre yesterday by The Banks Group regarding their Highthorn opencast mine proposals for a site between Widdrington and Ellington and near to Druridge Bay. Discussions were held on the need for coal, the site design and the planning process for the project.

After the meeting, Lib Dem candidate for Berwick, Julie Pörksen, said: “It was clear at the meeting that there are really strong views about the opencast proposals. The opportunity to ask questions was welcome, although I hope Banks will answer more of the many questions in future meetings.

“I urge everyone who has a view to look at the latest information on the Banks website and come to future meetings. There is sufficient interest in this development that, should there be a planning application, Northumberland County Council will hold public meetings so that everyone can have a voice in the planning process.”

Meanwhile, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the Conservative candidate for Berwick, has given a cautious response to, and said that residents require much more reassurance on, what are plans to build the largest opencast mine in England.

She said: “I have been involved in this proposal with the community for the last two years, and it was reassuring to see that all our campaigning to explain to Banks Group why using the area of land north of the C116 was a bad thing have been listened to and they have changed their initial plans considerably to take these concerns into account.

“I will be continuing to work with local residents on the impact issues and the restoration options which could leave an improved legacy for the area. The reality is that Banks Group, a development company, are entitled to put in an application, but we are being asked as a community to feed in all our local knowledge to try to make that application as good as possible, so that impact on residents is reduced. This area has suffered for decades from poor restoration commitment by UK Coal and the community are understandably anxious about any new opencast, even though I have seen first-hand that the Banks methodology is much more resident-considered than other coal miners.

“If the application does not provide adequate protections and an excellent restoration programme, I will not be supporting it when it comes to County Hall later in the year.”

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