Mining company admits defeat over controversial opencast mine proposals on Northumberland coast near Druridge Bay

A line has been drawn under a failed bid for an opencast mine on the Northumberland coast after the developer ruled out a challenge to the latest decision.

By Ben O'Connell
Tuesday, 27th October 2020, 12:16 pm

The scheme was approved by Northumberland County Council in July 2016, before being recommended for approval by a Government-appointed planning inspector when that decision was called in.

However, the then Communities Secretary Sajid Javid opted to turn it down in March 2018, before the decision was quashed following a High Court challenge by Banks, with the reasoning behind Mr Javid’s decision described as ‘significantly inadequate’.

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Gavin Styles, executive director at Banks Mining

Nonetheless, in the Tuesday, September 8 decision, Mr Jenrick concluded that ‘the substantial extent of the landscape harm means that the proposal is still not environmentally acceptable, nor can it be made so by planning conditions or obligations’.

The result was celebrated by the Save Druridge campaign group, environmentalists and local politicians, including the MP for the area, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, but there remained the possibility of another High Court challenge.

However, while Banks said it was ‘extremely disappointed’ in the aftermath of the decision, on Tuesday, October 27 it confirmed it will not be challenging the Government’s rejection.

Gavin Styles, executive director at Banks Mining, said: “In order to build back better, we need something to build with. We remain firm in our conviction that, while British industry still needs essential minerals like coal, fireclay and brickshale, they should be mined in the UK in the most environmentally responsible way possible.

“However, having carefully considered the Secretary of State’s purely political and deeply disappointing decision to reject our Highthorn planning application, we have concluded that issuing a challenge to it would not be the right course of action.

“This has been a difficult conclusion for us to reach as we are hugely proud of the exemplary work of our highly-skilled team, know that there will be substantial domestic demand for these minerals for many years to come and are only too aware of the impact that the Secretary of State’s misguided decision will have on many lives and businesses across our region.”

The firm has, however, reaffirmed its commitment to pursuing the proposed Dewley Hill surface mine to the west of Newcastle, which is expected to come before the city council’s planning committee before the end of the year.

Mr Styles added: “We hear a great deal of Government talk about ‘levelling up’ the regional economy, but it is the likes of ourselves and other North East employers that actually take the responsibility for creating the jobs that are central to achieving this goal, and we hope Newcastle City Council will support our continuing job-creation ambitions at Dewley Hill.

“At this time of unprecedented economic crisis, it makes no sense to hand much-needed North East jobs and supply-chain investment to Russia, which will be delighted to meet British industry’s continuing need for these essential minerals while simultaneously significantly increasing global greenhouse gas emissions.

“We remain grateful to the many people and businesses who supported Highthorn, including our colleagues and their families, our suppliers, customers and business associates, and to the politicians who continue to recognise the reasons why it is important for British industry to have locally-based sources of minerals.”

The decision letter states: ‘The Secretary of State has also concluded, having considered all the evidence provided to him, that there is limited objective evidence that the demand for coal for industrial purposes will remain at current levels beyond the very short term and that there is limited evidence to support the need for coal from Highthorn for industrial uses.”

‘He considers that overall, the weight attaching to need, taking into account both electricity generation and industrial uses, should be no more than moderate.’

A statement from The Green Party in the Berwick constituency at the time said: “Northumberland was the cradle of coal mining in the UK and is rightly proud of the role its communities played in the industrial revolution and of the strength and resilience of those communities.

“Having been at the forefront of one industrial revolution, this decision means that Northumberland can now be at the forefront of the next one and lead the way into a post-carbon future.”

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