Public meeting arranged over mine proposal

Banks Mining has submitted an application for a surface mine to the south-east of Widdrington.
Banks Mining has submitted an application for a surface mine to the south-east of Widdrington.

A public meeting is being held next month to discuss a controversial surface-mine proposal.

Banks Mining had submitted a planning application to Northumberland County Council for its proposed Highthorn site, earmarked for the south east of Widdrington and near to the picturesque Druridge Bay.

The scheme has divided opinion in the community and, as a result, it will be the subject of a specially-arranged public meeting, taking place on Thursday, February 25, at Widdrington Community Centre, between 6pm and 8pm.

Coun Scott Dickinson, county councillor for the Druridge Bay ward, said: “I have been contacted by people who are in favour of this application and also by people who are against it.

“I have asked for this public meeting so residents from both sides can have questions answered and the county council’s strategic planning committee can hear their views.

“My job as the local member is to represent local people. I have never had such an equal split on anything so I thought a public meeting was the best option, which then allows the committee to make a decision in the future. I hope that everybody who wants to make their feelings known will attend.”

Members of the strategic planning committee are also set for a site visit.

Banks says that 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 Durham-based firm has highlighted a community benefits package, as well as The Discover Druridge project, which will aim to create an enhanced tourism offering and new wildlife habitats in and around the Druridge area.

The company says improvements delivered throughout Highthorn’s lifetime include new cyclepaths, bridleways and footpaths and new wildlife and wetland habitats.

A Facebook page, entitled Support Highthorn Opencast, has nearly 800 likes. Those in favour say the scheme would lead to local jobs, apprenticeships and community funding.

But opponents aren’t convinced. A spokesman for the Save Druridge Group has voiced numerous concerns. Objectors says that the mine would have a detrimental effect on economic activity, will be a threat to birds.

Opponents fear that one of Northumberland’s most accessible, open and beautiful areas will be spoiled forever, should Banks’ plans be approved. As well as being a gross intrusion in an unspoiled landscape, open-cast mining threatens the wide Druridge hinterland with noise, dust and light pollution.

Two petitions, with around 20,000 signatures, have been handed in to the county council in opposition to the scheme.