REACTION: Northumberland surface mine refused

Politicians and groups react to this morning's news that the proposed Highthorn opencast mine on the Northumberland coast has been refused.

Friday, 23rd March 2018, 9:02 am
Updated Tuesday, 27th March 2018, 12:30 pm
Campaigners from Save Druridge on the beach.

Banks Mining

George Pitch Wilson, of the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

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Managing director Gavin Styles said: "In the same week that the Government decided to support passport manufacturing jobs in France instead of those in North-East England, it has now demonstrated that it would prefer to source the coal that is essential for a variety of important industries across the UK, such as steel, house-building and concrete production, from Russia or the US, rather than support substantial investment and job creation plans in our region.

"This is an absolutely perverse decision which flies in the face of the recommendation for approval given by Mr Woolcock, the Planning Inspector - the expert appointed by the Government itself to assess this scheme - after his careful consideration of all the facts laid out at the public inquiry, as well as the unanimous support we had for the scheme from an experienced, cross-party Northumberland County Council planning committee.

"It has been made for purely political reasons and is totally contrary to the principles of local decision-making that previously appeared so important to Mr Javid. The Planning Inspector's clear and carefully-considered judgement was that 'the national benefits of the proposal would clearly outweigh the likely adverse impacts', yet Mr Javid has chosen to flagrantly disregard this expert opinion from the comfort of his London office without ever having taken the time to even visit the area in question."

George Pitch Wilson, of the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

Save Druridge campaign

Spokeswoman Lynne Gargett said:"The Save Druridge team is pleased that the Secretary of State has understood the immense impact coal has had on climate change and also on communities which have had to live with opencast mines on their doorsteps. Many of these have been in tranquil and scenic areas and have devastated our local wildlife, landscape and caused increased traffic, noise and dust pollution for many years.

"Save Druridge would like to thank all of our supporters who have helped us raise money to enable us to have our own legal team and expert witnesses to fight Banks Mining at the public inquiry. We would also like to thank all of those people who have given up their time to support us in helping with events and attending meetings. Last but not least, we would like to thank both Friends of the Earth both locally and nationally and The Green Party for standing with us in our fight.

"We would also call upon Northumberland County Council to confirm that the Druridge Bay area will be included in plans to preserve wildlife and tourism and not ever again be allowed to be used as a pawn by a council or mining company to make money at the expense of this beautiful area."

Friends of the Earth

Campaigner Rose Dickinson said: "This is a significant victory for local residents and the climate, it means an important step forward has been taken in ending the era of fossil fuels. This is the first coal mine ever to be rejected in the UK because of climate change impacts – a vindication for everyone who has been calling for fossil fuels to be left in the ground.

"The science is clear that we need to leave 80 per cent of all proven fossil fuel reserves unburned to avoid dangerous global warming. That's why the government has done the right thing today by rejecting this mine. Now ministers should take the next step by banning all new opencast coal and stop trying to impose fracking on communities.

"Our renewable energy resources hold the answer: by being able to reduce emissions, meet energy needs, and bring the jobs and investment that is badly needed for communities here in Druridge Bay and elsewhere."

Martin Swinbank, from Alnwick Area Friends of the Earth, said: "Alnwick Area Friends of the Earth is delighted that there will be no opencast coal mine at Highthorn by Druridge Bay.

"The Save Druridge campaign has long opposed the mine and been supported by a number of environmental organisations including Alnwick FoE. Over a number of years the campaign has involved protest walks, beach parties, demonstrations, fund-raising and giving evidence at the public inquiry. A concerted community effort to oppose the Banks Mining proposal has successfully argued that the unique wildlife, landscape, solitude and beauty of Druridge Bay is too high a price to pay for a coal mine in the 21st century.

Furthermore this is a landmark decision for English coal production. In the Secretary of State's report when considering Green House Gas (GHG) emissions he states 'given that cumulative effect (of GHG emissions), and the importance to which the Government affords to combating climate change... overall the scheme would have an adverse effect on GHG emissions and climate change of very substantial significance' and gives this 'very considerable weight in the planning balance'.

"The precedent set at Highthorn will end new coal production in England and send out a message to the world that the era of coal for power generation is over. Britain ledthe world into the industrial revolution largely fuelled by indigenous coal. The benefits to society have been immense, but now as we understand the effects of carbon dioxide on the atmosphere driving dangerous climate change, Britain will lead the world beyond coal to a cleaner, sustainable future."

Northumberland County Council

Ward member, for Druridge Bay, Coun Scott Dickinson, said: "This has been a long drawn-out process which divided the local community. I am pleased it has finally reached a conclusion. It has obviously taken much time for consideration to be given to it and the Government has made the final decision.

"I am obviously concerned about the families that rely on employment with Banks Mining and the skilled workforce that exist with them. Hopefully other employment can be sourced if required or other opportunities at other sites can be found. I hope now the community can move on and divisions within healed."

MP for Berwick

Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: "This is the right decision for the local community and reflects years of hard work to ensure that we protect our outstanding local environment. Sajid Javid made clear in his decision that the development would affect the landscape and visual beauty of an area of substantial significance. This was one of the key points that I have made, alongside the local community, throughout our opposition to this development.

"This truly is the culmination of a real team effort, which shows that united communities can make a difference all the way down in Whitehall. This should give communities across the United Kingdom the hope that we can defend our local environment and those outstanding areas of natural beauty that are so important to our nation."

Campaign to Protect Rural England

Veteran campaigner George ‘Pitch’ Wilson said: "It’s wonderful - it’s such a special place of outstanding natural beauty there can be no greater feeling for everyone involved than helping protect it from harm. The Druridge Bay coastline has been part of Northumberland’s heritage for so many centuries and it’s a great feeling to think it is protected a little longer for this generation and hopefully future generations.

"I expected to be cross-examined on my evidence that the proposal would cause huge environmental damage and potentially blight Druridge Bay on the back of questionable economic claims being made by the mining company. But instead, that was all accepted, and the inspectors’ questions to me were all about the ridge and furrow on the eastern section of the site, which they asked me to mark out on the map.

"The distinctive furrows are part of the character of the landscape, a link to the country’s ancient past, and the inquiry took such an interest that it may be they were unaware of it previously. But that would have been just one more thing taken into consideration alongside a whole host of good evidence submitted by environmental groups in what would have been a hugely intrusive, environmentally development.

“The Campaign to Protect Rural England is fundamentally opposed to opencast mining in terms of carbon dioxide emissions as well as landscape impacts. But on top of that, Druridge is a particularly sensitive site - the popularity of this coastline is obvious and an open cast mine within the clean and peaceful environs would have been an unacceptable intrusion.

"The Save Druridge campaign organised by local people was fantastic and it shows what people can achieve when they unite together to defend their community. It was something that was very hard for the authorities to ignore and it complemented efforts by other agencies like Friends of the Earth who were also heavily involved."

Green Party in Northumberland

Candidate Thomas Stewart said: "This was the first time a public inquiry has been asked to judge an application on the basis of its effect on climate change. Every future application for coal must now be judged on the same grounds and every one will therefore be rejected – this decision spells the end of all new coal mines in Britain. This is a great day and a turning point for the whole of the UK.

The opposition to the mine was coordinated through the Save Druridge campaign and the Greens have praised the dedication, stamina and skill of that group, specially their spokeswoman Lynne Tate.

Mr Stewart added: "This shows what can be achieved when people set aside any differences, and unite to a common cause: in this case, the cause is the safeguarding of Northumberland for future generations. There has always – rightly – been great pride in the leading role Northumberland played in the first industrial revolution and the development of coal mining, and this decision shows that we continue to lead the way out of coal mining, and into the next clean-energy revolution. We welcome this victory for common sense, and must now make sure that any proposals for other polluting and climate-changing industries such as fracking are also thrown out before they can cause more damage."