Row rolls on over Highthorn visit

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett signs the petition with Lynne Tate, secretary of the Save Druridge campaign.
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett signs the petition with Lynne Tate, secretary of the Save Druridge campaign.

The ‘political football’ of the proposed Highthorn opencast mine has been kicked back and forwards in a row between the Greens and Labour.

Following the recent visit to north Northumberland of Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, we reported that Scott Dickinson, the Labour county councillor for Druridge Bay – the ward councillor for the area of the proposed surface mine – had criticised the Greens for turning the issue into a ‘political football’.

He said: “The people who live here in Druridge Bay are best-placed to weigh up the pros and cons and these are the communities which either support or oppose the planning application made by Banks Mining. It’s their future and surely party politics shouldn’t complicate matters even further.”

Berwick Greens responded with a statement, saying: “It is the very point of political parties to get involved in local issues and support campaigns that cohere with our beliefs.

“If politicians don’t stand up for the people then who will? Natalie Bennett was supporting a campaign that directly correlates with Green Party policies and it is natural that the campaigners should welcome this support.

“This is, after all, an issue that has a national and global impact. Does he imagine that the Green Party should sit quietly in a corner?”

It added that ‘people detest the public fence-sitting of the politicians, especially those who won’t come out and publicly support or oppose and issue for fear of losing votes – a behaviour we repeatedly see from inadequate, self-serving career politicians’.

The statement also criticised Coun Dickinson for turning the visit into a political football ‘by using it to knock the supporters of the campaign to Save Druridge Bay and their welcoming support from a national political leader’.

Coun Dickinson hit back again, saying: “I’ve been clear from the start, this issue isn’t a party political issue, it’s an issue which deserves to be debated and discussed reasonably by all sides of the discussion. Only then can we get to the real issues which motivate the community, not just the most vocal in the community.

“I’m elected to represent the whole ward, not just people who agree with me or people who voted for me and I’ve been careful to listen to all sides.”

He added: “I want to bring people together and I make no apologies to the Greens for that and I passionately believe that all sides in this debate need to be heard if we are going to be able to make the right decision and to move on after that decision.

“Far from sitting on the fence, I believe every voice has equal weight, not just those who shout the loudest.”

Berwick Greens then issued another statement in response to Coun Dickinson’s comments, which were published in full on a Labour Party website, saying they were ‘appalled’ at his behaviour and ‘unfounded allegations’.

It said: “This is certainly a local issue but to attempt to remove politics from it is naivety of the utmost.

“To attempt to remove a local issue from national and indeed international environmental debate is frankly ludicrous, but is sadly typical of Mr Dickinson’s parochial views.

“Of course, the issue is fundamentally important locally, but is he saying no one else should have an opinion?”