OPENCAST: MP should get involved

An open letter to Anne-Marie Trevelyan.

We are writing to you as our MP and public representative, to ask that you stand with us and publicly oppose the current application for the extraction of three million tonnes of coal at Highthorn, Druridge Bay.

Coal has been mined in Northumberland over many centuries – it has been the beating heart and soul of the communities here.

Although pits had been closing steadily from the 1950s onwards, it was your own Conservative party that ripped the heart out of those communities in 1980s with the closure of 18 North East collieries in that decade alone.

Those closures were done for ideological reasons, not environmental reasons, with scant thought for future employment or community cohesion, and the coal mining communities of Northumberland were hung out to dry.

In that context, it is understandable that some may now cling to the view offered by the Banks Group of coal production continuing for a few more years.

However, you will have followed the Paris climate talks in December, and you also will be well aware of the steep decline in financial investment in coal. You will know that the global coal industry is dying, and could be gone completely in a generation.

Now is the time for leadership, for recognition that the Banks’ proposal will, in fact, do nothing for the future of Northumberland or its communities, but will instead hold the county back, tying it to an industry of the 18th century, rather than developing industries of the 21st century to help provide a real and viable future for strong and cohesive communities.

Rather than providing the necessary leadership, you have stated that you do not get involved in planning matters.

There is no justification whatsoever for this approach – this is your community and your constituency, and you are paid to represent the interests of all, including the 71 per cent of registered voters who did not choose you.

It is your job and your duty as our representative to get involved.

Not getting involved is passing the buck, and could be read or interpreted by the applicant or by the county council as your not caring, or even tacitly approving.

As members of the Green Party we have a passionate interest in the protection of the environment against this coal mine – the local environment and habitats around Druridge Bay, and also the global environment that is a habitat for us all – and there are countless very strong arguments to support our stance.

However, we recognise that your own priorities may be slightly different and would therefore stress that this application is wrong on all issues, not just on environmental issues.

There is already a high level of public opposition to these opencast proposals and momentum is growing, but the danger remains that a desperate county council will be swayed by the warm words of the applicant.

Your clear statement of opposition would continue to build that momentum.

Your public declaration is needed, and needed now.

Berwick-upon-Tweed Constituency Green Party