Council in support of opencast proposal

Coun Shelly Willoughby, chair of Widdrington Station and Stobswood Parish Council.
Coun Shelly Willoughby, chair of Widdrington Station and Stobswood Parish Council.

Widdrington Station and Stobswood Parish Council has declared its support for a controversial proposal to establish opencast operations at a nearby site.

Its chair has said the opportunity that Banks Mining’s bid would offer in terms of getting back public amenities in the area that were lost in the past was a key factor in its decision.

Thousands of people have signed petitions opposing the surface mine plans for the Highthorn site – land to the north of the C116 which runs between the villages of Widdrington and Druridge.

But hundreds of people have expressed their support for the scheme. At least 50 new jobs would be created by Banks at the new site, with a further 50 existing jobs transferring from the company’s current surface mine sites in Northumberland.

In addition, the company says its Discover Druridge project will see a co-ordinated approach involving local people, tourism and conservation bodies that will help deliver a tourism offer which will sustain the Druridge Bay area for years to come.

Shelly Willoughby, chair of Widdrington Station and Stobswood Parish Council, said: “We used to have wonderful community amenities around the Cresswell and Druridge areas, but these were lost long ago and with local authorities struggling to cope with the demands they’re already facing, there’s no prospect of getting them back without the private investment that the Highthorn scheme would provide.

“The jobs that Highthorn would offer wouldn’t just be in the mine itself, but could be for office workers, cleaners and other ancillary staff, and there would also be a positive knock-on effect for locally-based suppliers too.

“I think there’s some confusion amongst people who don’t know the area about where the Highthorn site would sit, which is a farmer’s field that’s well back from the beach and dunes and hidden from the sands by our undulating coastline.”

The concerns raised by those against the application include that it would have a major negative effect on the local environment, wildlife and air quality and harm tourism, including the static caravans sites in Cresswell.

A public meeting to discuss the application will take place next Thursday at Widdrington Station Community Centre.