Highthorn approval ‘in the best interests of Northumberland’

Protestors against the Highthorn opencast scheme at Druridge Bay demonstrating at Morpeth County Hall. Picture by Jane Coltman.

Protestors against the Highthorn opencast scheme at Druridge Bay demonstrating at Morpeth County Hall. Picture by Jane Coltman.

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The leader of Northumberland County Council has reacted to the news that contentious plans for opencast operations were approved this afternoon.

In a packed and passionate council chamber at County Hall, members of the strategic planning committee voted to follow the planning officers’ recommendation and approve the Highthorn surface mine scheme for a 325-hectare site between Druridge Bay and Widdrington Station.
However, the members are ‘minded to approve’ the scheme as a request has been made for the Secretary of State to ‘call in’ the application, which could lead to a public inquiry and a final decision by a planning inspector.

Protestors against the Highthorn opencast scheme at Druridge Bay demonstrating at Morpeth County Hall. Picture by Jane Coltman.

Protestors against the Highthorn opencast scheme at Druridge Bay demonstrating at Morpeth County Hall. Picture by Jane Coltman.

Extraction would take place over five years with total operations lasting seven years, taking account of the time to set up the site and complete restoration.

The company believes the scheme would create at least 100 full-time jobs during the working of the site, with approximately 50 new jobs and around 50 staff transferred from their other sites.

Council leader Grant Davey said while he appreciated it was a controversial issue, he believes that approving the application considered by the committee today following revisions by Banks was ‘in the best interests of Northumberland and its residents’.

He added: “It is interesting to note a number of the objections have come from as far afield as Madagascar and Bangladesh, while more than 1,000 local people indicated they wished to support the application.

“It’s also important to stress that the CBI and the North East Chamber of Commerce have written in support of the application.

“They have highlighted the positive impact these plans will have on the North East economy and the importance of investing in meeting the country’s energy needs as part of building a more prosperous and competitive UK economy.

“Thanks to the hard work of our planning team, the extraction site has been greatly reduced from its original conception to protect the diversity of the surrounding countryside.

“I’m also reassured that Banks, through much experience, has restored its previous sites in the county to a standard much higher than before it began extraction, improving wildlife habitats and the soil quality for agriculture.

“Its workers are also experts at rolling restoration so that land is not out of use for any great length of time.”

The meeting was preceded by a gathering of protesters outside.