Northumberland County Council ‘surprised and disappointed’ by surface-mine call-in

Map of the proposed site boundary for Highthorn.
Map of the proposed site boundary for Highthorn.

Northumberland County Council is ‘surprised and disappointed’ by the Secretary of State’s decision to call in a controversial surface-mine plan and has vowed to ‘play its full part’ in promoting the application at the public inquiry.

The authority is critical of the latest twist in the Highthorn saga. The scheme, submitted by Banks Mining, was unanimously approved by the county council’s strategic planning committee earlier this year. But now, its future is up in the air after Sajid Javid MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, decided to call in the application, meaning he is set to have the final say on whether the proposal will go ahead or be rejected.

Reacting to the news, a county council spokesman said: “We are surprised and disappointed by this, because the scheme had won unanimous cross-party approval at the planning stage.

“We recognised the application would be controversial, so were determined to involve a wide range of views. In the end all members felt that a clear case had been made for the economic benefits both locally and to the wider area.

“At least 100 jobs that would have been created through the substantial investment offered by a firm with a track record of providing growth in the region have been put in doubt by Mr Javid’s surprising decision.

“Measures to minimise any environmental impact of the mining were a key part of the business case and lengthy community discussions ensured residents were fully involved.

“This snatching away of local decision-making by local people for local benefit is disappointing. The council is ready to play its full part in making the case for the much-needed extra employment and other benefits at the inquiry.”

Banks Mining has expressed its disappointment at the call in decision, but objectors are delighted. Berwick MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan has also welcomed the decision to call in the application.