Opencast plan moves forward with workshops

Banks Mining's Highthorn study area for an opencast site.

Banks Mining's Highthorn study area for an opencast site.

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A scoping report has been submitted for plans to open a new surface mine next to a coastal beauty spot.

Banks Mining has put the report to Northumberland County Council as the next stage in its bid to operate a mine at Highthorn, from south of Widdrington to Druridge Bay.

The company first announced it was considering the area in July 2013 and began consultation with the community, delivering 5,000 information leaflets.

Following the feedback, it has revised its original plan to reduce the length of the scheme from 13 years to eight to ten, ‘green to green’, and to remove 114 hectares east of Widdrington Village from the study area.

Now it is planning a series of community workshops for residents to work alongside Banks’ project team in shaping the final application, which is expected to be submitted in late spring 2015.

Banks’ Environment and Community Director Mark Dowdall said: “We’re very pleased with the degree of community engagement that we’ve been able to achieve since announcing our initial plans for Highthorn, and are keen to maximise the opportunities for local people to play a positive role in this ongoing dialogue.

“We aim to bring forward a scheme that delivers tangible, long-term local and regional economic, environmental, employment and social benefits, and welcome the involvement of local people, groups and businesses with the community panels to help achieve the best design outcome for everyone.”

During initial discussions a variety of ideas were put forward for potential community benefits residents would want to see if the scheme goes ahead, such as children’s facilities, footpaths, cycle ways, tourist facilities, improved internet and phone coverage, and new sports facilities.

Employment opportunities, apprenticeships and contract work for local suppliers were mentioned as ways the project should assist the local economy.

The first design workshop will take place at Widdrington Community Centre in Grange Road, Widdrington Station, on Monday, January 19, at 6.30pm, with further events planned over the following months.

People interested in attending should register by calling 0844 209 1515, or via the website www.banksgroup.co.uk/highthorn