Public meeting to be held over opencast application

Mike Bird, from Northumberland County Council, received the petition from members of the Save Druridge group.
Mike Bird, from Northumberland County Council, received the petition from members of the Save Druridge group.

A public meeting and a site visit will be held to discuss and thrash out a controversial surface-mine plan, which is splitting opinion.

Banks Mining lodged the scheme with Northumberland County Council for its proposed Highthorn site, near to Widdrington Village, last month.

At the recent meeting of the authority’s strategic planning committee, councillors supported a call from Druridge Bay ward member Coun Scott Dickinson for a public meeting and site visit.

Coun Dickinson is ‘delighted’ with this, saying he wants all residents’ views to be heard during the planning process.

He added: “This issue clearly divides the community and there are a wide range of competing views and opinions both for and against the development and I want to ensure that the planning committee gets to hear both sides.

“I have decided to step back from formal involvement with consideration of the application to allow each side of the argument to be heard.

“Both sides will get a chance to make their case and the planning committee will make its decision while taking into account planning laws.”

Dates need to be arranged for the public meeting and site visit.

Meanwhile, the Save Druridge Group has handed in a petition to County Hall in Morpeth objecting to the proposed opencast scheme.

There were 3,100 signatures handed over on the paper petition and together with an online petition of 5,523 signatures, objectors have collected a total of 8,623 signatures. Its Twitter page has 1,742 followers.

Those in favour also set up a petition and the Support Highthorn Opencast Facebook page has about 800 likes.

When it submitted the application, Banks revealed that the time between the proposed start of work through to the completion of restoration would now be no more than seven years, rather than between eight and ten years as had previously been planned.