Major plans for a new surface mine near a Northumberland beauty spot have split opinion of residents in the area – with petitions set up to both support and oppose the scheme.
Banks Mining is behind the Highthorn project, which is earmarked for the east of Widdrington Station and inland from Druridge Bay.
The company says it would sustain local jobs for more than a decade and provide an opportunity to add new and improved community and tourism resources to the area.
But some residents are concerned about its impact and the Save Druridge group has been established to oppose the development, claiming that it will cause massive environmental destruction next to one of the county’s most beautiful and loved beaches.
It has set up an e-petition on the Northumberland County Council website, which has attracted more than 1,000 signatures.
However, on the Facebook page Widdrington Residence, there has been support for the scheme and an e-petition in favour of the bid has been submitted to the county authority.
Banks is proposing to dig around seven million tonnes of coal, starting in 2016, with a view to complete extraction by 2027 and restoration and aftercare on-going until 2032.
Druridge Bay resident Sarah Blythe, who is a member of the Save Druridge group, said: “The main concerns for us relate to health issues, increased traffic and the impact on wildlife and the area in general.
“We feel the mine would be inappropriate for our beautiful area and the length of time that is proposed for the opencast and restoration will span some youngsters’ entire childhood. We want to raise the profile of our campaign and get as many signatures as possible. We also have a website – www.savedruridge.co.uk”
But the scheme also has its supporters. On the Widdrington Residence Facebook page, Helen Wilson said: “I think most people wish an opencast was not necessary but the country needs coal and the local area needs jobs.”
Cheryl Wade told the page that an e-petition in favour of the scheme has been sent to the county council for approval.
The company unveiled the plan for its 700-hectare operation last summer and intended to submit a planning application to the county council this summer, but this has been pushed back to later in the year.
It is currently preparing a site scoping report to set out the proposed methodology for preparing the planning application.
Once ready, it will be made available on the company’s website and the issues raised will be discussed in upcoming community design panels.