Banks Mining hits out at 'absolutely perverse' Highthorn decision

Gavin Styles, managing director at Banks Mining.
Gavin Styles, managing director at Banks Mining.

The boss of Banks Mining has slammed the Communities Secretary for his decision to ignore the planning inspector's recommendation and refuse a surface mine in Northumberland.

The decision by the Sajid Javid was announced this morning.
Read more - REACTION: Northumberland surface mine refused
Gavin Styles, managing director at Banks Mining, said: "In the same week that the Government decided to support passport manufacturing jobs in France instead of those in North-East England, it has now demonstrated that it would prefer to source the coal that is essential for a variety of important industries across the UK, such as steel, house-building and concrete production, from Russia or the US, rather than support substantial investment and job creation plans in our region.

"This is an absolutely perverse decision which flies in the face of the recommendation for approval given by Mr Woolcock, the Planning Inspector - the expert appointed by the Government itself to assess this scheme - after his careful consideration of all the facts laid out at the public inquiry, as well as the unanimous support we had for the scheme from an experienced, cross-party Northumberland County Council planning committee.

"It has been made for purely political reasons and is totally contrary to the principles of local decision-making that previously appeared so important to Mr Javid. The Planning Inspector's clear and carefully-considered judgement was that 'the national benefits of the proposal would clearly outweigh the likely adverse impacts', yet Mr Javid has chosen to flagrantly disregard this expert opinion from the comfort of his London office without ever having taken the time to even visit the area in question.

"Furthermore, his decision to notify the world of his judgement via social media 90 minutes before we, as the applicant, had received official notification of it is deeply unprofessional and shows an utter disregard for the jobs of the hundreds of people that we employ.

"If the Prime Minister takes up the invitation of the De Le Rue chief executive to come to the region and explain the passport contract decision to his employees, we would ask that she also brings Mr Javid with her, so he can explain his thinking to our loyal North-East workforce and the many local suppliers and customers with which we work.

"It also continues to highlight the difficulties businesses face creating investment opportunities and employment in the UK, as recently expressed by Steve Morgan, chairman of Redrow plc.

"The UK is still dependant on coal for a number of purposes, and at a time of great economic uncertainty, we firmly believe that the importance of securing investment in North East England, creating dozens of high quality local jobs, and opening up opportunities for regional suppliers to win substantial contracts could not be any clearer.

"The Government’s own projections state that coal will continue to be an important part of the UK's energy mix for at least the proposed duration of operations at Highthorn, and substantial amounts are also essential for a wide variety of important UK foundation industries, such as the manufacturing of cement and steel.

"Coal has been used to meet more than a quarter of the country's energy requirements during the recent spell of cold weather, which clearly demonstrates the importance of its use to provide an essential and resilient part of a balanced mix of energy generation sources over the medium term.

"Supporting skilled North-East jobs, delivering regional environmental and conservation enhancements, avoiding the carbon emissions caused by importing the coal supplies that the UK still needs and providing a secure domestic supply of energy by meeting our continuing need for coal through indigenous reserves makes far greater sense than relying on coal and gas imports from potentially-unstable overseas markets that are thousands of miles away.

"The Highthorn scheme would see us create at least 100 well-paid, full-time jobs on the site, invest £87million into the Northumberland economy, keep a total of £200million within the UK economy by not importing three million tonnes of coal that would otherwise come from overseas suppliers, and make supply-chain contracts worth a total of £48million available to locally-based businesses.

"We owe it to our highly-skilled and loyal North-East workforce, our UK customers and the many local residents, community organisations and businesses that have expressed their support for our Highthorn proposals over the last four years to not just leave things here, and will now carefully review the precise reasons for the Secretary of State's decision before deciding on the most appropriate next steps to take."