Opencast opposition petition nears 3,000 signatures

A petition set up by a campaign group fighting major plans for a new surface mine near a Northumberland beauty spot is closing in on 3,000 signatures.

Banks Mining is behind the Highthorn project, which is earmarked for the east of Widdrington Station, inland from the picturesque Druridge Bay.

The proposed extraction is up to five million tonnes and the company hopes to carry out operations from 2016, with the site operational for between eight to ten years, followed by a five-year restoration and after-care period.

Banks, which has recently submitted a scoping report to Northumberland County Council, says the scheme 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.

However, the Save Druridge group has been set up to oppose the development, claiming that it will cause massive environmental destruction next to one of the county’s most beautiful and loved beaches.

The group set up an e-petition on the county council’s website and it has now attracted 2,779 signatures. It is available to sign up to May 31.

As part of the consultation process, Banks is planning a series of community workshops for residents to work alongside the company’s project team in shaping the final application, which is expected to be submitted in late spring.

The first one is scheduled for Monday, January 19, at Widdrington Community Centre, from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.

Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Berwick Julie Pörksen is calling on the public to get involved in the planning process.

She said: “The proposed Highthorn opencast project near Druridge Bay has been raised with me directly by many local residents.

“Issues such as the environment, tourism, job creation and road safety are amongst the points raised so far.

“I remember demonstrating against a nuclear power station coming to Druridge Bay many years ago. I anticipate there will also be a strong debate on the impact of these current opencast proposals on the local economy and environment.

“Now that the opencast developers have published their plans I hope that many members of the public will look at these and make their voices heard in both the company’s consultation and the forthcoming planning process.”