Northumberland Tourism and Banks Mining working to build on Northumberlandia’s success through proposed Highthorn project

July 23, 2013 | Brenkley News

The body charged with developing Northumberland as a tourist destination is aiming to build on the success of the unique Northumberlandia landform by working with the north east company behind her creation on its latest project in the county.

Northumberland Tourism is working alongside local employer Banks Mining to identify how Banks’ proposed new Highthorn surface mine in the south east of the county could provide new enhanced facilities for tourists in Northumberland.

Banks Mining has just begun a lengthy public consultation on its initial plans for Highthorn, which would be located to the east of the village of Widdrington Station, inland from Druridge Bay.

Part of this work will involve identifying how new and improved community and tourism resources might be created in the local area, both during mining operations as part of the firm’s ‘restoration first’ approach to its surface mining schemes, and as part of the site’s final restoration.

Banks is working closely with both Northumberland Tourism and the Northumberland Wildlife Trust on the project, to help ensure that opportunities to enhance the local environment and habitats and to provide better facilities for visitors and tourists are optimised, and is already investigating what improvements would best address local environmental and community needs and priorities.

Banks and the Blagdon Estate jointly invested around £3m in the creation of Northumberlandia, which sits to the west of Cramlington, as part of the operation of the nearby Shotton surface mine, without which the award-winning project could not have been realised.

After being officially opened by HRH The Princess Royal in September last year, Northumberlandia quickly became a highly-valued and well-used visitor destination, and attracts thousands of local people and tourists every week.

Jude Leitch, Tourism Development Manager for Northumberland Tourism, says: “We have some wonderful things for people to come and see which have been here for hundreds of years, so it’s really exciting when something new happens that’s going to enhance the landscape and the reputation of Northumberland as somewhere to come and visit, and add to the things that people can experience here.

“The south east of Northumberland in particular has benefitted from the Northumberlandia project. It has been an area of the county that has perhaps been left out a little bit in our wider tourism offer, so we are excited by the chance of attracting new people to that area and having new things for people to do when they come and visit.

“Banks have been really good at coming and talking to us as one of the organisations in Northumberland that is concerned with tourism and the development of the county.  They have talked to us about how they can make sure that the work that they are doing doesn’t have a detrimental effect on the county and the county’s tourism offer, and we’ve already had quite extensive dialogue about the project which will continue from here.”

Banks already employs more than 200 people across the Shotton site and the Brenkley Lane Surface Mine in Newcastle, and currently contributes around £35m to the local economy every year through wages and the local supply chain.

Highthorn would enable Banks to sustain over 150 local jobs for more than a decade, and could provide the opportunity for the continuation of Banks’ long-term investment in the local economy as operations at Shotton and Brenkley Lane begin to reach completion towards the end of the decade.

Katie Perkin, communications manager at The Banks Group, adds: “Northumberlandia provides clear evidence of how Banks’ innovation can contribute to the creation of an outstanding visitor attraction and community facility which will have a positive long-term impact on the area, and we have similarly high ambitions for Highthorn.

“Working with Northumberland Tourism will put our ideas in the wider context of the county’s continuing development as a visitor destination, and their feedback and advice will be central to the detailed proposals that will be worked up in the coming months.

“We strongly believe that Highthorn could offer real and lasting regeneration opportunities for the surrounding area, as well as addressing some of the existing environmental issues caused by the poor restoration of the landscape after it was previously mined in the 1950s.

“Starting our dialogue with local residents, businesses, tourism bodies and visitors around this project at the earliest possible point means we can fully understand everyone’s ideas and views, and they can have a direct influence on our work.”

Community workshops will form part of an extensive, long-term public engagement programme that Banks will carry out around the area, with members of the Banks project team asking for feedback about what new facilities they might like to see be created or provided in association with the proposed mine.

A planning application for Highthorn is not expected to be ready for submission until summer 2014 at the earliest.  For further information on the project, please visit www.banksgroup.co.uk/highthorn or contact the project team on 0844 209 1515 (local rate call from a BT landline).

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