Date set for third Highthorn surface mine community workshop

March 26, 2015 | Brenkley News

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The third of a series of community workshops looking at plans for a proposed new surface mine in south east Northumberland is set to take place next month.

North East employer Banks Mining is inviting local people to get involved in developing plans for the proposed Highthorn surface mining scheme, a project which it believes could offer real and lasting social, economic and environmental benefits for the surrounding area, as well as helping to sustain a significant number of jobs.

Independently-chaired community workshops in January and February have enabled local residents, community groups, employers and community leaders to meet with the Highthorn project team and to begin to help shape the project plans the team is developing.

And a third workshop is now set to go ahead at 6.30pm on Wednesday 8 April at the Miners Welfare Institute on Bridge Rd in Lynemouth, which is being used to ensure there is enough room to accommodate everyone interested in attending.

The latest version of the Highthorn proposal has seen around 460 hectares of land to the north of the C116, which runs between the villages of Widdrington and Druridge, removed from the outline design proposal after alternative locations were agreed for the parts of the mine’s operations that were being considered for this area.

A planning application for the scheme is expected to be submitted later this year, with the time between the proposed start of operations in 2016 and the completion of restoration now scheduled to be between eight and ten years.

Family-owned Banks Mining employs more than 200 people at its Shotton and Brenkley Lane surface mines near Cramlington, and its local operations contribute around £35m to the regional economy every year through wages, investments, business rates and the local supply chain.

The Highthorn site, which is located to the south east of the village of Widdrington, represents one of the best and largest remaining coal resources in England, and could provide the opportunity for the continuation of Banks Mining’s long-term investment in the local economy.

Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at The Banks Group, says: “The two community workshops we’ve held this year have been well attended, and the feedback we’ve had from attendees is helping to make sure that the plans for Highthorn are as good as they can be for the economy, the environment and the local community.

“We work hard to include local people, groups and community leaders in the development, operation and restoration of our surface mines, and this outcome of this inclusive approach is being shown in the continuing evolution of our plans for the area.

“There’s still work to be done before we’re ready to put forward a detailed planning application, and we’ll remain very visible in the community through events like this and other activities to ensure we can gather as many comments and ideas about our plans as we can from local people.

“With up to 40% of the electricity that we all use to power our homes, businesses, schools and hospitals being produced through coal, it is and will remain a central part of the UK’s energy mix for the foreseeable future, and it makes far greater sense from an economic, environmental, employment and energy security point of view to mine our own indigenous coal reserves rather than relying on imports of coal and gas from potentially-unstable overseas markets.

“Banks is one of Northumberland’s largest private-sector employers, a substantial contributor to the local economy and a long-standing supporter of many of the surrounding communities through the Banks Community Fund, and we hope to be able continue in all of these roles over the long-term, something which the Highthorn project would enable us to do.”

Local people interested in attending the 8 April workshop are being asked to pre-register by contacting the Highthorn project team on 0844 209 1515 (local rate call from a BT landline) or visiting  www.banksgroup.co.uk/highthorn.  Support for the project can also be expressed via the website.

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