February 16, 2016 | Community News
To support this important project that will bring jobs, investment and funds for new and improved community facilities to the South East Northumberland area, please go to: http://www.banksgroup.co.uk/highthorn/support-this-project/.
The job creation, community enhancement and infrastructure improvement opportunities offered by a proposed new surface mine in Northumberland have led one of the Parish Councils closest to the site to come out in favour of it.
Widdrington Station & Stobswood Parish Council has written to Northumberland County Council to register its support for the Highthorn surface mine that regional employer Banks Mining is looking to operate to the south east of the village of Widdrington.
And the Parish Council has been especially keen to highlight the opportunity that the project would offer to get back public amenities in the area that were lost in the past.
At least 50 new jobs would be created by Banks Mining at the new site, with a further 50 existing jobs transferring from the company’s current surface mine sites in Northumberland.
As well as details of an employment, skills development and training fund which form part of the project’s overall community benefits package, the Highthorn planning application also includes details of a major initiative which will aim to create an enhanced tourism offering and new wildlife habitats in and around the Druridge area.
The Discover Druridge project will see a coordinated approach involving local people, tourism and conservation bodies that will help deliver a tourism offer which will sustain the Druridge Bay area for years to come and give the area the infrastructure required for managing the increasing numbers of visitors that the scheme hopes to draw in.
Shelly Willoughby, chair of Widdrington Station & Stobswood Parish Council, says: “This is an area that is steeped in the mining industry, not just as part of our past, but very much also in our present, and the Highthorn project would offer the area so much in so many different ways.
“We used to have wonderful community amenities around the Cresswell and Druridge area, but these were lost long ago, and with local authorities struggling to cope with the demands that they’re already facing, there’s no prospect of getting them back without the sort of private investment that the Highthorn scheme would provide.
“The Discover Druridge initiative would make a huge difference to the area, and could help to give the families that we want to see coming, staying and returning here the infrastructure they need to keep them entertained and engaged during their visits.
“Hundreds of jobs have disappeared from our area in recent years, but the fact remains that local people, especially young people, need to work. The jobs that Highthorn would offer wouldn’t just be in the mine itself, but could be for office workers, cleaners and other ancillary staff, and there would also be a positive knock-on effect for locally-based suppliers too.
“The skills fund that comes as part of the development package would give people the chance to get into, or back into employment, and having it open to all ages is especially important for an area like ours.”
If the Highthorn scheme goes ahead, it will also mean an end to the removal of up to 62,000 tonnes of sand from the beach and dunes at Druridge Bay after Banks Mining reached an agreement with the owner of a long-standing mineral planning permission which allows for this to be done in response to local requests that it be stopped.
Shelly Willoughby continues: “I think there’s some confusion amongst people who don’t know the area about where the Highthorn site would sit, which is a farmer’s field that’s well back from the beach and dunes, and hidden from the sands by our undulating coastline.
“This is an area with a strong industrial history which didn’t stop visitors coming here in the past, and despite what’s being said by those who are against this scheme, who I think are mostly recent arrivals in the area who don’t fully understand its heritage, this project wouldn’t stop them coming now.
“Banks Mining has taken a long-term, inclusive approach to developing these proposals which has enabled them to listen and respond properly to local views, and all the different elements of the Highthorn scheme add up to a project that we wholeheartedly support.”
Jeannie Kielty, development relations coordinator at The Banks Group, adds: “We’ve designed the Highthorn scheme to bring a wide range of economic, employment and social benefits to local communities, and the recognition of this by Widdrington Station & Stobswood Parish Council in their support for our proposals is extremely welcome.
“Our proposal provides a well thought-out masterplan for delivering a high quality scheme that is worked sensitively and to the highest environmental standards, and which also provides positive, long-lasting benefits to communities in the Druridge Bay area through a comprehensive raft of wholly deliverable supporting measures.
“”Our experience on the ground is that there is considerable support for our Highthorn scheme across the area, and we will continue to work hard to ensure that accurate information is available to local people, groups and businesses on the details of our plans.”
Northumberland County Council is expected to make a decision on the Highthorn planning application in 2016. For further information on the scheme, and to register support for it, please visit www.banksgroup.co.uk/highthorn