Highthorn surface mine to bring local jobs, investment and tourist infrastructure improvements

July 4, 2016 | Brenkley News

One of the major challenges facing the UK is how we continue to generate the energy that we all need to supply our schools, businesses, hospitals and homes.

Having built seven onshore wind farms ourselves over the last decade, with four more to follow by 2020, we’ve been part of the drive to increase the amount of energy generated by indigenous renewable means, but the fact remains that, at least in the medium term, coal will continue to be an important part of the UK’s energy mix.

In the last year, around 25% of the electricity that we all used was produced through coal, yet over 85% of that coal was imported from overseas.

It makes far greater sense to support North East jobs, to deliver regional environmental and conservation enhancements and to provide a secure domestic supply of energy by mining our own indigenous coal reserves through carefully planned and sensitively operated schemes such as those that we run, rather than relying on imports of coal and gas from potentially-unstable overseas markets that are thousands of miles distant.

The Banks Group has worked and invested in Northumberland for well over three decades and has become one of its largest private-sector employers in the process, giving local people the chance to build careers for themselves in an area which has been very hard hit by the loss of other major employers.

We currently employ around 200 people at our Shotton and Brenkley Lane sites near Cramlington, and plan to create at least 100 jobs at the Highthorn site, if it goes ahead, as well as to institute a new skills development and training support programme that will benefit local people of all ages right through their working lives.

We are fully aware of how special a place Northumberland is, which is why the protection and enhancement of Druridge Bay and the surrounding communities has always been at the heart of our Highthorn plans.

Our Discover Druridge initiative will create both an enhanced tourism offering and substantial new wildlife habitats in and around the Druridge area, and will provide the additional funding and facilities needed to enable even more people to enjoy what we wholeheartedly agree is a wonderful location for decades to come.

If the Highthorn scheme goes ahead, around £120m would be invested by us in the North East economy.  Contracts worth a total of £48m would be put out to tender as part of realising the project, with Banks committing to using locally-based suppliers wherever possible, and around £3m would also be contributed to the public purse through business rates.

Our experience has always been that there is considerable support for Highthorn across the local community, as well as a high degree of recognition of the economic, employment, social, environmental and supply chain benefits it could bring, and we have also won backing from organisations including Widdrington Station & Stobswood Parish Council, the North East England Chamber of Commerce and the CBI for the North East.

The Highthorn proposal provides a well thought-out masterplan for delivering a high quality scheme that is worked sensitively and to the highest environmental standards, as well as  a way of providing positive, long-lasting benefits to communities in the Druridge Bay area through a comprehensive raft of wholly deliverable supporting measures, and we hope we have the opportunity to continue to provide jobs and investment in Northumberland by taking it forward.

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