Northumberland County Council planning committee supports Highthorn surface mine plans

July 12, 2016 | Brenkley News

Northumberland County Council’s planning committee has backed plans for a new surface mine in the county.

Having had a recommendation from the Council’s planning officers for approval of the proposed Highthorn scheme, the committee has now been minded to support the plans put forward by regional employer Banks Mining.

The committee voted 13-0 in favour of the Highthorn scheme, with one abstention.

Family-owned Banks Mining will invest around £120m in the North East economy through the Highthorn project, which will be located to the south east of the village of Widdrington, and is looking to provide at least 100 skilled jobs through the surface mine, with 50 new jobs being created and a further 50 existing jobs transferring from the company’s current surface mine sites in Northumberland.

Contracts worth a total of £48m will be put out to tender as part of realising the project, with Banks committing to using locally-based suppliers wherever possible, and around £3m will also be contributed to the public purse through business rates.

As well as including an employment, skills development and training fund as 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.

The Highthorn scheme 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.

The Highthorn proposals were backed by Widdrington Station & Stobswood Parish Council, as well as by the North East Chamber of Commerce, the CBI for the North East and The Coal Authority.

Durham-headquartered Banks Mining is already one of Northumberland’s biggest private sector employers, and currently employs more than 200 people at its existing Shotton and Brenkley Lane surface mines near Cramlington.

Its local operations already contribute around £35m to the regional economy every year through wages, investments, business rates and the local supply chain.

Jeannie Kielty, development relations coordinator at The Banks Group, says: “Having had a recommendation for approval from Northumberland County Council’s planning officers for our Highthorn proposals, we’re very pleased that the members of the Council’s Strategic Planning Committee have also been minded to support it today.

“Banks Mining will invest around £120m in the North East economy through the Highthorn project, and will create at least 50 new jobs on the site, with a further 50 existing jobs transferring from our existing Northumberland sites.

“Contracts worth a total of £48m will be put out to tender as part of realising the project, with locally-based suppliers being used wherever possible, and around £3m will also be contributed to the public purse through business rates.

“Our Discover Druridge initiative 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 will give the area the infrastructure required for managing the increasing numbers of visitors that the scheme hopes to draw in.

“We have worked hard over more than three years to ensure that accurate information has been available to local people, groups and businesses on the details of our Highthorn proposals, and are very grateful to all those who have given us their backing during that time.

“We fully understand the responsibilities that will come with operating the Highthorn scheme, as well as the importance of living up to the commitments we have made to creating a tangible legacy for the area through its restoration, and as we do at all our sites, we will strive to work Highthorn to the very highest environmental and operational standards.”

For further information on the Highthorn scheme, please visit www.banksgroup.co.uk/highthorn

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