September 12, 2016 | Brenkley News
Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at The Banks Group, says: “Having had our Highthorn planning application unanimously approved by a Northumberland County Council planning committee which contained representatives of all the main political parties, and having also had considerable support for our plans from across local communities, we are naturally very frustrated that the Secretary of State has now seen fit to call in this democratically-made local decision.
“The Highthorn planning application was developed and assessed in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework, and having had such a strong mandate in favour of the project, we still believe that further consideration of it at a national level is not merited.
“The decision to hold a public inquiry will unnecessarily delay Banks Mining’s plans to invest around £120m in the North East economy through the Highthorn project, to create at least 100 jobs on the site and to make related contracts worth a total of £48m available to locally-based suppliers, and it will also place considerable extra demands on the public purse at a time when it is already under significant pressure.
“While we have been part of the wider drive to increase the amount of energy generated by indigenous renewable means, the fact remains that, at least in the medium term, coal will continue to be an important part of the UK’s energy mix, and the Highthorn planning application allows for a five year extraction period, meaning it will be completed well in advance of the government’s 2025 date for phasing out energy generation from unabated coal.
“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 meeting our continuing need for coal through indigenous reserves, rather than relying as we predominantly do today on imports of coal and gas from potentially-unstable overseas markets that are thousands of miles distant.
“Throughout the lengthy community discussions we’ve undertaken around the Highthorn scheme, our experience has always been that, while there are naturally differing opinions, there is clear and considerable support for this project from across the region, as well as a high degree of recognition of the economic, employment, social, environmental and supply chain benefits it will bring to the area.
“We agree wholeheartedly that Northumberland is a very special place, which is why the protection and enhancement of Druridge Bay and the surrounding communities has been placed at the heart of our proposals, and we firmly believe that the environmental, ecological, habitat, tourism and recreational enhancements that will form part of the Highthorn scheme through the Discover Druridge initiative will have a positive, transformative effect on the area.”