A Government decision on whether a new Northumberland surface mine can go ahead has been delayed.
Durham-headquartered Banks Mining gained unanimous approval for its Highthorn planning application from Northumberland County Council’s planning committee in July 2016, only for the decision to subsequently be called in for review by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG).
A decision was expected from Secretary of State, Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, by the beginning of March, but MHCLG has indicated that it will not now be forthcoming at this time.
No indication of the timeframe for the announcement of any decision has yet been provided.
The Highthorn scheme would see Banks Mining create at least 100 well-paid, full-time jobs on the site, invest £87m into the Northumberland economy, keep a total of £120m within the UK economy by not requiring the importation of three million tonnes of coal that would otherwise come from overseas suppliers, and make supply chain contracts worth a total of £48m available to locally-based businesses.
Jeannie Kielty, community relations manager at The Banks Group, says: “We remain keen to progress our investment and job creation plans at Highthorn as soon as possible, and are therefore extremely disappointed at this further delay in being able to do so.
“Our Highthorn planning application has been specifically designed to bring a wide range of employment, supply chain, environmental, community, tourism, and economic benefits to the local area and wider region over the short, medium and long term.
“All businesses need clear guidelines and solid foundations on which to plan and execute the operations that will deliver such benefits, but having waited a little under two years since our plans were first unanimously approved, we now have no indication as to when the Secretary of State is going to decide whether we are to be allowed to proceed – and all the while, we are continuing to receive enquiries from energy generation and industrial customers about when the site is going to be opening.
“The simple fact remains that the UK still needs coal for a number of purposes, a situation that has been plainly demonstrated during the recent spell of cold weather, through which coal has been used to meet more than a quarter of the country’s energy generation requirements and doubts have arisen about whether the UK actually has access to sufficient gas supplies to meet consumer demand.
“The Government’s own projections state that coal will continue to be an important part of the UK’s energy mix for at least the proposed duration of operations at Highthorn, and the importance of its inclusion as an essential and resilient part of a balanced mix of energy generation sources in the UK over the medium term is clear.
“As a North East business which operates both surface coal mines and onshore wind farms, we’re pleased to be continuing to contribute to meeting the UK’s energy needs through using indigenous means of production during this very challenging time.
“We hope the Secretary of State will feel able to make a decision on Highthorn in the near future, and that the compelling case we made at the public inquiry for the original unanimous planning decision to be ratified will be accepted.”
For more information about our proposed surface mine at Highthorn, please see: https://www.banksgroup.co.uk/projects/mining/highthorn/