North East employer Banks Mining has confirmed that it will not be seeking to challenge the government’s rejection of its Highthorn surface mine planning application.

Last month, more than two and a half years after an independent, government-appointed planning inspector recommended that the Northumberland scheme should go ahead, Banks was informed that secretary of state Robert Jenrick had ruled against its plans.

But despite deciding not to take its case for Highthorn any further, the family-owned firm has reaffirmed its commitment to pursuing the proposed Dewley Hill surface mine to the west of Newcastle, which is expected to come before the City Council’s planning committee before the end of the year.

The Highthorn scheme would have seen Banks Mining create at least 100 well-paid, full-time jobs on the site, invest almost £100m 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.

Gavin Styles, executive director at Banks Mining, says: “In order to build back better, we need something to build with!  We remain firm in our conviction that, while British industry still needs essential minerals like coal, fireclay and brickshale, they should be mined in the UK in the most environmentally responsible way possible.

“However, having carefully considered the Secretary of State’s purely political and deeply disappointing decision to reject our Highthorn planning application, we have concluded that issuing a challenge to it would not be the right course of action.

“This has been a difficult conclusion for us to reach as we are hugely proud of the exemplary work of our highly-skilled team, know that there will be substantial domestic demand for these minerals for many years to come and are only too aware of the impact that the Secretary of State’s misguided decision will have on many lives and businesses across our region.

“We will continue to pursue the proposed Dewley Hill surface mine to the west of Newcastle, which will sustainably support the steel and brickmaking industries with high-quality locally-sourced minerals, and to explore other opportunities that will provide employment and investment for our people and businesses in the region.”

Banks Mining gained unanimous approval for its Highthorn planning application from Northumberland County Council in July 2016, only for the decision to subsequently be called in for review by the then-secretary of state Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP.

A public inquiry into the proposal was then held in the summer 2017, after which the government-appointed planning inspector said that Highthorn was ‘in the national interest’ and should be approved.

Mr Javid overruled his own inspector and refused planning permission in March 2018, but the High Court quashed the secretary of state’s unlawful decision in the following November, since when Banks has been awaiting the government’s final verdict on its plans.

Gavin Styles continues: “We hear a great deal of Government talk about ‘levelling up’ the regional economy, but it is the likes of ourselves and other North East employers that actually take the responsibility for creating the jobs that are central to achieving this goal, and we hope Newcastle City Council will support our continuing job creation ambitions at Dewley Hill.

“At this time of unprecedented economic crisis, it makes no sense to hand much-needed North East jobs and supply chain investment to Russia, which will be delighted to meet British industry’s continuing need for these essential minerals whilst simultaneously significantly increasing global greenhouse gas emissions.

“We remain grateful to the many people and businesses who supported Highthorn, including our colleagues and their families, our suppliers, customers and business associates, and to the politicians who continue to recognise the reasons why it is important for British industry to have locally-based sources of minerals.”