Banks Group’s proposal for surface mine at Highthorn in UK approved

6 July 2016 (Last Updated July 6th, 2016 18:30)

The UK's Northumberland County Council has approved Banks Group's proposals for a surface mine at Highthorn near Widdrington.

The UK's Northumberland County Council has approved Banks Group's proposals for a surface mine at Highthorn near Widdrington.

The application was 'minded to be approved' by the council's strategic planning committee. The decision will now reach the UK Secretary of State for consideration.

Banks Group proposes to create a surface mine to extract coal, sandstone and fireclay, as well as further plans to restore the site once work is complete.

Extraction is expected to take place for a period of five years, with total operations set to last for seven years.

Banks Group believes that the Highthorn surface mine would create at least 100 jobs during working of the site.

"Environmental groups have opposed the project."

Northumberland County Council leader Grant Davey said: "I fully accept this has been a long and difficult process, with strong feelings on both sides, but I do believe this decision is in the best interests of Northumberland and its residents.

"It is interesting to note a number of the objections have come from as far afield as Madagascar and Bangladesh, while more than 1,000 local people indicated they wished to support the application."

Banks Group's proposal would see up to three million tonnes of coal excavated by 2023 on a site spreading across a square mile of land.

The mine site is located adjacent to Druridge Bay, and environmental groups have opposed the project, claiming that it could have a major impact on local wildlife and habitats.

However, Friends of the Earth said that the planning application for the surface mine located 30 miles north of Newcastle has been objected by more than 10,000 people.

Friends of the Earth campaigner Guy Shrubsole said: "This is a terrible decision for the local community and their environment.

"Druridge Bay is an incredibly special place. An opencast coalmine would damage its beauty, cause massive disruption and drive away tourists, all for the sake of a dying source of energy that's wrecking our climate."