Banks Mining aim to bring a halt to sand extraction
Sand removal from Druridge Bay dunes to be set aside if Highthorn surface mine scheme goes ahead
A LONG-STANDING mineral planning permission which allows for the removal of up to 62,000 tonnes of sand from the beach and dunes at Druridge Bay in Northumberland every year will be set aside if plans for a proposed new surface mine in the area get the go ahead.
Banks Mining are developing separate plans for the proposed Highthorn surface mining scheme several hundred metres inland from the dunes, a project which the company believes could offer real and lasting social, economic and environmental benefits for the surrounding area, as well as helping to sustain a significant number of jobs.
The mineral planning permission for the sand extraction has been in place for more than 45 years and covers more than a mile-long stretch of Druridge beach, opposite Hemscott Hill.
The permission, which is not held by Banks, is under review by Northumberland County Council, but cannot be extinguished without the County Council being liable for substantial compensation payments to the holder.
The issue had been flagged up as a matter of local concern during Banks Mining’s community discussions about the Highthorn project, and having investigated whether it would be able to secure a permanent halt to the removal of any further sand as part of its operation of the proposed surface mine, the company has now reached an agreement with the holder that would see the sand extraction cease.
The plan has won the support of Councillor Michael Wright, chairman of Cresswell Parish Council, who has had long-standing concerns about the impact of the removal of sand from the area.
He said: ‘Druridge Bay is an area of outstanding beauty, an area of Special Scientific Interest and a wildlife corridor. The dunes there have evolved over a long period of time and provide a natural defence against the high tides that can sometimes affect the area, a defence which could be much more easily breached if the level of sand is further reduced.
‘Banks Mining have been very conscientious in covering the environmental and restoration issues relating to their Highthorn proposals, as well as proactive in their consultations across the local community, and the opportunity to prevent further sand being removed from this special place seems like one we should be looking to take.’
Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at The Banks Group, added: ‘Any operations at Highthorn would take place several hundred yards away from Druridge Bay itself and we have looked at the various ways in which we can also protect and enhance the wider area around it.
‘Druridge Bay dunes and beach are a wonderful natural resource that are regularly enjoyed by many people and families, and while the removal of sand from there has been carried out perfectly legally for many years, we believe calling a halt to it would have a positive impact on this highly-valued area.
‘We know from our community discussions that being able to permanently halt any further sand removal from the dunes would be warmly welcomed by many local people, and it would also eliminate the substantial financial liabilities that Northumberland County Council would face if they acted to stop it themselves, thus protecting the public purse for additional costs that it can well do without.’
Banks Mining expect to submit a planning application for the Highthorn scheme later this year.