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Highthorn surface mine plans submitted

Highthorn surface mine plans submitted

Banks Mining put forward planning application for approval by Northumberland County Council

A PLANNING application for Banks Mining’s proposed new Highthorn surface mine, south east of the village of Widdrington, has been submitted to Northumberland County Council.

Banks Mining have been carrying out a comprehensive programme of public consultation over the last two-and-a-half years on their design for the Highthorn scheme, to allow local people, community groups and businesses to provide their ideas and opinions on how the scheme might best be designed and operated if it gets the go-ahead.

Recent changes to the Highthorn plans, which have been instigated in response to local comment on the draft proposals, include a reduction of the total amount of coal that Banks will be looking to mine to around 3 million tonnes.

Also, the time between the proposed start of work at the Highthorn site in 2016 through to the completion of restoration would now be no more than seven years, rather than between eight and 10 years, as had previously been planned, and the site has been moved further away from the south and east of Widdrington village through the removal of an additional 283ha of land from the proposals.

The Highthorn planning application also includes details of a major initiative which will aim to create an enhanced tourism offering and new wildlife habitats in and around the Druridge area.

Improvements that will be delivered throughout the lifetime of the Highthorn site include around 8km of new cycle paths, bridleways and footpaths, and more than 100ha of new wildlife and wetland habitats. Enhancements to car park areas, new birds hides and ‘dark skies’ facilities could also be delivered as part of the initiative.

Jeannie Kielty, development relations co-ordinator at The Banks Group, said: ‘We’ve taken considerable time to listen to local people on how they want to see their area benefit from our proposed Highthorn scheme, and believe that we have developed a package of ideas in response that will enable their ambitions to be realized.

‘The Highthorn proposal provides a well thought-out masterplan for delivering a high-quality scheme that is worked sensitively and to the highest environmental standards, and which also provides positive, long-lasting benefits to communities in the Druridge Bay area through a comprehensive raft of wholly deliverable supporting measures.’

A total of 518ha has been removed from the area being considered for the Highthorn scheme since it was first announced in 2013, a figure which equates to a 62% reduction in its initial size.

Northumberland County Council is expected to make a decision on the Highthorn planning application in 2016.

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