Government rejects planning application for open cast coal mine near Druridge Bay

druridge bay collage tyne tees
The Government has rejected a controversial planning application for an open cast coal mine close to a beach. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The Government has rejected a controversial planning application for an open cast coal mine close to a beach in Northumberland.

Campaigners were celebrating after Banks Mining's application to work a site at Highthorn, near Druridge Bay, was turned down by a minister on behalf of the Secretary of State Robert Jenrick.

In a written statement on the bid, the office of Mr Jenrick found the proposal to be "not environmentally acceptable".

Banks Mining had applied for permission to extract three million tonnes of coal, then restore or improve the landscape.

Two years ago, Sajid Javid, the then communities secretary, turned down the Highthorn application, but the company won a series of challenges to have the plans reconsidered.

County councillors had originally approved the scheme despite protests from locals and environmentalists who argued the mine would have huge implications for tourism and wildlife, including otters, dolphins and pink-footed geese.

The firm recently closed what it said was England's last coal mine, north of Newcastle, and lobbied for permission to work the Highthorn site, saying the UK still needed coal for industry which would otherwise have to be imported.

The Government states that several issues were weighed up.

It looked positively at the proposal's economic benefits, the biodiversity benefits and on the overall need for coal, as well as obligations "to establish and procure permissive bridleways".

They also looked negatively at harm to "the character and appearance of the area" as well as potential harm to "heritage assets" and to "local amenity" and considered the impact on tourism, recreation and agriculture. It was thought harm to local hydrology and highway safety should be given "negligible weight".

Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP campaigning against a proposed mine at Druridge Bay. Credit: Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP

This decision was welcomed by Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed, who had campaigned against the proposed mine.

She praised everyone who had opposed the plans and pointed out that the Government was committed to stop producing coal by 2024.

Ian Gregory, a fuel industry lobbyist, said it was "ridiculous" that the Government was pursuing an import-only coal policy, which would create millions of tonnes of CO2 by having it transported from around the world. He said: "The Government is pumping CO2 into the air by insisting on hauling coal from Russia, Australia and the United States."

These points were echoed by Gavin Styles, the executive director of Banks Mining.

Mr Styles also felt that the decision was the wrong one given the region's economic situation.

He said the decision would make the situation "worse" and thanked those who had supported it.

Mr Styles added that the firm would review the reasons for the decision before deciding "the most appropriate steps to take".