North East employer Banks Mining has welcomed a Court of Appeal decision to refuse permission for a protest group’s plans to challenge a previous High Court ruling on its proposed Highthorn surface mine.
Last October, the company won a High Court challenge against former Secretary of State Sajid Javid’s decision to reject its Highthorn planning application, which had disregarded both Northumberland County Council and the government-appointed Planning Inspector’s recommendations that it should be allowed go ahead.
Permission to appeal this decision was requested by protest group Save Druridge, but immediately rejected by the presiding High Court judge, The Honourable Mr Justice Ouseley.
A further request by the protest group to the Court of Appeal has now been turned down, with the Rt Hon Lord Justice Lindblom noting Mr Justice Ousley’s ‘impeccable’ analysis of the original appeal and declaring that ‘there is no other compelling reason for the appeal to be heard.’
Banks Mining is now once again calling for Mr Javid’s successor James Brokenshire, to whom the planning application was returned after the High Court case for further consideration, to allow it to progress with its job creation and investment plans at Highthorn as quickly as possible.
The scheme would see Banks Mining create at least 100 well-paid, full-time jobs on the site, invest £87m into the Northumberland economy, keep a total of £200m within the UK economy by not importing 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.
In last year’s High Court case, Mr Justice Ouseley found in favour of Banks Mining on all of the bases on which the challenge was lodged, describing the reasoning behind Mr Javid’s decision to reject the planning inspector’s findings as ‘significantly inadequate.’
His ruling also noted that while ‘The Inspector thought the evidence and his reasoning merited the grant of permission…..The Secretary of State does not indicate…..what evidence he had for any conclusion he reached, or by what reasoning he arrived at it.’
Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at The Banks Group, says: “I am pleased that Save Druridge’s submission to the Court of Appeal has now been confirmed as meritless – not only did Mr Justice Ousley reject it immediately after his High Court judgement, but Lord Justice Lindblom has now clearly reaffirmed the validity of this position.
“The UK undeniably has an enduring need for between five and six million tonnes of coal just to supply a range of essential industrial customers, including steel and cement manufacturers and food producers, and an increasing shortfall in domestic supply has meant that this need has increasingly been met through coal imports from distant locations such as the US, Colombia and most especially Russia.
“It is far better in terms of reduced greenhouse gas emissions, balance of payments, local jobs and benefits to the local community to meet this demand by using indigenous coal rather than further increasing the UK’s reliance on imports.
“Russian coal import volumes doubled between 2016 and 2018, yet the amount of greenhouse gas emissions generated by just the transportation of these imports is between five and seven times higher than the equivalent figure for transporting coal mined in the UK.
“We can both mine and transport the coal from our surface mines in North East England to UK customers with significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions than are released from just transporting these coal imports over thousands of miles, while further increasing the UK’s reliance on such imports is off-shoring our environmental responsibilities and will result in increases in global greenhouse gas emissions.
“The Highthorn scheme has been examined in extreme detail by both a local authority with substantial experience of the extractive industries and an independent planning inspector and was found to be a sound scheme that should be allowed to go ahead.
“The Secretary of State has committed to making a decision on Highthorn in the near future and we would strongly urge him to follow these recommendations and to finally allow us to take our investment and job creation plans forward.”