Two of the North East’s leading business organisations have backed the positive employment and investment impact that the implementation of plans for a new surface mine in south east Northumberland would bring to the area.
The North East Chamber of Commerce and the CBI for the North East have both written to Northumberland County Council to highlight the positive impact that the Highthorn surface mine that regional employer Banks Mining is looking to operate to the south east of the village of Widdrington would have on the North East economy.
And their letters have also highlighted the importance of investing in meeting the country’s energy needs as part of building ‘a more prosperous and competitive UK economy’.
At least 100 jobs would be created by Banks Mining at the Highthorn site, with 50 existing jobs transferring from the company’s current surface mine sites in Northumberland, and an employment, skills development and training fund for local unemployed people also forms part of the project’s overall community benefits package.
Jonathan Walker, head of policy and campaigns at the North East Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than 4,000 businesses across the region, says: “The extraction of coal continues to make a significant contribution to the regional economy, and coal will be an important part of the country’s energy mix for years to come.
“We are pleased to see that this scheme would lead to an estimated £48m worth of local supplier contracts, while also bringing an additional £1.5m worth of business rates into Northumberland, and we would urge you to look favourably on this application.”
Banks Mining employs more than 200 people at its existing Shotton and Brenkley Lane surface mines near Cramlington, and its local operations already contribute around £35m to the regional economy every year through wages, investments, business rates and the local supply chain.
Jeannie Kielty, development relations coordinator at The Banks Group, adds: “We’ve worked in Northumberland for more than three decades and are now one of the county’s largest private sector employers, a position which we aim to maintain through the Highthorn scheme.
“As well as directly supporting at least 100 jobs in itself, Highthorn would make a significant wider contribution to the regional economy through investment and the local supply chain, and we’re grateful to both the Chamber and the CBI for highlighting and supporting our proposals.
“Coal is still an important part of the UK’s energy mix. In the last year, around 25% of the electricity that we all used to power our homes, businesses, schools and hospitals was produced through coal, yet over 85% of that coal was imported from overseas.
“It makes far greater sense to support local jobs in Northumberland, to deliver environmental and conservation enhancements and to provide a secure supply of energy for the UK by mining our own indigenous coal reserves through carefully-planned and sensitively operated schemes such as Highthorn rather than relying on imports of coal and gas from potentially-unstable overseas markets.”
Alongside its provision for local employment and skills development, 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.
If the Highthorn scheme goes ahead, it will also mean an end to the removal of up to 62,000 tonnes of sand from a mile-long stretch of the beach and dunes at Druridge Bay after Banks Mining reached an agreement with the owner of a long-standing mineral planning permission which allows for this to be done in response to local requests that it be stopped.
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