The fourth of a series of community workshops looking at plans for a proposed new surface mine in south east Northumberland is set to take place next month.
North East employer Banks Mining has run a succession of meetings this year aimed at getting local residents, community groups, employers and community leaders involved in developing plans for the proposed Highthorn surface mining scheme, which is located to the south east of the village of Widdrington.
The three independently-chaired workshops held so far have enabled over 270 attendees to meet with the Highthorn project team and to start to help shape the plans the team is developing.
A fourth workshop is now set to go ahead at 6.30pm on Wednesday 3 June at the Miners Welfare Institute on Bridge Road in Lynemouth, which is being used for a second time to ensure there is enough room to accommodate everyone interested in attending.
Following an earlier workshop, around 460 hectares of land to the north of the C116, which runs between Widdrington Village and Druridge, were removed from the outline design proposal.
A planning application for the scheme is expected to be submitted later this year, with the time between the proposed start of operations in 2016 and the completion of restoration now scheduled to be between eight and ten years.
Family-owned Banks Mining employs more than 200 people at its Shotton and Brenkley Lane surface mines near Cramlington, and its local operations contribute around £35m to the regional economy every year through wages, investments, business rates and the local supply chain.
The Highthorn site represents one of the best and largest remaining coal resources in England, and is a project which Banks Mining 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.
Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at The Banks Group, says: “We made a firm commitment to open the project planning process for the Highthorn scheme up to the local community, and we’re very pleased that so many people have taken the opportunity to come along to the workshops we’ve held so far.
“The input we’ve had is helping to make sure that our plans for Highthorn will impact as positively as possible on the local economy, the environment and communities. They’re still continuing to evolve and we hope our next workshop will help bring further good ideas forward from across the local area.
“The Highthorn project would help enable us to sustain our position as one of Northumberland’s largest private-sector employers, as a substantial contributor to the local economy and as a long-standing supporter of many of the surrounding communities through the Banks Community Fund.
“Up to 40% of the electricity that we all use to power our homes, businesses, schools and hospitals is produced through coal, and it is and will remain a central part of the UK’s energy mix for the foreseeable future.
“Over 70% of the coal we use in the UK is imported, and I believe that it makes far greater sense from an economic, environmental, employment and energy security point of view to mine our own indigenous coal reserves rather than relying on imports of coal and gas from potentially-unstable overseas markets.”
Local people interested in attending the 3 June workshop are being asked to pre-register by contacting the Highthorn project team on 0844 209 1515 (local rate call from a BT landline) or visiting www.banksgroup.co.uk/
highthorn. Support for the project can also be expressed via the website.