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Druridge Bay: Robert Jenrick DECIDES...

Druridge Bay Druridge Bay Colin Adsley

The story began in July 2016, when County Councillors overwhelmingly voted...

...to support the application by Banks Mining to extract millions of tons of coal (and other deposits) from a site just yards away from Druridge Bay, citing the employment potential of the scheme and confirming Banks' argument that there would be eventual environmental benefits to the area. They were convinced that Banks would provide a thorough and professional restitution of the site.

However, the scheme hit a barrier when Anne Marie Trevelyan, MP for Berwick-on-Tweed, a constituency that includes the Bay, asked the Communities Secretary to call the application in for scrutiny with a view to a full-scale inquiry by a government-appointed Inspector. That Inquiry was then held, with evidence on behalf of CPRE North East given by 'Pitch' Wilson, the veteran campaigner who has devoted a significant part of his 90 years to successfully defending cherished landscapes (like the Derwent Valley) against despoliation by open-cast workings. 

The proposal

Banks Mining, a well-known local company which has just finished extracting coal from sites on Lord Ridley's estate, set out plans to mine a large swathe of farmland immediately to the west of Druridge Bay, on a site approaching 750 acres (well over a square mile), between Cresswell and Widdrington village.

CPRE's position

Despite assurances from Banks that they conduct all their operations with sensitivity to the character of the local area, CPRE Northumberland believed the impact of such extensive workings on the natural aspect and tranquillity of the Bay would have been little short of catastrophic. We therefore supported the Save Druridge Bay campaign group against the proposal.

North sea

Druridge Bay is the southernmost part of the Northumberland Heritage Coast. It is popular in summer with many families from Northumberland, Tyneside and beyond and is a regular haunt of nature lovers, dog walkers and photographers throughout the year. Its unspoilt beauty is renowned; its wealth of migrant bird visitors makes it a mecca for 'twitchers'.

Druridge Bay is special to very many people, and has been a key asset in helping Northumberland build its emergent tourism industry. It suffered grievous disruption from surface mining through the 70/80s, followed by a painfully slow restoration process. Only now is it achieving the tranquillity it deserves as a haven of peace and beauty in a frenetic world.

Latest

An inquiry into the application, under the direction of John Woolcock, took place in Newcastle in 2017. The inquiry report was sent to Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, who overturned the Inquiry recommendation and decided against the mine.

CPRE Northumberland has argued from the start that the unspoilt beauty and tranquillity of Druridge Bay is a priceless asset to the North East that should not be sacrificed. The Secretary of State agreed with us and we looked all set to continue to enjoy this magnificent beach while still approaching it through its equally unspoilt pastoral hinterland.

But Banks Mining, the company behind the Druridge Bay scheme, then called for a judicial review of the Secretary of State's decision, and the High Court ruled that the decision was based on insufficient evidence and that the case had to be reviewed again. That task fell in 2019 to Robert Jenrick, MP, when he was appointed Sec.of State.

                                            DruridgeAli

On 8 September, 2020, his office published his decision in a 27-page report which carefully weighed evidence for and against the proposed mine, and came down on the side of protecting the environment and historic heritage rather than supporting the economic arguments for the scheme. While technically a further appeal could be made by Banks Mining, they are not expected to press for one.

While this decision represents a major victory for all those who campaigned against the mine, it is not our style in CPRE to celebrate such events. We simply turn instead to the next campaign and the looming threat to our countryside from the planning changes proposed by Mr Jenrick in the recently published Government White Paper, 'Planning for the Future'.

 

 

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