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CPRE Northumberland

Druridge Bay: the saga continues...

Druridge Bay Druridge Bay Colin Adsley

In early July 2016, County councillors overwhelmingly voted... 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 87 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 currently extracting coal from sites on Lord Ridley's estate, has 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.

The issues

The application has created a great deal of controversy, receiving thousands of letters equally divided between those (mostly local people) who support the prospect of work in an area with a tradition of coal mining and those who feel the environmental cost is too great and that it will harm tourism. In February 2016 a packed Village Hall at Widdrington Station heard a lively and well-managed debate between the opposing groups.

The impact on visitors to this beautiful six-mile beach would be massive, with the workings clearly visible from all roads past the site and dominating the views inland from the top of the dunes. Disturbance from noise and traffic would have continued until the late 2020s, when restoration work on the site was due for completion. The area might then have gradually returned to a natural state - provided there were no further applications to continue mining.

CPRE's position

Despite assurances from Banks that they conduct all their operations with sensitivity to the character of the local area, CPRE Northumberland believes 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.


The inquiry into the application, under the direction of John Woolcock, took place in the Kingston Park ground of Newcastle Falcons Rugby Club, beginning on 31 May 2017. The inquiry report was sent to Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government later that year. He eventually released a decisive judgement, showing that, while he agreed with the Inspector that resolving the issue required a 'balancing exercise of weighing the benefits of the proposed development against the harm', he disagreed with the Inspector over which side of the balance his judgement should come down on. Like the Inspector, 'he considers that the benefits of coal extraction and employment should be afforded great weight. Against this he weighs the considerable adverse impact to the landscape character area...' His conclusion was that the harm to the environment was too great, and Druridge Bay should be protected against it. The proposed open cast mine was therefore refused.

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.

Further update

Banks Mining, the company behind the Druridge Bay scheme, then called for a judicial review of the Secretary of State's decision, which has since been heard in the High Court. The result of that review has now been announced. Insufficient reasons for refusal were provided by the then Secretary of State (Sajid Javid) and the case must now be reviewed again by the current holder of the post, James Brokenshire.

The saga continues as we wait upon his decision on the case...

map (1) 

Map of Druridge Bay. The site of the planned opencast workings occupies a large area in the centre of the map, stretching from the A1068 in the west to the coastal road in the east, just yards from the beach.

external websiteSave Druridge Bay


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