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Multi-million ton open cast mine at Druridge Bay - Inquiry begins

Druridge Bay Druridge Bay Colin Adsley

The planned open cast mine at Druridge Bay, called in for review by the Secretary of State...

...is now the subject of an Inquiry recently opened at the Kingston Park ground of Newcastle Falcons.

In early July last year, County councillors overwhelmingly voted to support the application, 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. 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 full-scale inquiry by a government-appointed Inspector, and that Inquiry is now under way. In fact, on behalf of CPRE evidence has already been given by 'Pitch' Wilson, the veteran North-east 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, 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 is bound to be massive, clearly visible from all roads past the site and dominating the views inland from the top of the dunes. Disturbance from noise and traffic can be expected until the late 2020s, when restoration of the site is due for completion.

CPRE's position

Despite assurances from Banks that they will conduct their operation 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 will be little short of catastrophic. We have 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.

We understand that Banks Mining is a responsible company with a sound record in the way they carry out operations and aftercare. The site development plan involves a regular cycle of surface removal and storage, then extraction followed by refilling  and restoration, piece by piece, over the site area.

Latest

The inquiry into the application is now taking place in the Kingston Park ground of Newcastle Falcons Rugby Club, beginning on 31 May of this year. The inquiry report will go to Sajid Javid for the final decision. If he decides against the scheme, Druridge Bay will be spared.

However, if the Secretary of State is minded on review to approve the application and the open cast mine goes ahead, CPRE Northumberland will keep a watching brief on the work and monitor the results of the progressive restitution programme. If Banks are as good as their word, it should not take a generation to see the hinterland of this magnificent beach restored to something like its former state as a pastoral prelude to one of our county's finest littoral experiences.  

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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