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Druridge Bay decision: permission refused

Druridge Bay Druridge Bay Colin Adsley

 

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

...has been announced: permission refused. 

In early July 2016, 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 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 full-scale inquiry by a government-appointed Inspector. That Inquiry was held last year, 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, 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 have been 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 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.

Latest

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 31May 2017. The inquiry report was sent to Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government later that year. He has now released his decisive judgement, showing that, while he agrees with the Inspector that resolving the issue requires a 'balancing exercise of weighing the benefits of the proposed development against the harm', he has 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 is that the harm to the environment is too great, and Druridge Bay should be protected against it. The proposed open cast mine is 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. Now the Secretary of State has agreed with us and we can all continue to enjoy this magnificent beach while still approaching it through its equally unspoilt pastoral hinterland. 

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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