A protest took place at the Northumberlandia land sculpture near Shotton ahead of the planning inquiry for the controversial Highthorn surface-mine scheme, which was set to start yesterday (Wednesday).
A group calling itself Northumberlandia Speaks put together a banner saying End Coal Now. It also constructed an image of a wind turbine in the sculpture’s clenched right hand.
Last July, Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee approved Banks Mining’s proposed opencast mine on a 325-hectare site between Druridge Bay and Widdrington.
However, in September it was announced that the bid will be decided by the Secretary of State, Sajid Javid, after he decided to call in the plan.
The public inquiry is being chaired by a planning inspector. The venue is the home of Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park.
Rob Noyes, spokesman for the group, said: “Northumberlandia is sold as ‘a landscape for the community to enjoy’ and yet the Banks Group want to deprive the Druridge Bay community of the landscape they already enjoy.
“I’m sure that if the landscape could, it would speak out. And it would say ‘End Coal Now’.”
The proposals are for the extraction of three million tonnes of coal and a total of 20,000 tonnes of fireclay and sandstone over a five-year period with total operations lasting seven years, taking account of the time to set up the site and complete restoration.
Concerns raised by opponents, which include the Save Druridge campaign group, include the impact on wildlife and ecology, road issues, potential damage to tourism and the negative effects on residential amenity, including noise, dust and air pollution.
Banks Mining and its supporters point to at least 100 jobs being created and economic benefits for the wider area, as well as the restoration plans for the site following the extraction of coal, sandstone and fireclay.
Jeannie Kielty, community relations manager at The Banks Group, said: “We are looking forward to making what is a very compelling case to both the planning inspector and the Secretary of State for this decision to be ratified.
“Protecting and enhancing the area and the surrounding communities is at the centre of our Highthorn proposals and as we have stressed all along, any mining operations would take place several hundred yards away from the beach.
“The simple fact remains that the UK still needs and is still using coal for a number of purposes.”