Highthorn: Berwick MP backs calls for another look at opencast decision
Berwick MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan has added her voice to calls for the Government to intervene in the decision to approve a contentious surface mine on the Northumberland coast.
The Conservative MP has written to the Communities Secretary, Greg Clark MP, asking him to ‘call in’ the decision by Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee to approve Banks Mining’s application for an opencast coal mine at Highthorn, between Widdrington Station and Druridge Bay.
As previously reported, the councillors were 'minded to approve' the scheme as a request had already been made for the Secretary of State to call in the application, which would lead to a public inquiry.
This is a drastic step and the Secretary of State usually only does so if the application in question conflicts with national policy. In this case, Mrs Trevelyan says that the application contravenes the Government’s commitment to phase out coal-based power sources by 2025, as it allows for extraction at the site until at least 2027.
However, the extraction is limited by planning conditions to last no longer than five years and the whole scheme, including restoration, will last seven years, meaning it could be completed prior to 2025 depending on the start date.
Also, the planning officer's report highlights that the Government's National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states that when determining planning applications, local planning authorities should give great weight to the benefits of mineral extraction, including to the economy. It adds that while the Government announced last year that a consultation would be launched in the spring of 2016 on when to close all unabated coal-fired power stations, this has not yet been published.
Mrs Trevelyan said: “Druridge Bay is a beautiful area of our Northumberland coast which would be put at risk by this decision. I am extremely concerned that this application has been approved, even though it is in direct conflict with our national policy on energy production and risks the commitments we have made under the Paris Agreement.
"I have previously discussed my concerns about the plans for this opencast mine at Druridge Bay with the Energy Secretary and I have asked for her support in persuading the Communities Secretary to call in this decision by the council.”
If Mr Clark agrees to call in the application, he will appoint an inspector to carry out an inquiry into the proposal. The inspector is required to take national policy into account and will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State, who makes the final ruling.