Decision on Britain's biggest coal mine imminent

| 2nd April 2020
Minister will make announcement about Banks Mining's three million tonne open-cast mine beside Druridge Bay in Northumberland by April 7.

There is no disruption to fuel supplies as a result of Covid-19.

A controversial planning application to build what would be the UK's biggest coal mine close to a tranquil stretch of coastline is to be decided within days.

Government lawyers have written to Banks Mining to say a recommendation has been made for the minister about a three million tonne open-cast mine beside Druridge Bay in Northumberland, and an announcement will be made by April 7.

Two years ago, Sajid Javid, the then communities secretary, turned down Banks' application for its Highthorn site, but the company has since won a series of challenges to have the plans reconsidered.

Disaster

Lynne Tate, a co-ordinator with campaign group Save Druridge, suggest that Robert Jenrick, the current communities secretary, who has been presenting the government's response to the coronavirus crisis at news conferences, will have been too busy to deal with the Highthorn decision. "I cannot see them dealing with the application by April 7," she said.

County councillors had originally approved the scheme despite protests from locals and environmentalists who argued that the mine would have huge implications for tourism and wildlife, including otters, dolphins and pink-footed geese.

While it waits to hear the outcome, Banks Mining is arguing that the country needs the coal, saying that UK imports have reached 86 percent of demand.

A government spokesman said: "As the letter makes clear, the Communities Secretary will announce the outcome of his consideration in due course.

"It would not be appropriate to comment further as the application is subject to the Communities Secretary's determination in a quasi-judicial capacity. There is no disruption to fuel supplies as a result of Covid-19."

This Author

Tom Wilkinson is a reporter with the Press Association.

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