Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Banks Mining open cast planning application, Druridge Bay and a first half score draw

Banks Mining’s open cast planning application has reached its first deadline, for neighbours comments, although “neighbours” is a wide definition judging by the geographical spread of objectors and supporters.  As of the 8th December the comments registered came to a perfect tie 508 objections versus 508 in support, as Northumberland County Council’s page shows. The Northumberland Wildlife Trust and RSPB have objected and so have I, all of us unnerved by the problem at the heart of Bank’s plans for the site; they do not own the land and every good intention is a hostage to fortune. What if several years down the line we are suddenly confronted with the familiar excuses that circumstances have changed, priorities are different, economic pressures dictate... ? Maybe none of this Banks’ fault given that they have no ultimate control over the site. I suspect that if they did control the land and were able to offer a new Hauxley, East Chevington or Druridge Pools then conservationists would have a different view. Sadly they cannot. Instead, according to the plan,  the site will be restored to more intensive agricultural use than currently and any wildlife gains depend wholly on the land owner not changing his mind.
The objections and support have been a fascinating mix. Step back for a minute and read the comments on either side.  The parry and thrust or argument features all the classic arguments around the environment; space for nature, jobs for people, energy supply, climate  change, tourism, coastal erosion, threats to health, transport. Also all the more emotive threads that weave, often acrimoniously, through such arguments; who should have a say, whose views count, locals and who counts as local, greed versus tree huggers.  With over 1000 comments a detailed geographical study would be interesting. There are both objectors and supporters from very near and much further away. The Council is thinking about a public meeting but seems wary knowing that these events can rapidly collapse into a shouting match between increasingly hostile sides each seeing the other as heartless and selfish.  Good to see the bay attracting so much interest either way