Why we must act to save Druridge
June 20, 2016

This is a guest piece written by one of the people involved in the campaign to Save Druridge. To help the campaign see the end of the article.

Save Druridge started almost 3 years ago in a house right next to the picturesque beach of Druridge Bay. To begin with we were just between 6-8 people trying to do as much research as possible not knowing the ins and outs of an opencast mine. Banks Mining had a good PR team and put through glossy brochures to all homes in the area showing scenes of children running in green fields and fishing in ponds. They never showed any photos of an actual opencast always stating no one would see it or hear it and the restoration would make the land so much better once finished.

This is a guest piece written by one of the people involved in the campaign to Save Druridge. To help the campaign see the end of the article.

It is true to say that the Nature Reserves at Druridge Bay were formed by past mining. There are 6 Nature Reserves in total in the area and are all managed by either Northumberland Wildlife Trust or National Trust. These organisations along with the RSPB have put in an enormous amount of work since the opencasts closed, the last one at the coast being in the late 1970’s. These reserves are now mature and well stocked with wildlife and migrating birds. Opencast mining has still continued in the area but slightly further away from the coast and not next to such important Nature Reserves that we have at Druridge Bay.

Unfortunately the majority of local people have come to rely upon the mines for work, or money for the community, and the mining companies are always keen to get the local Parish Councils on board to give them an incentive to agree the application and for the mine to proceed. This has unfortunately happened in the majority of the Parish Councils around the proposed mine area.

Highthorn opencast by Banks Mining for many local people though is different. It is going back to the area which was scarred in the past and is now mature with an abundance of wildlife. It is extremely close to a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) site being Cresswell Pond as well as Druridge Pools. It is also close to our beach and dunes and the actual Bay has just been given Marine Conservation status.

pinkfootedgeeseMy involvement with Save Druridge started because of the Pink Footed Geese. There are approximately 5000 birds which migrate to our shores from Scandinavia or Iceland. They arrive in October and the noise and sight of them is amazing. They feed in the majority of the fields close to the beach and dunes exactly where the opencast could end up. These fields are large and open just as the geese like as they are extremely flighty birds which are easily disturbed. They leave our shores in March to breed back in Scandinavia.

Apart from the Pink Footed Geese we have other rare birds like Avocets, lapwings, yellow hammers, barn owls and also the Marsh Harrier. There are many mammals living in this area too with otters, foxes, badgers, deer as well as rare migrating bats. Banks Mining have stated they will endeavour not to disturb these animals and birds however 3 large organisations which manage this area being Northumberland Wildlife Trust, National Trust and the RSPB have all disagreed and have objected to the application. In the last few weeks Banks Mining have come back with further incentives however we understand these to have been refused.

As well as the opencast affecting our wildlife it will also affect our roads. We have a main A route just to the east of the Opencast where the HGV’s will use. This A road is a single carriageway and 300 HGV’S will use this road each day. Save Druridge carried out a survey of this road over 2 days in 2 different months. It found on one day alone 78 Tractors used the stretch of road on the A1068 as well as 23 pedestrians (no footpath), 45 cyclists and 102 caravans or motorhomes. The route is signposted as a Tourist Route with Brown Castle Council signs. The opencasts in the local area which closed, just a few years ago, had a haul road to transport the coal. This will not happen at Highthorn.

Pollution in terms of dust, possible ground water contamination, noise and light pollution will all affect this area. Druridge Bay is renowned for its dark skies and many astronomers come here to see the stars. The attraction of this area for astronomers would deminish if the opencast were to go ahaed. It wouldn’t be great with a large glow in the sky close by which could affect roosting birds and bats. Many homes in the near vicinity do not have foundations being old farm buildings. People living next to the Shotton opencast by Banks Mining in nearby Cramlington have told us their houses shake when blasting takes place. Blasting we understand will take place up to 4 times per day.

Banks Mining have offered 50 jobs and a £450,000 Community Fund – a drop in the ocean compared to the profits they will make. Speaking of which we have seen in recent Newspaper reports that Banks Mining profits are down drastically and they have also decided to mothball their Opencast at Rusha in Scotland due to the downturn in the price of coal and nowhere to sell it.

The UK along with many other countries agreed at the Paris Summit to cut coal emissions. This means that all power stations in the UK will no longer burn coal from 2025 and it will be greatly reduced from 2023. Why then when mothballing one opencast do they want to open another? They already have planning for an opencast literally across the road from the one at Druridge Bay on the other side of the main road I told you about. There are problems due to electricity pylons and sewers on this site but they knew this before they applied for planning. If both opencasts were to operate at the same time at Druridge it would be like one large industrial disaster area.

Save Druridge are continuing their campaign ensuring that everyone is informed about this proposed opencast. We have kept ourselves in the news by doing a Walk for Druridge last May 2015 and a Photographic Competition last August. On 30th May we held our largest event yet with a Beach Picnic. We had speakers from different parties and our MP Anne Marie Trevelyan, live music and bands, stalls, food, drink and a sandcastle competition in which over 20 sandcastle were built on not the best of days with a cold wind of the East coast. Our special guest was Mr. Bill Oddie OBE who is a patron of Northumberland Wildlife Trust. We could not have done this without the support of Friends of the Earth and The Green Party and we are grateful for all their help.

The Planning Committee will now meet probably on the 5th July to decide this application. The decision may go to the Secretary of State to decide.

We will keep fighting till the bitter end, for our wildlife, our health, our landscape, and for our children and grandchildren who will inherit this earth. I just hope that common sense prevails and this and any other application for future opencast coal operations are denied and our air will become cleaner and healthier for all.

You can add your voice to those saying no to this application. There is to be a demonstration against the application on the 5th July at Northumberland County Council offices in Morpeth from 1pm. The local campaign group are asking for concerned people to write letters of objection. These really can make a difference in these cases. You can use their template letter, or even better write your own, feel free to use the arguments written above. Many thanks.