Firm blames ministers' 'indefensible inaction' over coal mine approval for putting 220 jobs at risk

A mining company has claimed that “indefensible inaction” by the government in issuing a fresh planning decision on proposals for an opencast coal mine in Northumberland has put 220 jobs at risk of redundancy.

Banks Mining's Dinnington mine - Peter Maddison/geograph (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Banks Mining's Dinnington mine - Peter Maddison/geograph (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Northumberland County Council had granted approval for the Banks Mining's proposed Highthorn opencast mine in July 2016, only for the decision to subsequently be called in by the then secretary of state Sajid Javid.

Following a public enquiry, in spring 2018 Javid then went against a planning inspector's recommendation for approval, having interpreted differently a key paragraph on climate change in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Banks Group then successfully applied to the High Court to have the decision overturned in November 2018.

Since then, a fresh decision on the application by the government has been awaited.

Banks Mining now claims that, having waited more than 18 months for a final government go-ahead for the scheme, it now faces having to make workers redundant.

According to a statement from the firm, the government had previously undertaken to make the decision by 7 April this year.

The delay puts 220 jobs at risk, which "could so easily have been avoided if the government had listened to its own experts and approved our Highthorn scheme years ago", according to managing director Gavin Styles.

Styles said: "We have continued to do everything we can to make the case for approval and to make the consequences of the secretary of state's failure to make a timely decision on Highthorn crystal clear – but so far, it's all been to no avail.

"If the government continues to avoid taking responsibility in this way, there will undoubtedly be further consultations on redundancies to follow which will once again be directly down to its indefensible inaction."

A Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson told Planning: "The application is under consideration and the outcome will be announced in due course. It would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage."

Banks Mining says the £87 million Highthorn scheme would create "at least 100 direct, well-paid, full-time jobs on the site", while avoiding the need to import three million tonnes of coal.

Earlier this month, Banks Mining had permission to expand an existing mine in County Durham rejected.

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