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Confirmed: Newcastle City Council set to decide fate of proposed new opencast coal mine at Dewley Hill

Stop press: the Council’s own Planning Officer’s report recommends rejecting the opencast coal mine as it “would not be environmentally acceptable”

On the 18th December 2020, Newcastle City Council decides whether to protect 250 acres of greenbelt land or allow a controversial opencast coal mine on the north-eastern edge of Newcastle in an online hearing. Banks Group applied in 2019 for a new opencast mine to extract 800,000 tonnes of thermal coal. 451 residents of Newcastle have since signed letters to their Councillors asking them to vote against this application. The Council’s own Planning Officer’s report concludes the proposed coal mine “would not be environmentally acceptable”, recommending councillors to reject the application as well.

Professor Paul Ekins O.B.E., a leading resource enconomist at UCL Institute of Sustainable Resources,

What would the impacts be on the local environment and communities?

The local Defend Dewley Hill campaign, has fought the proposed opencast mine since 2019 when Banks Group proposed to swallow 250 acres of Newcastle’s green belt land. Waterways, mature trees, hedgerows, wildlife, top soil, and public rights of way would be torn up if this destructive open cast mine were permitted.

Northumberland Wildlife Trust is concerned that an opencast mine would harm farmland birds such as skylark, lapwing, and yellowhammer, with the Chief Executive stating “We are totally against coal extraction as a trust”. There may also be risk to Dewley and Ouse burns (waterways) that supply Newcastle residents’ water from the open cast mine. The coal that would be extracted from this open cast mine is intended either to burned in power stations or to industry, in the UK or abroad. If used in the UK, the coal extracted could endanger the Government’s commitment to have net zero emissions by 2050.

Jude Campbell from Defend Dewley Hill said, “This application offers no benefit to the local community. Banks Group claims the opencast coal mine would create 50 new jobs at Dewley Hill but these are not new jobs for local people, simply continued employment for their existing workforce. As a former union rep the prospect of redundancy for Banks employees does not sit easily with me. However, Banks are promoting an unsustainable business model in a declining industry and it is grossly irresponsible to promise these workers employment in this industry ad infinitum when coal is on the way out in favour of green technologies. Banks Group have their own renewables division, they should be taking advantage of green technology grants whilst retaining and retraining employees.”

Whether the coal is used in the UK or abroad, and whether it is used in power stations or other industries, Professor Paul Ekins O.B.E., a leading resource enconomist at UCL Institute of Sustainable Resources, explains in a letter to Newcastle Council, “an increase in the supply of a commodity such as coal will reduce the price of the commodity, leading to increased demand, and therefore increased emissions”, and discourage industries investing in greener alternatives.

You can virtually attend the planning committee hearing, which starts at 0930 Friday 18.12.20 via www.youtube.com/watch?v=MiXPxStycTQ&feature=youtu.be

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