Message from Jos from Defend Dewley Hill

My name is Jos and I’m part of the team at Defend Dewley Hill. We're a group of residents from Throckley near Newcastle, who set out to save our local landscape from opencast coal extraction, and we really need your support.

Banks Mining have applied to extract 800,000 tonnes of coal and 400,000 tonnes of fireclay from Dewley Hill on the fringe of our village in Throckley.

We know that coal is the most catastrophic fossil fuel for our climate and that industries such as steel are rapidly developing new technology to eradicate coal use.

Despite Newcastle City Council declaring a climate emergency, we’re facing the prospect of the last opencast mine in England threatening our village.

None of us set out on the journey to become activists, but this bunch of taxi drivers, occupational therapists, managers, shop assistants, care workers, teachers, young and older people alike, have joined forces to defend the land we live on and have inadvertently become a campaign group together striving to see an end to fossil fuels.

We are raising funds for legal advice to help our group to have the best chance possible of defeating the coal mine this year. Newcastle City Council will make a decision in the month and we need to be ready to challenge the council's expected recommendation to approve it, or to fight the mining company's appeal.

We’ve worked hard to highlight our plight and speak out about our concerns. We’ve held demonstrations and walks on the land. We’ve made films and interviewed people about their past experiences. There are banners round the boundary and we have encouraged thousands of people to object

We're a community full of love for our land and brimming with energy and ideas, but we're not a wealthy community, so the costly legal advice could be a barrier to us in fighting this last leg we so need to win.

The only way we can win this is through reaching out to people who care...which is why we need you.

See the crowdfunder page for more information on the legal actions we are preparing to take to stop the opencast coal site. (https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/defend-dewley-hill/)

Coal is a proud part of our history in the North East, but it is not our future. This is the only remaining application for opencast coal mining in the UK, and if we can defeat it, then there's every chance it will be the last.

Please support us and contribute whatever you can to our crowdfunder to help us make a significant last stand against opencast coal mining.

Thank you

Jos
Defend Dewley Hill

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Update- Defend Dewley Hill

Newcastle City Council are expected to decide whether to protect the area at Dewley Hill to the West of the city, or if Banks Group is allowed to opencast it instead before the end of the year. The hearing will either be the 20th November or the 18th December.

Cumbrian Councillors go against climate consensus and approve coking coal mine

If this mine were to go ahead it would mean the first new underground coal mine to be started in the UK in many years. Now the decision will go to Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick,

VIDEO: Economist Prof Paul Ekins OBE on coal company greenwash

It’s ‘Economic Nonesense’ that UK coal mining saves Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Coal Roundup September 2020

TWO Opencast coal mines rejected this summer! Plus: plans for coking coal mines and power station closure dates

Opencast coal mine at Druridge Bay rejected

Late on the 8th September 2020, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government said that Banks Group will not be allowed to extract coal from Highthorn, close to Druridge Bay, Northumberland. Save Druridge, the local community group, are delighted.

Coal mining in the Pont Valley to end August 2020

Campaign to Protect Pont Valley and other local people are delighted that Banks plans to further exploit the Pont Valley were dashed.

Support legal battles to stop coal

We are helping to fight two legal battles, one against the government for allowing the opencast to go ahead and the other against Banks itself for destroying the breeding grounds of a protected species.

Object to Banks Group’s ‘West Bradley’ extension in the Pont Valley

Banks Group want to expand the Bradley Opencast coal mine in the Pont Valley. Campaign to Protect Pont Valley have launched a new campaign to oppose this planning application and they need your support.

Coal Roundup June 2020

Decisions on coal mines still pending despite reduced coal demand & power station closures

CONNECT WITH US

Update- Defend Dewley Hill

Local reasons against Dewley Hill opencast

  • The proposal sits on over 250 acres of Newcastle’s green belt land, which should be protected from development.
  • Opencast coal mining destroys everything that lies over the coal seem. This means the waterways, mature trees, hedgerows, wildlife, top soil, public rights of way are all stripped away.
  • Opencast coal mines are incredibly disruptive to local people. If this opencast went ahead it would increase traffic on the roads, including heavy goods vehicles on the A69. The sites are brightly lit, which is particularly irritating in rural areas in winter to humans and to bats all year round. The machines are noisy, often in an irregular, irritating way. Opencast mining throws up dust, which includes all of the toxins located in the coal.
  • Northumberland Wildlife Trust remains concerned about the impact on farmland birds such as skylark, lapwing and yellowhammer during the active stage of the proposed mine. Hedgerow removal would interrupt animals’ movement through the area.
  • The site lies in the catchment area of the Dewley and Ouse burns. Coal mine dust is toxic as it contains mercury, silica, cadmium, arsenic and the air pollutants which killed underground miners.
  • This application would involve work on the site for 3.5 years. Banks Group may well submit further plans for extensions. Previous applications included coal removal from the east and the west of this proposal, so there is clearly more coal adjacent.
  • The fireclay that could be extracted is not needed and should not be considered as a benefit. Ibstock Brick are a partner in this application. However the council has “confirmed that there is a sufficient landbank of 27 years’ permitted reserves for brick clay from Red Barns Quarry in South Tyneside” according to the Development and Allocation Plan report.
  • How Banks Group intend on putting back the site can only be a degradation on what currently exists or could be created on the site without coal extraction. So called ‘restoration’ cannot put back what was there and the soil structures that biodiversity rely on would be diminished. None of the proposed benefits of restoration need rely on the area being opencast first. Bank Group’s Pegswood leaky lake is still an eye sore well over a decade since coal extraction finished. The companies high claims for ‘restoration’ should be ignored.
  • The Northumberland Wildlife Trust severed ties with Banks Group in May 2019. The Trust’s chief executive, told the Chronicle: “The reason we are [severing ties] is we are now looking to underline the fact that we do not approve of [Banks Group’s] constant applications and proposals for opencast coal extraction…We are totally against coal extraction as a trust”.
  • The proposal is smaller than previous ones on the same site, but the impacts would still be significant for local people and the environment.
  • The proposal threatens jobs in the area and reduces the farm land available for food production. If approved the opencast would be very visible and give a poor impression to tourists in our area who may be less inclined to return.
  • Banks Group won’t be providing new jobs as experienced staff will be moved from nearby opencast operations which have closed. There is no future in coal mining.
  • Residents at Bank’s Bradley site in the Pont Valley Durham reported issues with light pollution, noise, water run offs, inappropriate use of blasting flags, and aggressive security guards. The same issues are likely here if the application were to be approved.
  • Air pollution from the A69 is already a problem, an opencast coal mine in the area would worsen this issue.
  • The company proposed an additional 302 vehicle movements a day to the site entering via Ponteland road, the B6323, everyday. Banks propose a simple T-junction which could cause congestion and be intimidating for vulnerable road users such as cyclists.
  • The £50,000 offered in total to community groups is a bribe to accept something which is not acceptable. Clean air and wide open spaces are worth more than this.

National and international reasons this must be rejected

  • The coal at the site is thermal coal, it is mainly used in power stations, but can be used in some industrial processes. Coal power stations are to be phased-out by 2024 and we have large stockpiles of this type of coal.
  • Coal, wherever it is consumed causes climate change. Power stations have to close by 2024 because of the emissions from burning coal. The single largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the UK is Tata Steel’s Port Talbot Steel works, the second is British Steel’s Scunthorpe steel works. If Banks sold the coal to industry, it would still be contributing to climate change which affects those who least caused it the most.
  • We have alternatives to this coal already in use. We can power electricity generation without coal, there are alternatives ways to make steel including by recycling, that use other fuels. Cement can be made without coal, alternatives have been around long enough to be adopted.
  • The coal used in steel works as a reducing agent is coking coal. This site contains thermal coal which Banks said was needed for power station in the 2016 scoping report.
  • Extracting more coal means that more coal will be consumed. If coal is extracted here, there is no comparable amount being left in the ground elsewhere. The emissions from the consumption and transport of coal from this site would worsen climate change. See Professor Paul Ekins from University College London’s video regarding this.
  • Transporting coal to the final consumer represents a small proportion of the emissions resulting from burning it, but Banks focusses on the emissions from transport. The sustainable solution is to stop burning coal, not to get it from a nearer source. Much more significant quantities of carbon are released from burning the coal than its transport with smaller amounts from the operation of the mine and the methane released.
  • A fixed haulage route is not being proposed as Banks Group want to be able to take the coal to a number of sites meaning the coal could be transported significant distances by lorry. If it is transported by train Banks suggests it would go to Butterwell Disposal Point, subjecting the nearby residents to more years of coal related disruption, which they had to suffer when that site was an active opencast mine.
  • Newcastle and Northumberland Councils have declared a climate emergency. As such climate change must be considered in every decision and action taken to reduce emissions. A new coal mine is the exact opposite of that.
  • National Planning Policy Framework paragraph says 211. “Planning permission should not be granted for the extraction of coal unless:
    a) the proposal is environmentally acceptable, or can be made so by planning conditions or obligations; or
    b) if it is not environmentally acceptable, then it provides national, local or community benefits which clearly outweigh its likely impacts (taking all relevant matters into account, including any residual environmental impacts).
  • Clearly this application does not meet this test and so should be rejected.

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Message from Jos from Defend Dewley Hill

My name is Jos and I’m part of the team at Defend Dewley Hill. We’re a group of residents from Throckley near Newcastle, who set out to save our local landscape from opencast coal extraction, and we really need your support.

Cumbrian Councillors go against climate consensus and approve coking coal mine

If this mine were to go ahead it would mean the first new underground coal mine to be started in the UK in many years. Now the decision will go to Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick,

VIDEO: Economist Prof Paul Ekins OBE on coal company greenwash

It’s ‘Economic Nonesense’ that UK coal mining saves Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Coal Roundup September 2020

TWO Opencast coal mines rejected this summer! Plus: plans for coking coal mines and power station closure dates

Opencast coal mine at Druridge Bay rejected

Late on the 8th September 2020, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government said that Banks Group will not be allowed to extract coal from Highthorn, close to Druridge Bay, Northumberland. Save Druridge, the local community group, are delighted.

Coal mining in the Pont Valley to end August 2020

Campaign to Protect Pont Valley and other local people are delighted that Banks plans to further exploit the Pont Valley were dashed.

Support legal battles to stop coal

We are helping to fight two legal battles, one against the government for allowing the opencast to go ahead and the other against Banks itself for destroying the breeding grounds of a protected species.

Object to Banks Group’s ‘West Bradley’ extension in the Pont Valley

Banks Group want to expand the Bradley Opencast coal mine in the Pont Valley. Campaign to Protect Pont Valley have launched a new campaign to oppose this planning application and they need your support.

Coal Roundup June 2020

Decisions on coal mines still pending despite reduced coal demand & power station closures

CONNECT WITH US

Cumbrian Councillors go against climate consensus and approve coking coal mine

This afternoon Cumbria County Council approved, for the second time, the application by West Cumbria Mining to extract 2.78 million tonnes of coking coal a year from Woodhouse Colliery, near Whitehaven.

The Councillors said that it was a finely balanced decision, with the Council proposing 101 conditions on the project. The council has already reduced the lifespan of the proposed operation from 2070 to 2049. The scientific arguments around emissions seemed to be too complex for some of the Councillors to grasp.

A year ago the decision to approve this mine was unanimous, this time 12 were in favour of accepting the application, 3 were against and 2 abstained from the voting.

The coal from this site is suitable for use in steel making, but would mainly be shipped to Europe. Alternatives methods of new steel production such as Direct Reduction Iron and recycling scrap steel already exist.

If this mine were to go ahead it would mean the first new underground coal mine to be started in the UK in many years. The last underground mine, Kellingley Colliery which produced coal for power stations was closed in 2015.

The Councillors who voted against the application had varying reasons, including expecting that the quantity of coal mined in the USA would not be reduced as the companies would find alternative markets in the USA or Latin America. West Cumbria Mining said that this mine's coal production would mean coal in other places was left underground and so there would not be additional carbon emissions due to mining an additional 2.78 million tonnes of coal but this was not unanimously accepted and has been refuted by top economists. Another Councillor had strong concerns about heritage impacts. Both the Chair and the Vice Chair voted against the application.

One of the Councillors who voted in favor of the application said, "I wasn't elected to do global issues, I was elected to do Cumbria issues".

Now the decision will go to Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, to decide whether he will call for a inquiry headed by a planning inspector into the application. If this happens the ultimate decision will be with the Secretary of State who has recently rejected the application by Banks Group to extract coal by opencast coal mining, from the Northumberland coast line.

Robert Jenrick warned the council that he would make this move if they decided to approve the application, before the hearing took place. Therefore this decision is not final.

Will you help to encourage the Secretary of State to call in this decision and decide against the application? There is a new petition launched after the application was approved, addressed to the Secretary of State.

Anne was at the hearing, and these were her thoughts at the end: "Today was a missed opportunity by Cumbria County Council to show real support for decarbonising the steel industry and rejecting this mine. The decision clearly involved careful consideration from some of the Councillors, but many said it was an exceptionally difficult case, leading to two abstentions. Society's understanding that we cannot continue to use old technology in the face of the climate emergency is growing. Consequently the Secretary of State has said he will consider whether this decision should be made by Government is an important step, a year ago that possibility was dismissed."

The UK government needs to take a strong stand on decarbonising heavy industry by stopping this application and making policy decisions that ensure real zero carbon is met quickly through bold action. The UK's hosting of the Conference of Parties (COP26) in Glasgow next year should be a big encouragement to make the right decision and reject this and other projects which would worsen global climate change.

West Cumbria Mining, the company behind the application, is owned by Australian company EMR Capital.

The UK Government has committed itself to reach net zero carbon by 2050 but as yet has not managed to set out a roadmap to decarbonise the UK steel industry.

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Message from Jos from Defend Dewley Hill

My name is Jos and I’m part of the team at Defend Dewley Hill. We’re a group of residents from Throckley near Newcastle, who set out to save our local landscape from opencast coal extraction, and we really need your support.

Update- Defend Dewley Hill

Newcastle City Council are expected to decide whether to protect the area at Dewley Hill to the West of the city, or if Banks Group is allowed to opencast it instead before the end of the year. The hearing will either be the 20th November or the 18th December.

VIDEO: Economist Prof Paul Ekins OBE on coal company greenwash

It’s ‘Economic Nonesense’ that UK coal mining saves Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Coal Roundup September 2020

TWO Opencast coal mines rejected this summer! Plus: plans for coking coal mines and power station closure dates

Opencast coal mine at Druridge Bay rejected

Late on the 8th September 2020, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government said that Banks Group will not be allowed to extract coal from Highthorn, close to Druridge Bay, Northumberland. Save Druridge, the local community group, are delighted.

Coal mining in the Pont Valley to end August 2020

Campaign to Protect Pont Valley and other local people are delighted that Banks plans to further exploit the Pont Valley were dashed.

Support legal battles to stop coal

We are helping to fight two legal battles, one against the government for allowing the opencast to go ahead and the other against Banks itself for destroying the breeding grounds of a protected species.

Object to Banks Group’s ‘West Bradley’ extension in the Pont Valley

Banks Group want to expand the Bradley Opencast coal mine in the Pont Valley. Campaign to Protect Pont Valley have launched a new campaign to oppose this planning application and they need your support.

Coal Roundup June 2020

Decisions on coal mines still pending despite reduced coal demand & power station closures

CONNECT WITH US

UCL Economist Prof Paul Ekins O.B.E refutes coal company greenwash

It's 'Economic Nonesense' that UK coal mining saves Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Banks Group and West Cumbria Mining, are trying to start coal mines based on the idea that digging up coal locally is better for the climate, because otherwise it would come from abroad.

Professor Paul Ekins O.B.E., a leading resource enconomist at UCL Institute of Sustainable Resources, explains why this is 'economic nonsense', and how digging up more coal adds to greenhouse gas emissions, no matter where it comes from.

Read Profesor Ekin's full objection to Banks Group's proposal for West Bradley opencast coal mine.

The video footage shows the opencast coal extraction at Bradley, Pont Valley, County Durham which was operational June 2018-August 2020.

On our Actions page you can object to the current coal mine applications in which companies use this false argument.

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Message from Jos from Defend Dewley Hill

My name is Jos and I’m part of the team at Defend Dewley Hill. We’re a group of residents from Throckley near Newcastle, who set out to save our local landscape from opencast coal extraction, and we really need your support.

Update- Defend Dewley Hill

Newcastle City Council are expected to decide whether to protect the area at Dewley Hill to the West of the city, or if Banks Group is allowed to opencast it instead before the end of the year. The hearing will either be the 20th November or the 18th December.

Cumbrian Councillors go against climate consensus and approve coking coal mine

If this mine were to go ahead it would mean the first new underground coal mine to be started in the UK in many years. Now the decision will go to Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick,

Coal Roundup September 2020

TWO Opencast coal mines rejected this summer! Plus: plans for coking coal mines and power station closure dates

Opencast coal mine at Druridge Bay rejected

Late on the 8th September 2020, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government said that Banks Group will not be allowed to extract coal from Highthorn, close to Druridge Bay, Northumberland. Save Druridge, the local community group, are delighted.

Coal mining in the Pont Valley to end August 2020

Campaign to Protect Pont Valley and other local people are delighted that Banks plans to further exploit the Pont Valley were dashed.

Support legal battles to stop coal

We are helping to fight two legal battles, one against the government for allowing the opencast to go ahead and the other against Banks itself for destroying the breeding grounds of a protected species.

Object to Banks Group’s ‘West Bradley’ extension in the Pont Valley

Banks Group want to expand the Bradley Opencast coal mine in the Pont Valley. Campaign to Protect Pont Valley have launched a new campaign to oppose this planning application and they need your support.

Coal Roundup June 2020

Decisions on coal mines still pending despite reduced coal demand & power station closures

CONNECT WITH US

Coal Roundup September 2020

Opencast coal extraction

On the 8th September 2020, the Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government rejected Banks Group's application to mine coal at Highthorn close to Druridge Bay, Northumberland. This is the second time a Secretary of State has rejected this application, following Northumberland County Council's 2016 approval of the opencast mine application.

This is a huge victory for Save Druridge the local campaign group against the mine. Local resident, Local resident Lynne Tate said, “The thought of this area being once again torn up, for a destructive opencast site over a period of seven years was unimaginable.”

Banks Group also had an application to extend their existing opencast mine in the Pont Valley, which it calls, Bradley rejected in July by Durham County Council.

There is currently only one opencast coal mine operating in England, none in Scotland and three in Wales.

The existing mines, by company are:

  • Celtic Energy: 1) East Pit, Neath Port Talbot and 2) Nant Helen, Powys (closure December 2021)

  • Merthyr (South Wales): Ffos-y-fran, Merthyr Tydfil

  • Hartington, Derbyshire.[1]

Banks Group proposed site:

Dewley Hill, on the outskirts of Newcastle, the planning hearing has been delayed by Covid protections.

Underground Mining

There are currently no underground mines operating of significant size

Proposed Underground Mines

West Cumbria Mining have amended their application for the land aspect of a new underground coking coal near Whitehaven in May 2020. If constructed this would produce coking coal for export for 50 years. Cumbria County Council has said a hearing date for a decision will be no earlier than October 2020.

New Age Explorations (an Australian company) are applying for licences for an underground coking coal mine at Lochinvar, on the border between England and Scotland. If constructed the company hopes to be producing coal until 2044.

Power Station Closures

Drax power station has announced that it will stop burning coal by March 2021 after almost five decades as one of western Europe’s most polluting power plants. Sadly the last two units are being replaced with another polluting fossil fuel, gas. Much of the wood which it burns comes from the clear-felling of biodiverse forests in Europe and the Southern USA which are home to many rare and endangered species.

EDF are reviewing the future of its West Burton power station, after the governmental support through the capacity market payments stop in September 2021. West Burton burns coal from Banks Group’s opencast mines in the North East of England, as well as imported coal.

Kilroot coal and oil power station in Northern Ireland is going to be converted to gas. No timeline for the end of coal use has been announced.

At Ratcliffe on Soar power station the owner Uniper plans to turn the power station into an incinerator for household waste and produce heat and electricity. There is no planning permission for this yet. United Kingdom withouth incineration network (UKWIN) highlight the problems with incinerators including air pollution and climate change, with a campaign against an incinerator at Ratcliffe.

The alternative fuels proposed at Ratcliffe, Kilroot and Drax would result in slightly lower greenhouse gas emissions and not require coal mining. However, these changes are not solutions to the climate or air pollution crisis and they involve building new infrastructure reliant on combustion leaving us dependent on fossil fuels or high levels of domestic waste.

Coal phase-out In early February the Prime Minister said that the coal phase-out could be brought forward from the end of 2025 to October 2024. This is not soon enough for communities at the front-lines of fossil fuel extraction.

Reduced demand for electricity due to the covid pandemic means that no electricity has been generated from coal since the 10th April 2020. 55 days and counting at the point of writing (4th June 2020).

Stockpiles

Total UK coal stock levels increased in 2018 to 5.3 million tonnes, broadly similar to the previous year. [2]

There is already more coal above ground than the UK government predicts will be consumed if coal were phased-out in 2025. We don’t need to extract or import any more. This is especially so, if the phase-out date is brought forward.

Want to help in the fight against coal?

References

References

[1] The Coal Authority, Production and Manpower returns for three month period January to March 2020 and other sources.

[2] Department for Business, Industry and Industrial Strategy, Statistical Press Release. UK Energy Statistics, 2019 & Q4 2019 (26 March 2020) page 6

Queries and media contact: info @ coalaction . org .uk (without spaces)

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Coal Roundup June 2020

Decisions on coal mines still pending despite reduced coal demand & power station closures

Coal Roundup February 2020

The latest on current operating and proposed mines, and coal use in the UK

CONNECT WITH US

DRURIDGE BAY OPENCAST COAL MINE REJECTED

Late on the 8th September 2020, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government said that Banks Group will not be allowed to extract coal from Highthorn, close to Druridge Bay, Northumberland. Save Druridge, the local community group, are delighted.

Local resident Lynne Tate said, “Save Druridge have been fighting against Banks Group trying to open a coal opencast at Druridge Bay for the last seven years. We are extremely pleased therefore that once again a Secretary of State, namely Robert Jenrick, has rejected this application. Druridge Bay is a beautiful area consisting of a seven mile beach and dunes, many wildlife reserves, a coastal footpath, agricultural fields and woods running up to meet the A1068. The thought of this area being once again torn up, for a destructive opencast site over a period of seven years was unimaginable.”

On behalf of the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local government the official letter said, “the proposed development is not likely to provide national, local or community benefits which clearly outweigh its likely impacts (taking all relevant matters into account, including any residual environmental impacts). It therefore fails the test required by paragraph 211(b) of the [National Planning Policy] Framework. The presumption against the granting of permission for the extraction of coal therefore applies in this case.”

Banks Group wanted to extract 2.765 million tonnes of coal by opencast methods. The original application was submitted in October 2015 for coal for combustion at power stations. The application was rejected by Sajid Javid in October 2018. The UK government is now planning on phasing-out coal by 2024, earlier than the original date of 2025.

Anne Harris from the Coal Action Network says, “This is a really significant decision. The UK government has finally acted on its own words regarding emissions and stopped a new opencast coal mine. There is no justification for continuing to exploit the world's resources when climate change is increasingly being felt, particularly by those in the global south who least contributed to the atmospheric changes.”

She goes on to say, “It was really important for global action on climate change that the decision went this way at Highthorn. We need to stop extracting coal globally and stop burning it anywhere. The government's decision to stop the mine was the only one that serves the needs of the local, national and international populations and ecosystems.”

June Davison, who lives adjacent to Banks' opencast site in the Pont Valley Durham which stopped removing coal last month says, “I've watched as the Pont Valley has been ripped apart and now the government finally say they will not support the extraction and burning of coal at Druridge Bay. The joy I can take in this decision is that this opencast coal site in the Pont Valley will be the last opencast.”

Jos Forester-Melville who is campaigning against a further Banks Groups opencast mine application at Dewley Hill near Throckley, Newcastle-upon-Tyne said, “We’re delighted to hear the outcome of this very positive result for our friends at Druridge Bay. In essence, it’s the only decision that could be made which will preserve the beautiful landscape but more importantly, the environment and people’s health. We very much hope this is reflective of the decision which should be made about open cast proposals at Dewley Hill and indeed at all sites across the North East. Coal is very much our past and it’s great to see that the decision has been upheld that it holds no part in our future.”

Anne Harris went on to say, “The Secretary of State did not believe Banks Group's claim that industrial coal demand will remain at current levels. We've seen huge falls in demand for coal for power stations. Now it's time to invest in long-term jobs in environmentally appropriate renewable energy and decarbonising heavy industry, there is no future for coal. There is no crisis needing coal supply, the real crisis, in addition to the current pandemic, is the climate emergency."

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COVID-19 Solidarity with indigenous communities in Colombia

Coal Action Network & supporters raised funds for the the Wayuu communities of La Guajira, Northern Colombia, who urgently needed our solidarity to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic

Support legal battles to stop coal

We are helping to fight two legal battles, one against the government for allowing the opencast to go ahead and the other against Banks itself for destroying the breeding grounds of a protected species.

Object to Banks Group’s ‘West Bradley’ extension in the Pont Valley

Banks Group want to expand the Bradley Opencast coal mine in the Pont Valley. Campaign to Protect Pont Valley have launched a new campaign to oppose this planning application and they need your support.

CONNECT WITH US

Coal mining in the Pont Valley to end August 2020

Campaign to Protect Pont Valley and other local people are delighted that Banks plans to further exploit the Pont Valley were dashed.

On the 1st July Durham County Council planning committee voted to reject Banks Group’s controversial proposal for ‘West Bradley’ an extension to the current ‘Bradley’ opencast coal site between Dipton and Leadgate which would have caused another 90,000 tonnes of coal to be extracted over a further 1 year period. Had it been approved it would have added further disruption to people living in the area and worsening the local and international environment.

The written particulars of the decision said, “The proposed development would not be environmentally acceptable with respect to landscape and visual impacts and residential amenity impacts, and could not be made so by planning conditions or obligations contrary to saved County Durham Minerals Local Plan Policies M7a, M23, M24, M36 and M37, Paragraph 211a) of the National Planning Policy Framework and Emerging County Durham Plan Policy 54.”

Although the planning officer for the council considered the County Durham Minerals Local Plan(2008) out of date, she chose to ignore that several of the restrictions it contained which went against this application are also expected to be included in the forth coming County Durham Plan.

Councillor Mark Wilkes who proposed the motion to refuse the opencast explained, said “Is it in the national interest to pump out more CO2 and other pollutants into atmosphere and stymie the development of alternative technologies? The government have committed to a Clean Steel Fund. We have to protect the local community and the nation from the adverse environmental impacts.”

Of the local impacts, a key contentious issue was that the site would be 33m from the nearest homes, where 250 metres had been the acceptable standard in the past, where opencast coal mining includes blasting rock with explosives and releasing dust particles into the surrounding area. Of this point Councillor Wilkes added: “This is where people live and sit in their gardens and want to breathe clean air. This is 2020 not 1820.”

The green area to the top of the image has been saved

Previous opencast coal mine applications have covered the contested area, and always been rejected. The area consisted of two fields which sustained wildlife as they had been left in a fairly natural condition, and a strip of trees at the top of a woodland in an area of High Landscape Value.

Speaking at the hearing, Alan Holmes of Campaign to Protect Pont Valley argued that approval was inconsistent with Durham’s future plans including climate mitigation plans: “The County Durham Plan asserts climate change issues should be considered in every aspect of strategy and decision making. The Officer’s Report recommends no weight is afforded to the emergent County Plan, even though it will form the basis of decision making well into the future.”

Michael Litchfield of Derwent Valley Protection Society also spoke against the mine at the hearing saying “There is no national need for the open cast coal that could possibly outweigh the environmental and social cost of this opportunistic scheme.”

Banks Group had submitted two planning applications, the first to extend the area of coal extraction and the second to change the conditions of the current permit. Both were rejected. As such the opencast has to stop extracting coal in August 2020 and back fill the site, remove the bunds, demolish the facilities and landscape the area by August 2021.

Anne Harris from Coal Action Network said that “We must leave the coal in the ground, here and at the other sites Banks Group wishes to destroy. Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick should take note and decisively reject Druridge Bay, a 3 million tonne coal mine in Northumberland which is still awaiting his decision.

“In contrast to the dodgy developer lobbying we have seen in the news in recent weeks, the community groups and individuals who have petitioned, door-knocked, written letters, have managed to convince planners that a coal mine is not in anyone’s interest. We applaud the councillors who listened to the community and took the only right course of action in a climate emergency. The impact of this decision will be felt nationally as more mines are set to go before planning committees.”

Banks Group’s proposal for another opencast coal site, Dewley Hill near Newcastle, is awaiting a planning hearing date, and has also been countered by a strong community campaign, Defend Dewley Hill.

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Message from Jos from Defend Dewley Hill

My name is Jos and I’m part of the team at Defend Dewley Hill. We’re a group of residents from Throckley near Newcastle, who set out to save our local landscape from opencast coal extraction, and we really need your support.

Update- Defend Dewley Hill

Newcastle City Council are expected to decide whether to protect the area at Dewley Hill to the West of the city, or if Banks Group is allowed to opencast it instead before the end of the year. The hearing will either be the 20th November or the 18th December.

Cumbrian Councillors go against climate consensus and approve coking coal mine

If this mine were to go ahead it would mean the first new underground coal mine to be started in the UK in many years. Now the decision will go to Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick,

VIDEO: Economist Prof Paul Ekins OBE on coal company greenwash

It’s ‘Economic Nonesense’ that UK coal mining saves Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Coal Roundup September 2020

TWO Opencast coal mines rejected this summer! Plus: plans for coking coal mines and power station closure dates

Opencast coal mine at Druridge Bay rejected

Late on the 8th September 2020, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government said that Banks Group will not be allowed to extract coal from Highthorn, close to Druridge Bay, Northumberland. Save Druridge, the local community group, are delighted.

Support legal battles to stop coal

We are helping to fight two legal battles, one against the government for allowing the opencast to go ahead and the other against Banks itself for destroying the breeding grounds of a protected species.

Object to Banks Group’s ‘West Bradley’ extension in the Pont Valley

Banks Group want to expand the Bradley Opencast coal mine in the Pont Valley. Campaign to Protect Pont Valley have launched a new campaign to oppose this planning application and they need your support.

Coal Roundup June 2020

Decisions on coal mines still pending despite reduced coal demand & power station closures

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300 metres from houses at High Stables, Dipton, the habitats of protected species are being destroyed to extract coal; fuelling climate change and lining the pockets of the mining company, Banks Group.

We believe we can prove that Banks Group has committed crimes against wildlife, and the government let them continue their destructive project, despite claiming to be ‘powering past coal’.

So far we've won public inquiries, camped in the snow, documented protected species on the site and more. We will use all tools available to us to stop the opencast and challenge the power of fossil fuel companies. Flick back through our recent posts to read more about these actions.

Why legal battles?

We are helping to fight two legal battles, one against the government for allowing the opencast to go ahead and the other against Banks itself for destroying the breeding grounds of a protected species.

We need your help to raise the funds. Please donate and share our crowd funder.

1) Judicial Review

The Secretary of State provided no reasoning or evidence to justify upholding Banks’ permit, when over 88,500 people signed a petition to support the letter with 25 local signatories and four community groups which put forward detailed arguments as to why it should be revoked. The former Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government stopped Banks mining at Druridge Bay earlier this year citing the damage that burning this coal would cause to the environment as a main concern.

Update: The Judicial Review will be heard 18th January in Leeds.

One of the local residents is challenging the decision not to stop the opencast in the Pont Valley in the High Court. Support her by donating to our crowd funder.

2) Private Prosecution for wildlife crimes

On the 17th April we caught an endangered Great Crested Newt in a pitfall trap. This collaborates with the three surveys undertaken by UK Coal in 2007, 2011 and 2014 all of which found Great Crested Newts near the Brooms Pond.

Update: The Judicial Review will be held in Leeds on the 18th January.

Banks Group paid Argus Ecology to survey the area in 2017. In a court case stemming from the eviction of our camps in April it became apparent that this survey was substandard, the best available technique – pitfall trapping was not used.

Banks Group knew that if protected newts were found to be breeding on the site this year then the opencast could not be started prior to planning running out on the 4th June. A 250m exclusion zone from Brooms Pond would be required to have enabled pitfall trapping and translocation of amphibians to the ponds created for this purpose to the north of this site. This would have prevented work on the access road.

The wildlife crimes relating to the newts and also in relation to ground nesting birds was reported hundreds of times to Durham police. The police failed to investigate properly, leaving us with no choice but to prosecute Banks Group ourselves. 

Based on these events we believe we have the stronger argument against the opencast, and against Banks' 'Development with Care' image. National and local government has failed us - we need to take this to the courts.

What can we win?

WIN #1. Stop the coal extraction & save the Valley

Coal extraction has started in one part of the site, but the north-eastern section is not due to be worked until around May 2019. There is still some of the Pont Valley which can be saved. By putting the Secretary of State's decision to a legal test, we will seek a verdict against the opencast to stop it for good.

WIN #2. A ruling against Banks Group as wildlife criminals

So there can be no doubt that their ‘development with care’ image is a myth. This will help our allies to challenge Banks’ other proposed opencast coal sites in the region such as Druridge Bay.

WIN #3. Expose ‘dodgy ecology’

Through this campaign we’ve learned how common it is for developers to cherry pick evidence with the help of an ecologist, at the expense of protected species. Through this prosecution we aim to show that developers can be held accountable and that wider change is needed for safeguarding wildlife in the UK.

WIN #4. Hold the government to account

With no explanation, they let Banks go ahead in spite of all the evidence, even as other opencasts were called in by the government or failed to win planning permission on the grounds of damage to climate, health and ecology. Without plausible, transparent, well-argued reasons, the Secretary of State cannot claim that this outcome is legally, politically, economically or morally acceptable. They mustn't be let off the hook, for the sake of other communities fighting opencast and dirty development.

You can help by donating to our crowd funder and asking others to do so too.

How will we do it?

    1. A private prosecution against Banks Group for wildlife crime of endangering the habitats of protected species
    2. A Judicial Review of James Brokenshire (Sec State Communities)’s verdict to allow the opencast to go ahead.


What’s the chance of success?

High for the private prosecution against Banks for wildlife crime; A judge already ruled in favour of the Pont Valley Protection Camp, on the basis that Banks Group couldn’t present sufficient evidence to prove that endangered species were not on the site.

For the Judicial Review holding the Secretary of State accountable; launching it in itself will enforce transparency around the Secretary of State’s decision. The likelihood of getting the opencast stopped won’t be known until we get part way through the process – when a judge will decide whether our challenge can go forward to a full hearing. To begin, we need you to pledge in the knowledge that whether or not we can stop the opencast, there is more we can win for other campaigns against opencast in the process.

What's the cost?

1. Wildlife crime prosecution : £15,000

2. Judicial Review of government's decision (first stages) : £13,000

If the judge decides that our challenge can proceed to a full Judicial Review hearing, then we will need to set a new target for the next stages and raise more funds.

Join Us

Donate to our crowd funder

Taking the government AND a corporation to court is a bold move. It’s going to be a new journey with many highs and lows, and we can’t do it without you.

Legal battles are expensive. The success will be determined by how many people are willing to get behind us.

It's our last chance to save what is left of the Valley - but this is bigger than that. It’s a unique opportunity to set a legal precedent to reign in the power of dirty development and make our government act accountably when there is so much at stake for wildlife and the climate.

 

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COVID-19 Solidarity with indigenous communities in Colombia

Coal Action Network & supporters raised funds for the the Wayuu communities of La Guajira, Northern Colombia, who urgently needed our solidarity to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic

Object to Banks Group’s ‘West Bradley’ extension in the Pont Valley

Banks Group want to expand the Bradley Opencast coal mine in the Pont Valley. Campaign to Protect Pont Valley have launched a new campaign to oppose this planning application and they need your support.

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Object to Banks Group's 'West Bradley' extension in the Pont Valley

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COVID-19 Solidarity with indigenous communities in Colombia

Coal Action Network & supporters raised funds for the the Wayuu communities of La Guajira, Northern Colombia, who urgently needed our solidarity to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic

Support legal battles to stop coal

We are helping to fight two legal battles, one against the government for allowing the opencast to go ahead and the other against Banks itself for destroying the breeding grounds of a protected species.

CONNECT WITH US

Coal Roundup June 2020

COVID 19

Banks Group are continuing to operate the Bradley opencast in the Pont Valley, Durham despite Covid-19.

The lockdown has forced councils to suspend planning hearings or change decision making processes. This is expected to mean delays to the planning hearings for Dewley Hill and Bradley West (see below).

There has been no decision announced regarding Banks Group’s Druridge Bay (Highthorn) application. Robert Jenrick is said to have made his decision but the timing of his statement is affected by the corona virus pandemic.

 

Power stations closure plans

Drax power station has announced that it will stop burning coal by March 2021 after almost five decades as one of western Europe’s most polluting power plants. Sadly the last two units are being replaced with another polluting fossil fuel, gas. Much of the wood which it burns comes from the clear-felling of biodiverse forests in Europe and the Southern USA which are home to many rare and endangered species.

EDF are reviewing the future of its West Burton power station, after the governmental support through the capacity market payments stop in September 2021. West Burton burns coal from Banks Group’s opencast mines in the North East of England, as well as imported coal.

Kilroot coal and oil power station in Northern Ireland is going to be converted to gas. No timeline for the end of coal use has been announced.

At Ratcliffe on Soar power station the owner Uniper plans to turn the power station into an incinerator for household waste and produce heat and electricity. There is no planning permission for this yet. United Kingdom withouth incineration network (UKWIN) highlight the problems with incinerators including air pollution and climate change, with a campaign against an incinerator at Ratcliffe.

The alternative fuels proposed at Ratcliffe, Kilroot and Drax would result in slightly lower greenhouse gas emissions and not require coal mining. However, these changes are not solutions to the climate or air pollution crisis and they involve building new infrastructure reliant on combustion leaving us dependent on fossil fuels or high levels of domestic waste.

Coal phase-out In early February the Prime Minister said that the coal phase-out could be brought forward from the end of 2025 to October 2024. This is not soon enough for communities at the front-lines of fossil fuel extraction.

Reduced demand for electricity due to the covid pandemic means that no electricity has been generated from coal since the 10th April 2020. 55 days and counting at the point of writing (4th June 2020).

 

Opencast coal

The existing mines, by company are:

  • Banks Group: 1) Bradley, County Durham (Banks are trying to extend to extract a further 90 thousand tonnes of coal currently awaiting planning hearing, over 5,000 people have objected. 2) Brenkley Lane, Newcastle/ Northumberland border.
  • Celtic Energy: 1) East Pit, Neath Port Talbot and 2) Nant Helen, Powys (closure December 2021)
  • Merthyr (South Wales): Ffos-y-fran, Merthyr Tydfil
  • One mine with low output in in Derbyshire.[1]

Closing sites

Banks Group proposed sites:

Highthorn (Druridge Bay), Northumberland. This application was approved by Northumberland County Council in 2016. Central government then over turned the decision in 2018. This was appealed and a new decision is still awaited.

Dewley Hill, on the outskirts of Newcastle, the planning hearing has been delayed by Covid protections.

Extension at Bradley opencast (see above).

Underground mining

There are currently no underground mines operating of significant size.

Proposed underground mines West Cumbria Mining have amended their application for the land aspect of a new underground coking coal near Whitehaven in May 2020. If constructed this would produce coking coal for export for 50 years. Cumbria County Council will decide the application in July 2020.

New Age Exploration (an Australian company) are applying for licences for an underground coking coal mine at Lochinvar, on the border between England and Scotland. If constructed the company hopes to be producing coal until 2044.

Stockpiles

Total UK coal stock levels increased in 2018 to 5.3 million tonnes, broadly similar to the previous year. [2]

There is already more coal above ground than the UK government predicts will be consumed if coal were phased-out in 2025. We don’t need to extract or import any more. This is especially so, if the phase-out date is brought forward.

Want to help in the fight against coal?

Queries and media contact: info @ coalaction . org .uk (without spaces)

References

[1] The Coal Authority, Production and Manpower returns for three month period January to March 2020 and other sources.

[2] Department for Business, Industry and Industrial Strategy, Statistical Press Release. UK Energy Statistics, 2019 & Q4 2019 (26 March 2020) page 6

Image

The photograph above shows Shotton opencast in late May 2020. Coal production has ceased. Coal is still processed and stockpiled from this mine and from Bradley opencast. In the background are one of the overburden mounds.

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Coal Roundup September 2020

TWO Opencast coal mines rejected this summer! Plus: plans for coking coal mines and power station closure dates

Coal Roundup February 2020

The latest on current operating and proposed mines, and coal use in the UK

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