The decision by the government to overrule an independent planning inspector and deny planning permission to a new open cast coal mine in Highthorn, Northumberland has been branded as economic and environmental vandalism by the Unite union.

Government decision

The decision to deny planning permission was made this week (Tuesday 8 September) by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Communities.

The union says that the decision will lead to an increase of coal being imported, often from dubious sources, and the likelihood of large-scale job losses at Banks Mining Group which made the application and where Unite is the recognised union.

Industry use

While the government is looking to phase out the use of coal in power stations, coal is still heavily used in many industrial processes including steel, cement and brick production.

With the government blocking mining in the UK, coal will now be imported largely form Russia, dramatically increasing global greenhouse gas emissions.

Environmental issues

While Banks Group adheres to strict environmental standards including the commitment to restore the landscape once mining is completed, no such commitments exist on imported coal.

Defies logic

Unite regional officer Steve Cason said: “The government’s refusal to give planning permission to the new coal mine flies in the face of logic and is an act of economic and environmental vandalism.

 "Over four years ago an independent planning inspector gave the go ahead for the Highthorn development and this has now been overruled for purely political purposes.

 “With the UK and the North East in particular already reeling from massive job losses, as a result of the pandemic, this decision is inevitably going to mean that more skilled, well paid workers face redundancy.

 “A responsible government would be doing everything possible to preserve employment and not needlessly throwing workers onto the dole queue.

 “This decision does nothing for the environment.  Industry still requires coal for its industrial processes and that coal will now have to be imported, dramatically increasing greenhouse emissions.

 “The government must revisit this decision and reverse its ruling.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

 During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.

Email: barckley.sumner@unitetheunion.org

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.