More than a thousand people have backed a campaign to save a North coastal beauty spot from “becoming a victim” of opencast mining.
The Save Druridge group was set up amid concern over the impact of proposals for an opencast mine on Druridge Bay in Northumberland.
Its petition called for support for its “endeavour to save this beautiful landscape from becoming a victim of opencast mining” which 1,040 people have now signed.
A spokesperson for the group – members of which come from the Druridge and Widdrington areas – said: “We are absolutely staggered by the amount of support we are getting.
“We have had a lot of comments from people far and wide, from people who say they have fond memories of visiting this area and they would hate to see it opencasted.
“Many of the locals walk their dogs on the beach straight past where this opencast would be.
“People just can not and do not want to imagine it any other way.”
A local council boss last night voiced surprise at the level of backing for the petition, saying people in the parish in which the opencast development is proposed are generally supportive of such schemes.
As reported by The Journal last July, Banks Mining is working on plans to dig about seven million tonnes of coal over 10 years at a 1,700-acre site, known as Highthorn, between the villages of Ellington and Widdrington.
The company, which created the giant Northumberlandia earth sculpture at Cramlington, said the scheme would provide more than 150 jobs over the next decade and beyond, and had the potential to spark a major regeneration of the area and make a big contribution to its economy.
However, the proximity of the site to Druridge Bay prompted the creation of the Save Druridge group with the aim of “saving” the site from the “destruction of opencast mining.”
It set up the petition on Northumberland County Council’s website which states: “We have a love and a passion for Druridge Bay in Northumberland, England, and the surrounding area.
“Please join us in our endeavour to save this beautiful landscape from becoming a victim of opencast mining, in particular the ‘Highthorn’ proposed site, and sign our petition now.”
By last night, 1,040 had signed it. A further 1,268 people have liked the group’s Facebook page while its Twitter feed has 440 followers.
Yet Val Seddon, chairman of Widdrington Parish Council, in whose ward the site falls, said: “People in our parish have never been that much opposed to opencasting.
“When Steadsburn opencast was proposed here there was only one person in our parish objected.
“I am very surprised to hear that there is such a big outcry against Highthorn to be quite honest.
“We have always got on very well with the opencast companies, it has never really caused us big problems here.
“You always have minor things.”
She claimed those who had signed must be from outside the parish.
However, she added: “We are listening to local people and getting views from people in our parish.”
Banks last year said it did not expect to submit a planning application until this autumn.
It hoped to start work in 2016, with extraction completed by 2027 and restoration three years later.
Katie Perkin, Banks’ communications manager, said at the time: “We know this area extremely well and, with its proximity to the popular beach and wildlife attractions at Druridge Bay, we understand that the Highthorn proposal is a unique and sensitive location.
“Our planned investment has the potential to offer so much to both local people and visitors to the area...
“We want Highthorn to set a new benchmark for modern minerals developments, delivering significant economic input alongside substantial benefits for the local community and wildlife alike.”