Since 2013 when the initial information was shared around the proposal from Banks at Highthorn I have been working hard to find out views of local people who would be affected directly.
Since July 2013, I have met with Parish Councils, held workshops with local school children, had site meetings, met with Banks which in the first instance has resulted in a much smaller surface area and revised outline proposal.
Rightly members of the community have been concerned about restoration having been let down by other operators locally. I am interested in the progressive restoration (i.e. filling as they go) I haven’t seen that in operation before but apparently other areas have claimed this makes a big difference. This, which I learnt on Monday night, would also be locked in to any application to avoid what we experienced elsewhere when the land hasn’t been properly restored.
It would be irresponsible of me as a local member to disregard the proposal at this stage, it is important that the community workshops taking place to clearly hear the views of those living in the area.
At the meeting it was interesting to listen to the group I participated with, some people were talking about facilities that Banks may be able to help with, some were talking about opportunity for jobs, others talked about spoiling the view, dust and other issues often associated with opencast mining, potential lorry issues safety on the proposed roads and environmental issues. These are all things I will look at closer with the environment agency, highways team, planning and others .
Over the last few months I have visited a working site, viewed the monitoring in action and questioned the action plans to control the noise, dust and other issues people rightly question in connection with these sites. I have to say the modern technology and robust scrutiny of these elements were impressive and I had confidence in the processes.
I know that many Banks staff work within the Druridge Bay Ward. In many cases the site life elsewhere is coming to an end and local people will soon be looking for employment should a new site not be operational, Banks also have an ageing workforce and seem keen to develop new employees with local initiatives for training. This again is something you couldn’t just turn down without looking closely at the positives and negatives of an application if/when submitted.
I will continue to attend workshops, listen to the views of all the people living locally it is important to me that local people are heard. At this stage it wouldn’t be appropriate to be against something that hasn’t been submitted, but equally I will continue to robustly question Banks and ensure that community members receive answers to any questions they have.