A PROPOSAL to dig for coal on the outskirts of Newcastle should be rejected next week, city planners say.

Newcastle City Councillors are set to decide whether Banks Mining can open a surface mine on green belt land near Throckley.

The project, which could see 800,000 tonnes of coal 400,000 tonnes of fireclay extracted from Dewley Hill during a three-and-a-half-year operation, faced fierce opposition – with more than 24,000 objections lodged.

Ahead of a meeting at the city council’s planning committee next Friday, December 18, local authority planners have issued their report into the scheme and advised councillors to refuse permission.

They concluded the surface mine would be “inappropriate” in the green belt and “cannot be considered ‘environmentally acceptable’”. 

The report states the mine, which would cover 105 hectares of land, would have a “considerable adverse impact to the character and appearance of the area, and moderate harm to biodiversity”, and take more than 18 years to restore the land rather than the ten claimed by Banks.

However, planners said the coal mining would “not have a material impact” on the city’s ambition to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2030 and that the potential noise and dust impacts felt by nearby residents would be “at acceptable levels”.

They added: “The benefits, including to the local and national economy and in particular the great benefit in the supply of fireclay to Throckey Brickworks, and that arising from the long-term restoration of the site, are recognised and given weight.

“However, these benefits do not clearly outweigh the environmental harm identified as a direct result of the development to the areas landscape, its visual impact and ecological value.”

A refusal next week would be a third major blow for Banks’ plans in the North East this year –  with the company having already lost bids to expand its Bradley mine, in County Durham, and set up an opencast site near Druridge Bay, in Northumberland.

The council received 5,068 objection letters against the Dewley Hill mine plans, plus a change.org petition with 18,953 signatures.

Labour’s Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell raised concerns that residents “would endure several years of the removal of this open green space, and the associated noise nuisance, while it is replaced with a mine” and said it was “increasingly pressing” to take measures to combat poor air quality in Newcastle.

Jamie Driscoll, the North of Tyne mayor, added: “Any expansion in the extraction of fossil fuel is unnecessary and, no matter how it is framed, will be environmentally damaging. It should have no place in the planning for our region’s economic development.”

Guy Opperman, Tory MP for Hexham, also wrote to the council saying that the  development would damage the environment and quality of life for local residents.

There were 1,281 responses backing the project – praising it for providing 50 jobs, boosting the local economy and planting 33,000 trees after the mining is completed.

The Banks Group argues that rejecting the plans will lead to more coal imports from Russia and elsewhere.

One supporter wrote: “Throckley, Walbottle, Blucher and Newburn, the nearest villages to the proposed open cast are all former pit villages.

“Coal extraction has played a massive part of the past and recent history of these villages and indeed none of the villages would exist had it not been for the coal industry.

“The added bonus of fire clay to be used at Throckley brick works just adds to the reasons why this application should be approved and the open cast given the go ahead.”

Two previous applications for coal mines on the Dewley Hill site, and other surrounding land, were rejected in the 1990s.

The Banks Group has been contacted for a comment.