Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has today rejected plans for an opencast coal mine at Druridge Bay on the beautiful Northumberland coast.
What is deeply significant is that in announcing his decision, the Minister said the scheme would have an “adverse effect on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change”.
This is the kind of leadership we need to see. Today’s decision is surely a turning point because finally the government seems to understand the awful impact coal has on beating climate change and on communities who have had to live next to opencast mines.
The long fight to save Druridge Bay
Friends of the Earth has fought this fight side-by-side with local people who live near Druridge Bay. It took a long time to get journalists to notice the threat from this proposed coal mine, but once they did this campaign grew from strength to strength.
Lynn Tate is a local campaigner in Widdrington – this is her reaction today:
“We’re absolutely ecstatic that the Secretary of State has realised this is such a special place and we shouldn’t put it at risk through opencast mining.
"We campaigned on so many issues – from increased traffic, to the impact on wildlife, to the role coal plays in climate change – and we are delighted it has been recognised that the future of our local environment is much more important than a short-term gain from coal-mining.
"We couldn’t have done it without the support of Friends of the Earth and all the other local groups who joined our campaign.”
This is the first coal mine in the UK ever to be rejected because of climate change.
In 2016 the Minister called for a Public Inquiry after concerns were raised that the coastline at Druridge Bay – an area of pristine sands home to many rare species – could be severely damaged by the plans.
Why the Druridge Bay decision matters
This is an incredibly important decision because it is the first coal mine ever to be rejected in the UK because of climate change impacts. It is a vindication for everyone who knows that fossil fuels have to be left in the ground.
The government itself has said that one of the biggest contributions that can be made to reducing power sector emissions is to replace coal power stations with lower-carbon forms of generation. It has promised to phase out the use of coal in the UK by 2025.
This is why the government should follow through and stop recklessly spending public money to subsidise coal, and stop trying to impose fracking on communities.
The government must go on to scrap coal subsidies and ban fracking. Otherwise it simply undermines its own efforts to stop dangerous climate change. And it prevents renewable energy rom reaching its full potential.
How we stopped the Druridge Bay coal mine together
To stop this coal mine, Friends of the Earth teamed up with a local community group, Save Druridge. Evidence was gathered to show how the new mine would lead to more damaging carbon pollution. We delivered a letter representing almost 20,000 people who objected to the plans to the Minister’s office in February 2018.
Local people also raised concerns about the possible health impacts of the project, including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases that could be triggered by air pollution associated with the drilling and blasting of coal.
Wildlife and beauty spot
Druridge Bay is a 7-mile run of pristine beaches, stretching along the English coastline from the harbour town of Amble in the north to Cresswell in the south. The natural assets of the area include woodland, meadows and nature reserves.
You can also find rare species who have made the place their home, including skylarks, lapwings, curlews, pert wheatears, yellowhammers, brown hares and graylag geese. Many of these species have seen serious decline in the UK in recent years.
If we aren’t able to protect beautiful places like this in the name of climate change and what local people want, where is safe?
Banks Mining had applied to dig England’s largest opencast coal mine in October 2015. Much to the anger and disappointment of the local community, Northumberland county council voted to approve the plans the following summer.
Celebrate Druridge today: tomorrow let's end fracking
The right decision has been made for the lovely area of Druridge Bay, which would have been ruined by a new coal mine.
It’s a sign that we need to keep up the pressure, because we have made the government take climate change seriously. We are winning the battle to keep fossil fuels where they need to be: in the ground.
With dirty coal effectively over, we now have to keep on objecting to fracking right across the country.
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