Standing up to Banks Mining - again

When Banks Mining requested planning permission to dig an opencast coal mine at Dewley Hill near Newcastle, they weren't bargaining on a vibrant community campaign.
  Published:  04 Jun 2019    |      2 minute read

County Durham-based Banks Mining applied to build a new opencast mine near Throckley on the outskirts of Newcastle in March 2019.

Around 800,000 tonnes of coal could be extracted from the site, as well as 400,000 tonnes of fireclay. The fireclay is to be used in brick manufacturing at the nearby Ibstock Throckley brickworks. Ibstock is partnering with Banks in the planning application.

The Defend Dewley Hill campaign group sprang up following a public meeting in the local village hall. “I put out 6 chairs and over 75 people turned up," says Jos Forester-Melville from Defend Dewley Hill.

"We now have over 300 members and we've generated over 2,000 letters of objection.”

Jos Forester-Melville from Defend Dewley Hill
Jos Forester-Melville from Defend Dewley Hill
Credit: Jon Salariya/Friends of the Earth

Covert resistance

"So many people in our community have been on a journey," says Jos.

"People who wouldn’t normally identify themselves as activists are just angry about this unnecessary proposal. They feel that it runs in total contradiction to Newcastle City Council’s promise to improve their track record on climate change.

"We even had a group of older people stealing out at night to covertly put up placards around the proposed site for the opencast coal mine."

The community feel strongly that we need to protect our village for the benefit of wildlife, biodiversity and to take a stand on climate change for our immediate future. This is not on the horizon. It is our now!Jos Forester-Melville

The Defend Dewley Hill campaign holds a protest
The Defend Dewley Hill campaign holds a protest
Credit: Defend Dewley Hill

Dewley Hill campaign

The Defend Dewley Hill campaign fear that stripping the land will devastate wildlife habitats and increase the risk of flooding.

They object to the noise and dust from the proposed operations, and the expected increase in heavy goods vehicles movements.

Jos says that the area is already under pressure from new housing developments. "We feel we are being suffocated by building, and now the fear of opencast means we might literally be living in a hole for the next few years."

Celebrating Earthmovers

The efforts of Jos and the Defend Dewley Hill team to protect Throckley from opencast coal were recognised with an award at Friends of the Earth's Earthmovers ceremony in May 2019.

The ceremony was held at Darlington Groundswell, Friends of the Earth's regional climate action event.

Organised by Friends of the Earth and supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery , Earthmovers Awards recognise the inspiring work of local environmental groups in their communities.

Jos Forester-Melville receives an Earthmovers award from Friends of the Earth CEO Craig Bennett
Jos Forester-Melville receives an Earthmovers award from Friends of the Earth CEO Craig Bennett
Credit: Jon Salariya/Friends of the Earth

Druridge Bay

The plans to open up Dewley Hill to opencast have been a particularly bitter pill for local residents to swallow given the community backlash against Banks Mining's plans at Druridge Bay on the Northumberland coast.

In 2018, the Druridge Bay proposals were rejected by the Secretary of State on climate change grounds, but Banks won an appeal against the decision. A second decision by the current Minister James Brokenshire is expected any time soon.

Friends of the Earth played a key role in supporting the Save Druridge Bay campaign in court, and our petition against the mine has attracted over 25,000 signatures.

Opencast is a thing of the past

New research by Friends of the Earth recently revealed that the UK already has enough coal stockpiled to meet our power generation needs until 2025.

The UK government has committed to phasing out the use of coal by that date.

"At a time when the climate faces catastrophe, we should be firmly saying no to coal," says Jos. "At Pont Valley; At Druridge Bay; At Dewley Hill; No Thanks Banks. Keep the coal in the hole!"

Climate Action groups

Friends of the Earth is launching new Climate Action groups which aim to inspire a new generation to campaign against climate breakdown on a local level.

You can find out more about what's happening near you here.