Local: Defend Dewley HIll (West Newcastle)
Dewley Hill: Ideas for an objection
Dewley Hill is a greenfield site in the west of Newcastle which is threatened by an application for opencast coal mining. These are some ideas for a letter to be sent to a member of parliament (MP). My opposition is grounded in five general concerns.
Climate Change and Pollution
Firstly, climate change, it is imperative that we address the existential challenge that is before us to reduce carbon emissions (see video 1). The arguments that the Banks company puts forward in this regard are disingenuous. We should stop burning fossil fuels, that is the main point. The digging, transporting, exporting, and burning of coal makes no sense in the current times and has a drag effect on the clean energy movement.
The burning of coal is a major contributor to climate change. The recent pronouncement by the International panel on climate change makes it clear that urgent action is necessary to avoid global warming above 1.5 degrees, otherwise, an unstoppable chain of catastrophes will flow. In this context, this development is unacceptable. The idea that the burning of coal, heavy lorry traffic and the inevitable dust will not bring about detrimental effects on public health locally or in a wider context is wrong. Newcastle already has significant air pollution concerns and the idea of adding to the overall hazard is shocking. Billions of air pollution particles have been found in the hearts of city dwellers.
Secondly, the effect on our community. This development will bring little or no sustainable benefit to our village of Throckley. Jobs will be few and temporary, in contrast to employment in the sustainable "green economy". The mine will, in fact, create problems associated with noise, dust, traffic and loss of wellbeing. We are already experiencing this in respect of the three significant housing developments in Throckley.
Thirdly, community cohesion and development as our future wellbeing depends on thriving communities having a sense of pride and place. A safe connected caring community can only be achieved when there is a sense of ownership of the communal space by the residents. In Throckley, top-down decision-making and the housing developments from such decision-making have challenged the community’s sense of ownership. The result of such action by authorities engenders cynicism and apathy leading to mistrust in public institutions. The planning process is a major contributor to this effect, with consultation and community involvement seen as ‘a token’ at best.
Fourthly, the contention that this mine will bring significant benefit to the local economy is highly questionable. The workforce is likely to be transient, additional jobs few, and those that may result will be short term.
Consultation: The Environment and Traffic
Fifthly, there has been little or no impartial discussion with the Throckley community. An appointment based "drop-in" session by the applicant cannot be regarded as appropriate discussion. The proposed timetable overlaps with extensive housing development in the immediate region. the negative knock-on effect of displaced wildlife will be serious. The suggestion that the "restoration" will bring biodiversity to the area is highly optimistic. Wildlife requires continuity of habitat to thrive. There are other options that could promote biodiversity such as sensitive agricultural or rewilding. Any "restoration" that results in infrastructure will need care and maintenance in the future. In the current and foreseeable financial climate, this will represent a burden on the community for a facility that has not been requested and for which there is no demand.
The protection of open space: there are many studies that show that open spaces produce a sense of well-being by visual appreciation and psychological comfort from the knowledge that it exists. These aspects, together with the fresh air that flows from it and the birds and animals that emerge from it are not to be underestimated. Traffic Movements and the impact of over 200 traffic movements per day on already busy roads will bring detrimental consequences. The Ponteland road is a main route to the airport and is daily congested, as is the interchange of the A69 and the A1.
What You Can Do
It is possible to contact the Newcastle North MP, Catherine McKinnell. If you do not live in the Newcastle North constituency or you do not know who your Member of Parliament is, then see this website and type in your post code. Information, for video 2, came from Coal Action and the Evening Chronicle. The Druridge Bay (South East Northumberland) issue was discussed in the Chronicle.
Residents on the receiving end of many planning outcomes, however, know well from experience that there is a world of difference between projected outcomes, estimates, masterplans and a reality that is often worse. We already have had an experience of such disparity in Throckley. The Meadow Hill housing development has seen significant variation to the projected Master plan in the construction process, often causing considerable community disquiet. Since there is some time yet before the end of the One Core Strategy, it is safe to assume that many other aspects will depart from the proposals that were first visited upon the public. It is also significant that the planning process allows for formal "expert" submission on behalf of the applicant (often financially well resourced) but that there is no formal gathering and presentation of local resident experience. This is not a "level playing field". The only means that we have to register our concerns is as "objectors" a category that implies pejorative connotations. The real perception and experiences of people are marginalized.
The public also has a right to expect a high degree of consistency in Council Policy. The recent act of passing a resolution acknowledging that we have a Climate Emergency, and the current Council consultation on “how we tackle climate change in our city" demands that the application be rejected.
However, it needs to be recognised that the council have to consider any planning application submitted to them. This application will receive intense scrutiny, so the Council have to make sure that they meet all the rules and regulations within the planning process. The national government should have banned coal mining as the local authority has no power to do so and must find sound planning reasons to reject an application. However, Newcastle's reputation, as a modern European city, will be damaged if opencast coal mining is allowed within its border.
The coal industry appears unwilling to invest more resources in renewable energy and instead, in February 2020, are still willing to invest in coal. However, the coal industry will struggle to argue the case for coal as the fuel is expensive as a fuel source. A way to 'make your voices heard' and influence 'a new politics of the environment' is to make sure that the objections which have been put in, to the local council, are put in again, to a national government minister, at a later date if necessary.
The Newcastle North MP has spoken about concerns and is happy to make representations but there could have been more opposition to the application, particularly, in early 2019. The third video attempts to highlight these concerns over Dewley Hill.
The debate on opencast coal-mining needs to be widened. The debate is wider than the local community; it is about climate change and the future of the planet. It is about the future of the city and the future of the region. The whole of the city needs to be talking about the planned opencast at Dewley Hill. People in Gateshead could be affected too as the wind could blow the dust to Ryton across the Tyne. One of the reasons Byker incinerator was closed was because the debate, on waste, was widened to cover the whole of the city. People realised the seriousness of the incinerator when it was found that ash from the incinerator was spread on allotments across the city.
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