Developers behind a proposed new coal mine on the outskirts of Ponteland say it is “rather mystifying” that the hugely contentious plans face rejection.

City councillors will decide next week whether Banks Mining can extract 800,000 tonnes of coal and 400,000 tonnes of fireclay from green belt land at Dewley Hill, near Stamfordham Road and the A69.

It emerged last week that the local authority’s planning department is advising that the scheme should be rejected on Friday – saying it would be “inappropriate” in the green belt and “cannot be considered ‘environmentally acceptable’”. 

Banks Group bosses have hit back at the planners’ report, saying it “makes zero sense” to deny the North-East new jobs and investment.

Environmental campaigners, on the other hand, are relieved that the “deeply damaging” surface mine plans are earmarked for refusal.

Jeannie Raine, community relations manager at The Banks Group, says: “Not only is the officers’ recommendation very disappointing, it is also rather mystifying as their report specifically recognises that there will be demand for coal and fireclay for at least the life of this site.

“We know that there will be continued demand for industrial coal and clay for use in UK steel, cement and brick manufacture for the next decade at least, and remain firm in our belief that these minerals should be mined domestically in the safest, most efficient and most environmentally responsible way possible.

“Newcastle City Council published a plan this year identifying Dewley Hill as a minerals site, while the Government’s own statistics show that UK industry continues to need five million tonnes of coal each year for manufacturing raw steel and cement, as well as fireclay to make the bricks needed for the new homes, hospitals, schools and transport infrastructure that our country needs to invest in right now.”

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

Ms Raine added: “It makes zero sense to hand much-needed North East jobs and supply chain investment to Russian miners and businesses, who will be delighted to meet British industry’s continuing need for these essential minerals whilst simultaneously significantly increasing global greenhouse gas emissions.”

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

Friends of the Earth North-East campaigner Simon Bowens called on the city council to reject the 'deeply damaging development'.

He said: “We’re delighted that planning officers have recommended that permission for this unnecessary opencast coal mine be refused.

“This controversial development would not only have big impacts on landscape, biodiversity and the green belt, it would also lead to more climate-wrecking emissions being pumped into our atmosphere.

“Coal belongs to the past. We require rapid investment in a clean, modern economy to create new green jobs and build the zero-carbon future we need.”  

A refusal next week would add to failed bids to expand Bradley mine in County Durham and set up an opencast site near Druridge Bay.