LETTER : Council finds way to save Druridge Bay

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From Mr C. J. Offord Sir: With reference to the article by David Nicholson-Lord about sand extraction at Druridge Bay, Northumberland ("Beautiful beach carted away for building sand", 3 January), Northumberland County Council is the mineral planning authority for the area and has made strenuous efforts to rid the bay of sand extraction. If it were not for the county council, there would be no end in sight for this environmental disgrace.

There are in fact two areas given planning permission: one for an area of dunes and beach and the other for a smaller site known as Blakemoor Burn. The latter has no restrictions as to method of working and is where most of the 40,000 tonnes is extractedeach year. Both permissions were given, on appeal, by the Government in the 1960s after refusals by the county council.

The county council has no doubt that the extraction has contributed to the erosion of the beach and dune system in the bay with a consequential impact on the landscape, nature conservation, archaeology and sea defences. The county council has tried long and hard to persuade central government to accept the responsibility for its previous decisions and to revoke the two permissions. However, it is not inclined to pick up a bill of around £lm for a revocation.

When all other avenues became exhausted, the county council proposed to Ready Mixed Concrete that an alternative site or sites to replace Druridge should be identified. After some lengthy and fraught discussions, this was agreed late in 1993. An alterna t ive has now been identified and will be democratically tested through the mineral local plan process and with a planning application to be submitted shortly.

As the only body to come up with an effective solution to the problem, I feel that your article was remiss in not even mentioning the county council's role.

Yours faithfully, C. J. Offord County Planning and Environment Manager Northumberland County Council Morpeth, Northumberland 12 January