County Council to 'reconsider' West Cumbria coal mine

Plans for a controversial new coal mine in West Cumbria have been thrown into doubt, after the county council said it would 'reconsider' plans in light of 'new information' over UK greenhouse gas targets.

The new facility near Whitehaven, which would be used to extract coking coal for steel production, was previously granted planning permission by the local authority. It would be the UK's first deep coal mine operation in 30 years.

The Government's climate advisers, leading scientists and green groups have criticised the coal mine, which comes in the run-up to the UK hosting the major Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow in November.

It would be the first new deep coal mine in the UK for 30 years. Credit: West Cumbria Mining

A spokesperson from the council said: “After the receipt and consideration of new information, Cumbria County Council’s Development Control and Regulation (DC&R) Committee will now reconsider the planning application by West Cumbria Mining to create a metallurgical coal mine off the coast near Whitehaven.

“This decision has been taken because in December 2020, the Government’s Climate Change Committee released its report on its recommendations for the Sixth Carbon Budget, a requirement under the Climate Change Act.

"The report, among other things, sets out the volume of greenhouse gases the UK aims to emit during 2033-2037. This new information has been received prior to the issue of the formal decision notice on the application.

"In light of this the Council has decided that the planning application should be reconsidered by DC&R.”

Mayor of Copeland Mike Starkie has called Cumbria County Council 'pathetic', in an interview with ITV Border, and said the people of Copeland will feel 'letdown'.

In a joint statement from Starkie and Copeland MP Trudy Harrison, they said they are 'dismayed' by the decision to reconsider the application.

West Cumbria Coal Mine protest, February 2020.

It said: "The decision has been made time and again, based on the forensic details the planning committee had in front of them, and the decision has repeatedly been to approve this important development.

"The Government has now twice declined to call-in the decision, stating rightly that this is a decision best made locally.

"We have championed – and lobbied – for this development and will continue to do so more strongly than ever.

"The project fully accords with the UK’s green industrial commitments and includes legal conditions that production will not go beyond 2049 and the highest levels of greenhouse gas emission mitigation.

"It is also incredibly significant that the project will bring £160 million of private investment and 500 jobs into our community to help drive our post-Covid economy.

"We need this development, and we once again implore Cumbria County Council to stand by their decision."

The fossil fuel has been largely phased out from electricity generation in the UK, with a target date for ending its use in the power sector altogether by 2025.

Shortly after the news was announced, Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron said: "The very fact that this application is going back to the planning committee because it might not meet the requirements of the Climate Change Act shows exactly why this mine shouldn’t be going ahead."The Government now need to step in, show some leadership and stop this mine."

Greenpeace has welcomed the news, the UK’s chief scientist Doug Parr, said:“ Even if the coal mine is canned by Cumbria, this is still a global embarrassment for the UK in a year when we were supposed to be setting an example on climate action for the world to follow.”

Ed Miliband MP, Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary, said: "We welcome the Council's decision to take this application back to the planning committee. The Government now has a second chance to do the right thing and call it in.

"The UK cannot claim to be a climate leader whilst opening a new coal mine and Ministers must realise that by doing so they undermine our credibility both at home and abroad.

"A new mine is neither the answer for climate change nor the answer for our steel industry. Indeed, 85% of the mine's production is due for export.

More to follow.