The ITV Border debate ahead of Cumbria's coal mine inquiry

A public inquiry into plans for a new deep coal mine in West Cumbria will start tomorrow (Tuesday 7 September).

It's happening after the government decided in March to intervene in the controversy.

Ahead of the inquiry, we arranged a special debate, which took place at Whitehaven's redeveloped bus station.

The panel taking part:

  • Trudy Harrison - Conservative MP for Copeland and a parliamentary assistant to the Prime Minister

  • Dianne Richardson - Chief Executive of Britain’s Energy Coast Business Cluster - which is a membership organisation focused on the energy industry in Cumbria

  • Emmy Richardson - works for LBMA: The Independent Precious Metals Authority, and is involved with Cumbria Future Leaders

  • Professor Mike Berners-Lee - Professor at Lancaster University’s Environment Centre, and Founder of Small World Consulting, which works with businesses on their climate response

Analysis from our Political Correspondent Tom Sheldrick

It was fascinating to host this debate on a huge local issue, which has drawn global attention.

The exchanges were friendly in large part, but also feisty at times.

Our panel put forward contrasting perspectives on every major point: the project's importance to the area's economy, the need for coking coal for the steel industry, the increase in carbon emissions it would bring about, and the message it would send to the world on the UK's net zero aims.

All of this is what makes Woodhouse Colliery a powerful case study of competing priorities.The arguments will now be heard at the public inquiry over the next few weeks. The planning inspector will then take time to consider their recommendation, before the government decides whether the mine can go ahead.

There are no official timescales, but (whether by accident or design) I'm now told that decision is likely to come after the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow at the start of November.