West Cumbria mine: Campaigners submit legal challenge against Whitehaven coal project

Legal challenges have been submitted to the government in opposition to the decision to approve a new coal mine near Whitehaven.

Friends of the Earth has joined South Lakes Action on Climate Change in submitting papers to the High Court - calling for a statutory review of the decision to approve the mine.

A key argument is how future carbon emissions from the mine were considered by Communities Secretary Michael Gove, who made the final decision after a public inquiry concluded 15 months ago.

Maggie Mason from South Lakes Action on Climate Change, said:  "I first heard about this mine in 2014. It was a bad idea then.

"And now that the climate emergency is really accelerating, it's a terrible idea now.

“Mr Gove acknowledged that there would be 220 million tonnes of greenhouse gases released when this coal is burned.

"But he came to a really contradictory conclusion, saying that the mine would be climate neutral.

"Now in order to come to such a strange conclusion, we think he's applied errors in the law."

Many people in Whitehaven believe the decision to approve the new coal mine - which would be the UK’s first new mine in more than 30 years - was the correct one, with West Cumbria Mining promising five hundred jobs created in an economically deprived area.

A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: "The Secretary of State has agreed to grant planning permission for a new metallurgical coal mine in Cumbria as recommended by the independent planning inspector.

"This coal will be used for the production of steel and would otherwise need to be imported. It will not be used for power generation.

“"The reasons for the Secretary of State’s decision are set out in full in his published letter, alongside the report of the independent planning inspector who oversaw the inquiry. 

"It would be inappropriate to comment further on ongoing legal proceedings."

Following three previous approvals and three delays to the most recent decision, supporters of the mine are unsurprised to see protestors digging in their heels.

Mike Stark, Mayor of Copeland, said: "We've been expecting them to do this. And in reality, they're behaving like anarchists.

"This has gone through an incredibly rigorous process. Experts on all sides have had every opportunity to state their cases and make their arguments heard. And in every single case, the arguments against have proved to be wrong.

"I'm 100% confident that the action they're bringing is completely futile and a waste of time and a waste of money."

South Lakes Action on Climate Change have raised more than £30,000 so far towards the costs of their latest legal challenge but says they may need more than double that amount.

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