Cumbria mine opponents 'delighted' at judge's decision to hold three-day court hearing

Plans for the new coal mine were approved by the UK government. Credit: West Cumbria Mining

Environmental campaigners fighting the government's decision to approve a new coal mine in West Cumbria have welcomed a judge's decision to hold a three-day High Court hearing for their case.

Communities Secretary Michael Gove gave permission for the mine at Whitehaven in December, but Friends of the Earth and South Lakes Action on Climate Change have brought legal challenges.

Their initial application for a judicial review was refused, and a hearing was scheduled for Tuesday 23 May for them to contest the decision.

However, a High Court judge has now cancelled that, and instead ordered a 'rolled-up hearing'.

This means their application for permission for a judicial review will be considered in court, with the substantive hearing to follow immediately if permission is granted.

The Judicial Review Guide says that, in practice, the judge is likely to hear the arguments for permission and the substance of the case together, and give a single judgement, but the procedure adopted at the hearing is a matter for the judge.

Three days will be set aside, and the campaigners say the hearing is likely to take place in the summer or autumn.

Maggie Mason of SLACC said: “This is a positive and sensible decision. Having looked at the submitted papers, the court has decided it is worth scheduling a three-day hearing on SLACC and Friends of the Earth’s legal challenges."

Friends of the Earth campaigner Tony Bosworth said: “We’re delighted the court agrees that our legal challenge against this mine deserves to be heard. We believe the Secretary of State made significant climate-related errors when he granted planning permission for this development, and that his decision was unlawful."

A DLUHC spokesperson 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.

“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 given ongoing legal proceedings.”

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