England: Legal Review Into Coal West Cumbria Mine Decision
February 10, 2020 - Campaigners have been granted a judicial review over the approval of the planned west coast coal mine.
Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole has been campaigning for years against plans to build a new coal mine in Whitehaven and subsequently to legally challenge Cumbria County Council’s approval.
A photographic impression of how the new West Cumbria Mining development could look.
There will now be legal scrutiny of the decision which will be heard at a high court in Manchester.
Marianne Birkby, who has spearheaded the campaign, said: “It’s been a big deal to get it to this stage but we’re absolutely delighted that the judge has ruled that this can go forward, that we do have a really good and arguable point against Cumbria County Council’s decision.
“It almost didn’t happen but at least we’re at the stage where we can move forward with a legal challenge.
“It’s been a very steep learning curve.”
Marianne began campaigning against the mine in 2017 in the absence of any other groups speaking out about the plans not only for the climate concerns but also because of its proximity to Sellafield.
She has also been running the anti-nuclear group Radiation Free Lakeland since 2008.
It is estimated that the mine could bring up to 500 jobs to the area but activists say there could be more potential for green jobs instead.
“The jobs issue is really important but mining in Cumbria should be part of our heritage not part of our future, there are plenty more green jobs than this,” Marianne said.
A crowdfunding page set up by the campaigners has raised more than £10,000 to support their legal costs going forward.
A cap of £5,000 has been placed on the court costs through the Aarhus Convention but there are other costs associated with lawyers.
Rowan Smith, a solicitor at law firm Leigh Day, who is representing Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole, said: “We are pleased that the High Court has granted our client permission for a judicial review of Cumbria County Council’s decision to allow this coal mine development.
“This legal action shines a light on how all local planning authorities should assess the climate change impacts of development of this nature, particularly with the backdrop of the UK Parliament declaring a climate emergency and the Government’s commitment to ensuring that the Net Zero target is reached by 2050.”
A spokesperson for Cumbria County Council said: “We understand that this is a matter of significant interest to the public and one upon which people will have strong views.
“Unfortunately it is not possible for Cumbria County Council to comment on any aspect of the West Cumbria Mining decision made by the Development Control and Regulation Committee as it is currently subject to an ongoing legal process known as judicial review.
“Once the process of judicial review has been completed, the council will be in a position to speak further on this matter.
West Cumbria Mining declined to comment.