England: Government Will Not Block Cumbrian Coal Mine
By Catherine Kennedy
January 8, 2021 - The government has decided not to intervene with plans for a new coal mine in Cumbria.
Plans for the £165M Woodhouse Colliery were approved by Cumbria County Council in October.
The government could have called in the plans to make a final decision but communities secretary Robert Jenrick has now said he is “content that it should be determined by the local planning authority”.
He added: "The policy makes it clear that the power to call in a case will only be used very selectively. The government is committed to give more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues, and believes planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible."
West Cumbria Mining chief executive Mark Kirkbride said he is “delighted” that the government’s holding direction has been lifted following “an extremely rigorous planning process”.
“My team and I are now looking forward to concluding planning sign-off and then being able to commence preparatory steps to begin site work later this year,” he said.
The proposed development is for a large underground metallurgical, or ‘coking coal’, coal mine. However its progress has been hindered by campaigns from environmental activists who fear that the facility could hinder the UK’s net zero goals.
The mine would be excavating coal for use mainly in steel production – a key distinction in terms of environmental concerns, according to Kirkbride, who “fully supports” the phase out of coal for electricity.
West Cumbria Mining's website emphasises that coking coal is “very different to thermal coal which is used to create steam to power turbines for creating electricity” and, in October, planners advised Cumbria County Council that the mine would help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions "as a result of savings made from reduced transportation distances of coal to the steelworks and other emissions being neutral".
However climate groups have spoken out against Jenrick's decision this week, with Friends of the Earth coal campaigner Tony Bosworth claiming it shows "jaw-dropping inconsistency".
Bosworth described the mine as "unnecessary and climate-wrecking".
He added: “Only a few short months ago, the government cast real doubts over industry’s demand for coal, beyond the short-term, when rejecting an opencast mine at Druridge Bay in Northumberland. And last month the government said it would no longer support fossil fuel projects overseas.
“Allowing coal to be extracted from this proposed mine for over a quarter of a century completely undermines the government’s credibility on the climate crisis – especially ahead of the crucial UN summit later this year, which the UK is hosting.
“Global leadership on the climate emergency means leaving coal in the ground, where it belongs.”