UK signals approval for first coal mine in 30 years, disappointing campaigners
Image credit: west cumbria mining
The UK’s first deep coal mine in 30 years is set to go ahead after the government decided not to intervene, angering environmental campaigners.
In October, Cumbria County Council approved the £165m West Cumbria Mining plan and it has now confirmed that the government will not interfere with its decision.
However, green campaigners have cited concerns that the mine will make it difficult for the UK to adhere to its carbon reduction pledges.
Furthermore, former Liberal Democrat leader and current Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron has said the project is a “complete disaster for our children’s future”.
“It’s utter and rank hypocrisy for this Conservative Government to claim one minute that they care about protecting our environment, and in the next give the green light to a deep coal mine,” he added.
Farron had urged Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick to challenge the planning application, although he decided against doing so.
Campaigners from Friends of the Earth have said the decision demonstrates “jaw-dropping inconsistency” from the Government, which rejected plans for an opencast mine at Druridge Bay in Northumberland last year.
The Government’s official report on this in September 2020 said the mine would not have been “environmentally acceptable”.
The mine will remove coking coal from beneath the Irish Sea for the production of steel in the UK and Europe. It has been approved twice since 2017.
Defending the project, West Cumbria Mining claims it would create 500 jobs and pay into a community fund for 10 years.
On hearing the news that the government would not submit a challenge, CEO Mark Kirkbride said: “I am delighted that the holding direction has been lifted following what has been 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”.
Greenpeace UK’s policy director, Doug Parr, said: “We are in a climate emergency and in no way, shape, or form should this or any new coal mine be granted planning permission. How can the government expect to claim global leadership as it hosts international climate talks later this year after giving this the green light?
“Claims that it will be carbon neutral is like claiming an oil rig is a wind turbine. Of course, job creation is absolutely vital to communities but we must look forward to the jobs of 21st century, not back to those in declining industries. Robert Jenrick needs to immediately reverse his decision not to call this in and then can the project completely.”
Dr Ruth Balogh, who represents Friends of the Earth in the West Cumbria area, described the Government’s decision as “astonishing and desperately disappointing”.
“West Cumbria badly needs local jobs, but these should be generated by investing in clean energy and building a greener future, not industries that threaten the planet,” she said.
In response to the criticism, The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “The general approach of the secretary of state is not to interfere with the decision-making process of local councils on planning matters.
“The Government’s position is that these matters are generally best determined locally, by local councils that know their own area best, rather than by central government.”
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