Cumbria coal mine planning decision deferred yet again
Image credit: west cumbria mining
A government decision on whether or not to grant planning permission for a controversial new coal mine in Cumbria has been delayed for a third time, angering environmental campaigners.
Environmental group Friends of the Earth said it had received a letter from the government confirming that the decision was now due to be made “on or before 8 December 2022”.
A decision had been expected “on or before 8 November”, around the same time as next week’s COP27 climate summit in Egypt.
In January 2021, the government said it would not intervene over a decision made by Cumbria County Council to approve the construction of a £165m deep coal mine – the UK’s first in 30 years.
The controversial decision led to a strong backlash from environmental campaigners, who said it did not fit the UK’s plans to become a net zero economy by 2050.
The business secretary at the time, Kwasi Kwarteng, admitted there was “slight tension” between the approval of the new mine and the UK’s climate change plans, but he said that the coking coal would have to be imported if not mined domestically.
In an open letter to the Prime Minister and all MPs in July, members of the scientific community condemned the proposed project, saying that it sent out “the worst possible message to the rest of the world”.
The deadline on whether or not to approve the mine has already been pushed back several times from early July to mid-August this year.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities confirmed the new December deadline but said it would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage.
Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Tony Bosworth said: “The run up to next week’s climate summit was an ideal chance for the government to rebuild its battered green credentials by rejecting this damaging and unnecessary coal mine. It’s a shame they didn’t seize the opportunity.
“Secretaries of State may come and go but the case against this mine is as strong as ever. It will increase emissions, while the market for its coal is rapidly diminishing with steel plants moving to greener production methods.
“Reintroducing the fracking ban was a good first step, but if Rishi Sunak is to really keep his pledge to make climate change a priority his government must leave coal in the ground. Far more must also be done to boost renewables and home insulation to create the new jobs that areas like Whitehaven need.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was originally going to skip COP27, with Downing Street saying that he had “other pressing domestic commitments” and was unable to attend. But in a U-turn, it was confirmed today that Sunak would now attend the conference following strong criticism of his original plan not to attend.
Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.