Despite pressure from green groups, the UK Government has said it will not intervene in a county council’s decision to approve a deep coal mine – the first facility of its kind to gain planning approval in 30 years.
Cumbria County Council approved plans put forward by West Cumbria Mining (WCM) late last year, but was told that the Government had the right to call in the decision under planning laws. In a statement on Wednesday (6 January), the local authority said it had received confirmation from Whitehall that this course of action would not be taken.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick reportedly sent a letter to councillors stating that the Government is “committed to giving more power to councils to make their own decisions on planning issues”.
He wrote that he was “content that [the application for the coal mine] should be determined by the local planning authority”.
West Cumbria Mining claims that the mine will be able to open 24 months after construction begins. It hopes to extract 2.5 million tonnes of coal from the undersea mine every year, for use in the UK and European steel industry.
The coal will not be used to generate electricity, given that coal-powered electricity generation must be brought offline by 2024.
The environmental argument from West Cumbria Mining is that using locally sourced coal for steelmaking mitigates emissions from international transport; the sector currently imports around 45 tonnes every year from the US, Canada, Russia and Australia. WCM has also outlined plans for a carbon offsetting scheme.
The company has said the mine will create 500 jobs and pay into a community fund for 10 years.