The government has intervened to delay approval for Britain’s first new deep coal mine in 30 years.
Cumbria county council yesterday voted in favour of issuing planning permission to West Cumbria Mining for the £160 million Woodhouse Colliery, near Whitehaven. The mine would produce 2.5 million tonnes a year of coking coal for use in steelmaking.
However, the government has issued an order requiring the council to hold off issuing permission without its authorisation, as it wants more time to consider whether to “call in” the application.
Such a move would entail a review and could result in it overruling the council.
Estelle Worthington, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “It’s terrible that this new coalmine has been given the go-ahead in the middle of a climate crisis. The secretary of state must intervene and call in this unnecessary and destructive application or else it contradicts everything the government likes to say about taking climate change seriously.”
Last month the government overruled Northumberland council to reject planning consent for a coalmine at Druridge Bay. However, that mine had primarily been intended to produce thermal coal, which is burnt in power stations. Britain has said that it will stop burning coal for power by 2024 at the latest.
Arguments against coking coal are more complex, since there are few viable alternatives for steelmaking at present.
Cumbrian planning officers concluded the Whitehaven mine would reduce emissions, as it would prevent coking coal being shipped from abroad.