Cumbria County Council is to reconsider its decision to approve plans for a coal mine on the coast near Whitehaven, after receiving new information on the UK’s climate change targets.
Developer West Cumbria Mining wants to develop a metallurgical, or coking, coal mine at a 689-acre site on the St Bees coast. The £165m proposal includes mineral extraction over 50 years at the site, along with the refurbishment of two existing coal drifts leading to new drifts underground; coal storage and processing buildings; offices and other related buildings; an access road; ventilation, power and water infrastructure, and landscaping.
Despite opposition from environmental campaigners, the application received unanimous approval from Cumbria Council in March 2019. The campaigners, including Friends of the Earth, clamoured for central Government to call in the decision, but the secretary of state refused to intervene.
However, the council decided to reconsider the application last year after new evidence was submitted against the proposal and a legal challenge was lodged by local campaign group Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole.
West Cumbria Mining submitted a revised application in response, which was approved by the council, but the secretary of state was again lobbied to call in the decision. Last month, housing secretary Robert Jenrick again refused to intervene and the approval was upheld.
Site work for the £165m project was due to get underway this year. However, this week, the council announced that it would review the application in part due to new Government recommendations on its commitments under the Climate Change Act.
Coking coal is coal primarily used in the steel production and other manufacturing processes, rather than for electricity generation. It has been claimed that the processes involved are more damaging to the environment than those used at other types of coal mines.
A spokesperson for Cumbria County Council said: “After the receipt and consideration of new information, Cumbria County Council’s Development Control and Regulation Committee will now reconsider the planning application by West Cumbria Mining to create a metallurgical coal mine off the coast near Whitehaven.
“This decision has been taken because in December 2020, the Government’s Climate Change Committee released its report on its recommendations for the Sixth Carbon Budget, a requirement under the Climate Change Act.
“The report, among other things, sets out the volume of greenhouse gases the UK aims to emit during 2033-2037. This new information has been received prior to the issue of the formal decision notice on the application.
“In light of this the Council has decided that the planning application should be reconsidered by the committee.”
To complete the planning approval issued last year, the council needs to complete a Section 106 agreement with West Cumbria Mining and issue a formal decision notice, which it says it has not yet done.
A date for the committee meeting will be set in the coming weeks, the council added.
West Cumbria Mining has been contacted for comment.