First lodged in 2017, West Cumbria Mining’s proposals have caused controversy at a time when scrutiny of the environment and sustainability has never been more intense.
After much clamouring from objectors for the plans to be called-in, a 16-day inquiry on the Woodhouse Colliery scheme begins today. Planning inspector Stephen Normington chairs the inquiry, which can be viewed online.
The Cumbria County Council has adopted a position of neutrality for the inquiry and will neither support nor object to the plan.
Those speaking against the scheme at the inquiry include Friends of the Earth and South Lakes Action Against Climate Change, as well as several other stakeholders.
The project would see a mine for coking coal, largely for use in the steel industry, created on a 689-acre site near Whitehaven.
The £165m proposal would allow for mineral extraction over 50 years. Around 2.7m tonnes of metallurgical coal would be extracted every year.
Supporters of the project argue that the mine will help reduce the UK’s reliance on importing coal.
However, there has been strong opposition to the proposals from several environmentalist groups including Friends of the Earth.
When the date for the inquiry was set earlier this year, a spokesperson for Friends of the Earth said: “The reality is that with the world in the middle of a climate crisis, new coal mines shouldn’t be allowed.
“Instead, the government should fast-track the development of a zero-carbon future, and reap the benefits from the new jobs and opportunities this will bring.”
Cumbria County Council first approved the Woodhouse Colliery proposal from West Cumbria Mining unanimously in March 2019.
The decision to approve the plans angered conservationists and environmental groups but the Secretary of State Robert Jenrick initially refused to intervene.
Revised plans were then lodged in 2020 following new evidence into the climate impacts of the scheme. Once again, Cumbria gave the project the go-ahead and once again Jenrick refused to get involved.
However, pressure has since mounted both locally and nationally, forcing the Secretary of State to call in the plan.