The decision, which has been delayed on a number of occasions, follows the recommendation of the inspector who held a four week public inquiry into the proposal in September 2021 after the Secretary of State called in the decision from Cumbria County Council.
On 7 December 2022, the Secretary of State for the department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, granted planning permission for a new deep coal mine on the West Cumbrian coast, near Whitehaven. The decision, which has been delayed on a number of occasions, follows the recommendation of the inspector who held a four week public inquiry into the proposal in September 2021 after the Secretary of State called in the decision from Cumbria County Council.
Before being called in, the Council had resolved to grant planning permission for the mine on three separate occasions, one of which was subject to an application for judicial review before the decision notice was issued. Despite its previous resolutions, which were not rescinded, the Council decided to adopt a stance of ‘strict neutrality’ following the call-in and did not play an active role in the inquiry. However, the proposal faced objections led by two rule 6 parties, Friends of the Earth and South Lakes Action on Climate Change.
In a detailed report, extending to over 350 pages, the Inspector found that there was currently a market in the UK and Europe for the type of coking coal that the mine would produce; that it would provide a suitable substitute for the coal that is currently imported to these markets from the US; and that there would continue to be a need for coking coal in these markets for a number of decades notwithstanding the development of other emerging technologies. The Inspector also found that the amount of coking coal used in steel production would be broadly the same with or without the mine, and that the mine’s operational net-zero commitment would enable some of that coal to be sourced from a net-zero mine, which was consistent with the Government’s Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy.
In addition to finding that there was a need for the coal, the Inspector found that the development would make a substantial contribution to the national and regional economy, and provide significant employment benefits and that these benefits outweighed the landscape, heritage and other harms of the proposal.