The government has approved a new coal mine in Cumbria in the very same week that the Treasury launched a review into how the UK can reduce its contribution to global warming
Former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron described the move as “a kick in the teeth in the fight to tackle climate change”.
He had previously urged the government to ‘call in’ the decision back in March when the project received unanimous approval by the Cumbria county council.
Mr Farron’s application was rejected, prompting Conservative MP Trudy Harrison to declare that “sense has prevailed”.
Farron, whose Westmorland and Lonsdale constituency is in Cumbria, voiced his disappointment, claiming that the government should “invest fully in zero-carbon energy” as an alternative.
He said: “Cumbria has so many renewable resources to provide energy – water, wind and solar – and we should most definitely not be taking the backwards step of opening a new coalmine.”
News of the coalmine’s approval comes alongside the government’s announcement of its Net Zero Review – a inquiry which seeks to uncover “how we can cut our emissions without seeing them exported elsewhere”.
The mine, named Woodhouse Colliery, will be situated near Whitehaven on the former Marchon industrial estate. It will use the existing Sandwith Anhydrite mine portals to extract coking oil from the sea nearby.
West Cumbria Mining, who are the developers on the project, say that the £165m mine will lead to the creation of some 500 jobs. The company hopes that the mine will produce hard metallurgical coal for the next 50 years at a rate of 2-3m tonnes each year.
The developers are aiming to begin work in early 2020 with a view to start coal production in 2022.
Harrison said: “This is fantastic news. It is vital that this development goes ahead and I am pleased that common sense has prevailed. Woodhouse colliery has been recognised for its importance to the steel industry and to UK export. Coking coal is essential for the steel industry and this has been rightly recognised.”
Deep coal mining ended in the UK in December 2015 when the Kellingley colliery in North Yorkshire was closed. It was previously an industry that had employed 1 million people across thousands of sites 100 years ago.
Geof Cook, chair of Cumbria county council’s development control and regulation committee, said that approving the mine had not been an easy decision:
“All of us would prefer to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and we recognise that during construction there will be disruption to many local residents.
“However, we felt that the need for coking coal, the number of jobs on offer and the chance to remove contamination outweighed concerns about climate change and local amenity.”