Government under fire for approval of new coalmine in Cumbria


A new coalmine in Cumbria has been given the green light by the government in the same week that the Treasury launched a review into how the UK can end its contribution to global heating.

The developer, West Cumbria Mining, said the £165m mine would create 500 jobs.

The Cumbrian MP Tim Farron called the decision “a kick in the teeth in the fight to tackle climate change”.

Farron had asked the government to “call in” the decision after it received unanimous planning approval by Cumbria county council in March.

But his application has been rejected, with the local Conservative MP Trudy Harrison saying “sense has prevailed”.

Farron, the Liberal Democrat MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, expressed his dismay, saying the government should “invest fully in zero-carbon energy” instead.

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.”

The news came as the government announced its net zero review, which will assess “how we can cut our emissions without seeing them exported elsewhere”.

The mine, called Woodhouse Colliery, will be situated on the former Marchon industrial site near Whitehaven. It will extract coking coal from under the sea nearby, with access via the existing Sandwith Anhydrite mine portals, according to West Cumbria Mining.

The company said site work should begin in early 2020, with coal production commencing two years later. It hopes to develop a mine that will produce 2m to 3m tonnes of hard metallurgical coal a year for around 50 years.

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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 coalmining in the UK, a sector that employed more than 1 million people across several thousand pits a century ago, ceased in December 2015 with the closure of Kellingley colliery in North Yorkshire.

After Cumbria county council approved the mine in March, Geoff Cook, chair of the council’s development control and regulation committee, said it 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,” he said.

“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.”



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