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Environmental campaigners get go-ahead for legal challenge to permission for deep coal mine

A campaign group has been granted permission for a judicial review of Cumbria County Council’s decision to allow the first deep coal mine in 30 years in the UK to be built.

On 19 March 2019 Cumbria’s Development Control and Regulation Committee resolved to grant planning permission for a new mine on the former Marchon Chemical Works site in Whitehaven, Cumbria.

The Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole (KCCH) environmental campaign group had previously objected to the project over its proximity to the nuclear facility at Sellafield.

Its lawyers, Leigh Day, said the council had failed to consider:

  • Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the mining operations
  • The need for, and GHG impacts of, Middlings Coal
  • The Government’s Net Zero target.

Cumbria ratified its decision on 31 October 2019.

Mrs Justice Beverley Lang has agreed that the legal issues raised by Leigh Day are arguable and justify a public hearing.

The judicial review will be heard at the High Court in Manchester on a date yet to be set.

Rowan Smith, solicitor at law firm Leigh Day, who is representing Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole, with Anna Dews and Carol Day from Leigh Day, said: “This legal action shines a light on how all local planning authorities should assess the climate change impacts of development of this nature, particularly with the backdrop of the UK Parliament declaring a climate emergency and the Government’s commitment to ensuring that the Net Zero target is reached by 2050.

“We are in the middle of a climate crisis, and our clients have worked tirelessly to bring this issue into the public domain. There will now be full legal scrutiny of the climate change impact of this proposal, which is estimated to translate to 420 million tonnes CO₂e even without taking into account the emissions arising from the extraction process.”

David Wolfe QC from Matrix chambers and Merrow Golden from Francis Taylor Building chambers are instructed.

In a statement Cumbria County Council said: “We understand that this is a matter of significant interest to the public and one upon which people will have strong views. Unfortunately it is not possible for Cumbria County Council to comment on any aspect of the West Cumbria Mining decision made by the Development Control and Regulation Committee as it is currently subject to an ongoing legal process known as judicial review.

“Once the process of judicial review has been completed, the council will be in a position to speak further on this matter.

“All the decisions that have been made by the committee are in the public domain and can be read from the minutes which are available on the county council’s website.”