Decision on controversial Cumbria coal mine delayed again

A decision on whether to approve plans for a controversial coal mine has been delayed again as ministers are said to need more time to consider the case.

The latest deadline to decide whether or not to grant planning permission for the coking coal mine on the edge of Whitehaven in Cumbria was early November.

Environmental group Friends of the Earth said it was a “shame” the Government did not “seize” an opportunity to reject the plans at a time that would have coincided with the Cop27 conference in Egypt starting next week.

Environmental campaigners have called for the mine plans to be rejected by the Government (Owen Humphreys/PA)
Environmental campaigners have called for the mine plans to be rejected by the Government (PA)

The organisation said it received a letter from the Government on Tuesday evening confirming the delay.

The deadline has been pushed back several times from early July to mid-August.

The deadline was once again moved to November 8 because officials were said to still be considering the matter.

The decision is now due to be made on or before December 8, with planning ministers said to require further time to consider the case.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities confirmed the new deadline but said it would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage.

Friends of the Earth energy campaigner, Tony Bosworth, said: “The run up to next week’s climate summit was an ideal opportunity for the Government to rebuild its battered green credentials by rejecting this damaging and unnecessary coal mine. It’s a shame they didn’t seize it.

“Secretaries of State may come and go but the case against this mine is as strong as ever. It will increase emissions, while the market for its coal is rapidly diminishing with steel plants moving to greener production methods.

“Reintroducing the fracking ban was a good first step, but if Rishi Sunak is to really keep his pledge to make climate change a priority his Government must leave coal in the ground. Instead they should boost renewables and home insulation to create the new jobs that areas like Whitehaven need.”

The mine has been backed by a number of Tory MPs, but has drawn the ire of environmentalists, who warn the coal is for steelmaking so would not help lower energy bills, most of the coal would be exported, and it would damage the UK’s climate leadership credentials.

If approved, the coal mine would be the first to open in the UK in 30 years, with the firm behind the project claiming it would create around 500 jobs.