New Cumbria coalmine ‘like opening a Betamax factory’, says Tim Farron

<span>Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Ministers giving the green light to Britain’s first coalmine in 30 years is “like celebrating the opening of a Betamax factory”, Cumbrian MP Tim Farron has said.

Farron, whose constituency borders the one where the new project will be built in Copeland, called the decision “daft” because there was “an evaporation of demand” for the coking coal the new mine will produce.

The Westmorland and Lonsdale MP said the business case was “ridiculous” because the only two potential customers in Britain – British Steel and Tata – “have no plans whatsoever to buy a single piece”.

Describing the decision as a regressive step, Farron likened the mine’s opening to the return of video cassette tapes that began entering circulation in the 1970s.

“We’re opening a product, if you like, for which there is reducing demand. And I don’t want to be flippant, but it’s a bit like celebrating the opening of a Betamax factory,” Farron told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“The only argument at all for this mine that I think has any merit is it will create jobs. The jobs will be created for a very short period of time and they will go if the business case for the mine is as weak as it obviously is.”

The Liberal Democrat MP said the Cumbrian coast was a far more sensible place to invest in “green, renewable energy”.

He added: “This is not only foolish in fact, it’s also foolish politically, as it makes us a laughing stock when it comes to us trying to talk to other countries like China about how they reduce their carbon emissions.”

The mayor of Copeland, however, welcomed the “huge economic investment” and said it would create 500 jobs directly, with another potential 1,500 ones in the supply chain.

He said: “The mine’s already been engaged with the local college in terms of training people up, and they’ve made a commitment to train and get to 80% local labour.”

The mine’s backers have been trying to get the project off the ground since 2014. It got local approval in 2020 and was greenlit by ministers in 2021.

However, for the past two years the project has been beset by planning delays as the government rescinded its approval as it prepared to take on the presidency of the Cop26 UN climate summit in Glasgow in November 2021.