Cumbria County Council has controversially approved plans for a deep coal mine, despite criticisms that it contradicts the UK’s climate change commitments.
The council’s development committee – made up of Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative councillors – unanimously approved plans for the £165m Woodhouse Colliery at its meeting yesterday afternoon, saying that demand and new jobs ‘outweighed’ climate change concerns.
The decision will allow West Cumbria Mining, who filed the application, the ability to extract coking coal from the Copeland coast between Whitehaven and St. Bees, with the company hoping to process around 2.5 million tonnes of the fossil fuel per year.
Cllr Jeff Cook, the chair of the council’s development control and regulation committee, said: ‘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.’
The decision to authorise the UK’s new first deep coal mine in 30 years was met with fury by local environmental activists, some of whom staged a sit-in on the floor of the council chamber.
Climate campaigners have said that the decision will hamper the UK’s efforts to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions and lower the speed of climate change.
The UK is currently aiming to close all its coal-fired power stations by 2025. However, as the colliery will be used to support steel production, and not power, this 2025 phase-out date will not apply.
Researcher Rebecca Willis, an associate of the environmental think tank Green Alliance, said the decision showed that the UK’s current climate policy is still too vague to deter politicians from authorising high carbon developments.
‘This shows the depth of the problem,’ Willis tweeted. ‘There is currently enough ambiguity in climate policy and planning law to be able to put together some sort of justification for a new coal mine, even if this runs contrary to the UK’s climate commitments.’
The council’s decision was welcomed by West Cumbria Mining who said that the mine will bring ‘significant benefits’ to Cumbria in terms of jobs and investment.
Work is now expected to start on the scheme before the end of the year, with coal production set to start in about two years’ time.
It is anticipated that the mine will employ around 500 people, with around 2,000 more jobs set to be created along its supply chain.