New coal subject to 'full legal scrutiny'

Cumbrian coal canary protest
Cumbrian campaign group granted permission for judicial review of county council’s approval of coal mine.


Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole (KCCH) have been granted permission for a judicial review of Cumbria County Council’s decision to allow the first deep coal mine in thirty years in the UK to be built. 

KCCH are challenging the decision by Cumbria County Council’s Development Control and Regulation Committee’s to resolve to grant planning permission for a major new underground metallurgical coal mine on the former Marchon Chemical Works site in Whitehaven, Cumbria.

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

Net zero

KCCH is an active environmental campaign group in the local area, and was one of the leading objectors to the planning application focussing its objections on the proximity of the coal mine site to the nuclear facility at Sellafield.

Cumbria County Council resolved to grant planning permission following a unanimous vote on 19 March 2019.  On 20 June 2019, solicitors from law firm Leigh Day wrote to Cumbria County Council. The letter addressed a number of legal issues, including Cumbria County Council’s failures to consider greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the mining operations and the government's Net Zero target. 

Despite being alerted to those concerns, Cumbria County Council ratified its decision on 31 October 2019. Mrs Justice Beverley Lang has now agreed that those legal issues are arguable and justify a public hearing.

Marianne Birkby from KCCH said: “Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole are delighted we are able to bring this Judicial Review in order to challenge the decision made by Cumbria County Council to approve the first deep coal mine in decades.

"This legal challenge is only happening because of the ongoing determination of our campaigning and the huge generosity of everyone who has donated to the crowd-funder.”

Legal action

Rowan Smith, a solicitor at firm Leigh Day who is part of the team representing Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole, said: “We are pleased that the High Court has granted our client permission for a judicial review of Cumbria County Council’s decision to allow this coal mine development.

"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 CO₂ 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.

This Article 

This article is based on a press release from Leigh Day. 

Image: Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole

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