Cumbrian coal mine approval faces judicial review over climate change concerns

Campaigners have secured the right to a judicial review of Cumbria County Council's permission last year for a new coal mine, arguing that the approval failed to properly consider greenhouse gas emissions and the government's net zero carbon emissions target.

Whitehaven: coal mine approved last year (pic: E Craine via Flickr)
Whitehaven: coal mine approved last year (pic: E Craine via Flickr)

In March last year, Cumbria County Council resolved to approve plans for the mine on the former Marchon chemical works site at Whitehaven. The scheme would be known as Woodhouse Colliery.

A planning report had accepted the applicant’s arguments that the extraction of coal locally "saves on carbon emissions associated with the importation of coal, and so the planning balance in respect of any adverse environmental impacts need to be weighed in this context".

The council’s permission was formally granted at the end of October. In November, the government said it would not call in the application.

But the consent now faces a judicial review at the High Court, after a judge granted permission for the case to proceed. 

Law firm Francis Taylor Building is acting on behalf of claimant Marianne Bennett of campaign group Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole.

According to a statement from the firm, the grounds on which the case will challenge the decision include a claim that the council failed to lawfully consider the greenhouse gas emissions of the mining operations and a conflict with the government’s 2050 net zero carbon emissions target.

Francis Taylor Building said the case will be heard over two days in Manchester. A date for the hearing is yet to be set.

Yesterday, it emerged that environmental and legal campaigners have also begun proceedings to force a judicial review of the government's 2011 national policy statements on energy, also arguing that the documents are incompatible with the government’s net zero carbon commitments.

In a further development this week, environmental campaigner Chris Packham announced that he had begun legal action seeking to overturn the Prime Minister's recent backing for the High Speed Two (HS2) rail project, arguing that the evidence supporting the decision was "flawed" and does not comply with the government's net zero carbon goal.

Last week, the Court of Appeal ruled that the government's Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) favouring a third runway at Heathrow was unlawful because the UK's obligations to tackle climate change under the Paris Agreement were not taken into account.

A feature examining the potential impact of the government's net zero target for planning can be found here.

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