The decision on whether to approve the £165M Woodhouse coal mine in Cumbria, has been delayed by UK Government, while in October 2020 the plans for the coal mine were originally approved by Cumbria County Council.
Since then, former communities’ secretary Robert Jenrick called in the decision and asked the Planning Inspectorate to carry out a formal evaluation of the scheme.
Although the completed report has been sent to communities’ secretary Michael Gove by Planning Inspectorate and a decision was due by 7 July, this has been pushed back amid the resignations and turmoil at Westminster.
According to the government’s confirmation to organizations concerned with the project, ministers are not yet in a position to publish a decision.
Friends of the Earth campaigner Tony Bosworth said: “This delay gives ministers extra time to ensure they make the right decision about the Whitehaven mine.”
He continued: “There’s no justifying new coal and all the evidence is stacked against the mine – it’ll increase carbon emissions and its market is already declining as steelmakers move to greener production. Clearly, this new mine would be a bad investment, which is why ministers must come to their senses and reject it.”
A new date for a decision has not yet been announced, whereas the delay is the latest development in a long-running planning process for the project, with its progress hindered by campaigns from environmental activists who fear that the facility could hinder the UK’s net-zero goals.
Reconsidering its decision to give the project the go-ahead in order to take into account new information in the Climate Change Committee (CCC)’s Sixth Carbon Budget, as well as remaining neutral with regard to the mine in May, were the Cumbria County Council’s statements in February last year.
In March of this year, Friends of the Earth presented new evidence to the West Cumbria coal mine inquiry, claiming that a recent Court of Appeal ruling for a different project could have an impact on the plans.
“We have considered the climate impacts of the project in great detail and implemented significant and world-leading techniques to demonstrate that the resources industry can also achieve net carbon zero operations,” said WCM chief executive Mark Kirkbride, before the start of the inquiry.
He also added: “I believe this will become a core part of the social license to operate resource projects and we fully comply with the Climate Change Committee carbon budgets and proposed net-zero test.”