Friday, October 02, 2020

West Cumbria mine approved 12:3

The West Cumbria Mining application was approved again this afternoon by 12 votes to 3 with a couple of abstentions and one councillor not voting because his connection had not been working properly for some of the discussion.

It was a cross party vote with members of all three parties on both sides.

The twelve votes for the application were six Conservatives, three Labour, two Lib/Dems and the Independent. The three votes against were one councillor each from the Lib/Dem, Labour. and Conservative groups, none of them representing anywhere near the mine.

The members of the committee representing electoral divisions in or anywhere near Copeland all supported the mine.


Gary Bullivant said...

I sensed it wasn't going to be unanimous fairly early on but, as people began to speak, I sensed also that what was being said and the way it was being said wasn't going to change those minds already made up. Just, indeed, as the minds of those objecting were already made up.

Of course, this was never going to be a green light decision and the company can't do tomorrow anything that they couldn't do today as a result of it. But the information is now out there. This application will next go in front of decision makers much less concerned about local opinion and how local councillors' choose to reflect it.

We musn't rest on our arms reversed, those of us who we want the Marchon site to be cleaned up at the expense of some unknown foreigners.

Anonymous said...

It wasn't approved

Chris Whiteside said...

I'm glad, Gary that you at least implicitly recognise that local opinion supports the mine.

A very vocal group of people who are not local but represent themselves as being - as I said at the meeting, most of them are well over an hour's drive away or more than two hours by public transport and on the other side of the highest mountain and deepest lake in England - have been trying to spin the debate of the mine as a battle of local people from Cumbria against a multinational company.

It isn't. It's a battle between local people in West Cumbria the vast majority of whom support the mine and outsiders, many of whom demonstrated only too clearly yesterday that they don't have a clue about West Cumbria, who want to stop it.

The holding notice from the Secretary of State was explained by the officers just before the vote. I am advised that it would be a mistake to read into it any suggestion at all that the Secretary of State is likely to call in or block the application - it is not as though the application in this form has a worse impact on the environment than it did in the form which the previous secretary of state decided not to call in last year - very much the reverse as the "middlings" coal element has been removed.

And yes, the application ahs been approved by the council. The committee voted 12:3 to pass a motion approving it, and it was within their powers by passing that resolution to make this decision on behalf of the council. the decision notice will not be issued until the Section 106 is signed and the Secretary of State confirms that he will not be calling it in - and I strongly suspect that both will happen but the former, not the latter, is likely to be the main cause of delay.

The offshore mining element does indeed still need permission from other sources and it will be interesting to see how that pans out. I don't think they will be too susceptible to lobbying from either side.

Gary Bullivant said...

I don't know if it does or doesn't but I doubt there is much support on Edgehill Park.

As for the chances or otherwise of a call in, I just wonder what caused the letter to be written when it was. Perhaps it is something to do with the government conceeding that its 10 year old energy National Planning Statement is now, or parts of it are, unlawful in light of subsequent legislation.

This was in response to a request for a judicial review too (Vince & Monbiot). The hearing is imminent and, despite this concession, the applicants are pressing for a suspension of the Statement or the offending parts of it. It seems to me that a decision on call in or not is going to be delayed until this is resolved.

Chris Whiteside said...

I've been given an explanation but in confidence and I'm not going to break that.

The comments made by the officers did seem to be in line with that explanation and reinforce the view that we should not assume that there is a high chance of it actually being called in.

Gary Bullivant said...

I've had an idea. While we wait for the SoS to decide how long he is going to keep us in suspense pretending to be making a decision but in fact having already made up his mind....Why doesn't WCM, as a gesture of goodwill and confidence in the SoS, put in for planning permission to remediate the Marchon site? You know, only enough to be able to start real work when the SoS stops fooling around and the MMO does its approval bit? Delegated decision, fast track approval, win win!

Chris Whiteside said...

Would you be willing to contribute, say, a thousand pounds of your own money towards that clean-up on the basis that you will be paid back with interest when they start mining coal?

Businesses have to be willing to take risks to operate financial risks to operate but there is a limit to the degree of risk you can reasonable expect any commercial organisation to take or underwrite.

Gary Bullivant said...

I'm suggesting a planning application not a share subscription in a snake oil factory. You're the one with the knowledge of Jenrick's favourable predetermination not me.

Chris Whiteside said...

I was very involved indeed with planning for many years and am well aware that the decision-makers are not allowed to predetermine their stance on a planning application.

I have no inside knowledge of Robert Jenrick's decisions and no reason to believe that he will predetermine his decision or do anything else inappropriate.

I wrote that I suspect that he won't call it in because I cannot see anything about the changes in the application since the previous secretary of state decided not to call it in in the previous form which would justify such a reversal of position, not because I have any special knowledge.

Gary Bullivant said...

It isn't just the application that has changed, it's also the circumstances. The discussion around the application has revealed the difference between coking coal and saleable coking coal. After the last determination the company announced a 100% sale to a broker and they it was, with British Steel, who acknowledged the absence of domestic demand for this coal this time. Also, the hold was lifted last year on the eve of an election. Happily preventing campaigners having to explain the hold up to voters. This time the challenge is to explain why the UK has signed up to exporting its high impurity coal via an offshore tax haven fund onto the world market in the year leading up to COP26. Which is to be held up the road in Glasgow. This is not the same river you are stepping in.

Chris Whiteside said...

A lot of those points - where a broker is based and the date of the next election, for instance - do not count as relevant planning considerations which are supposed to be taken into account when determining a planning application.

Gary Bullivant said...

We have moved the discussion on from the decision to the period of consideration for a Call In. The last restraint was ended for quite one obvious political reason; the election campaign. This length of this one will be influenced by COP26, more so since the coal is now acknowledged not to be HVA at all, not destined for any part of the UK market and the company has sold the rights to a broker who isn't subject to any conditions of the approvals process. But I agree with you, they are not relevant planning conditions.

Chris Whiteside said...

Just to clarify my comment above about what I had been given an explanation about, I wasn't claiming in any way to be privy to the Secretary of State's views, I was however told who asked for the holding notice and it wasn't a minister. That's why I suggested that the issue of that notice does not give much indication whether he is likely to call it in.

To be honest I think we are now in some danger of getting into a hair splitting competition.

I think the material point which needs to be made in response to your last comment, Gary, is that the conditions still apply whoever the coal is sold to.

I have said all along that the conditions need to be properly enforced which is why I asked at the original DC&R meeting that any changes to them come back to DC&R - a request which was carried out - and I repeated that request at the end of my comments on Monday.

Gary Bullivant said...

From memory, I recall one previous condition that was to be placed on the end user: The use of the coal for steelmaking. That was quietly dropped this time around so you are right. So long as WCM don't breach the conditions relating to coal specifications there won't be a problem, although "trust but verify" might be a useful motto for DC&R to adopt in the circumstances. I'm not sure, there being so many of them, that the conditions currently support this idea.

Thank you for the clarification. I will avoid speculating on who and why but if you're satisfied then I am too. You will also have a better idea of how long this hiatus will last as a result of that mysterious intervention.

Chris Whiteside said...

I think you are right that this was originally one of the conditions.

I will check that point - and whether it has been dropped.