Fantastic news for West Cumbria as government refuses to block West Cumbria Mining proposals

The proposal for a new mining facility in the Whitehaven and St Bees area to produce Coking coal for the British and European steel industry, which has been approved three times by Cumbria County Council, moved a step closer to being approved today as the government confirmed that they will not try to block the application.

This is very welcome news: I spoke in favour of the application, much of which is located in the area I represent. It has overwhelming support among the public in the Whitehaven and St Bees area - the vast majority of the opposition comes from at the nearest the opposite side of the county and in many cases the opposite side of the country.

The application was approved by councillors of all parties: the first two votes were unanimous, in the most recent vote, after members of the county council's DC&R committee had been put under sustained and enormous pressure by vociferous opponents of the proposal, the West Cumbria Mining application was supported by the great majority of members of the planning committee including a majority of councillors on the committee from all three political parties, plus the independent member.

The application also has the support of the local MP and all the other Conservative MPs representing seats in Cumbria. Cumbria’s Conservative MPs described today’s announcement as ‘great day for West Cumbria’.

Trudy Harrison, MP for Copeland, said: 

“I have consistently fully supported the West Cumbria Mining Project which will bring considerable investment, hundreds of well-paid permanent jobs, apprenticeship opportunities, skills training for young people, opportunities for local suppliers and Woodhouse Colliery will be sited in an area which has been one of Copeland’s more deprived areas.

“I very much welcome that West Cumbria Mining have indicated that 80 per cent of jobs will be sourced locally and that is good news for Copeland.

“West Cumbria Mining will be an innovative leader in coking coal extraction. I welcome the news that the government has decided not to call in the original planning decision.

“I would now urge West Cumbria Mining and Cumbria County Council to work closely together on the remaining legal planning obligations to get this project over the line.”

When operational the mine will supply metallurgical coal to the UK and international steel industry, deliver hundreds of local jobs and support a first-class supply chain across the county.

Mark Kirkbride, chief executive of West Cumbria Mining, said: “I am delighted that the holding direction has been lifted following what has been an extremely rigorous planning process.

“My team and I are now looking forward to concluding planning sign-off and then being able to commence preparatory steps to begin site work later this year.

“WCM would like to thank all those people and organisations, both in the local community and further afield, who have supported the project over the past six years with particular thanks to Copeland MP Trudy Harrison, Workington MP Mark Jenkinson, Copeland mayor Mike Starkie and Allerdale deputy leader Mike Johnson.”


Gary Bullivant said…
Do you have any insight into why the brake was applied before the last DC&R meeting in the first place? Or perhaps why it took the Secretary of State three months to decide that this is a purely local matter after all?
Chris Whiteside said…
Not for a fact.

I do know that both CCC and DCHLG took so long over previous decisions on the West Cumbria Mining application because they were bending over backwards to do everything thoroughly and properly so as to make the decision judicial-review proof.

I have heard it suggested that, having thought they had taken every possible step to be proof against a judicial review the first time, and still had a judge take the objections more seriously than they had anticipated, the council and the government made even greater efforts to make sure they had examined every issue they needed to examine and left no holes in the case so that either would be in a position to make sure their decisions were not liable to be overturned if there were any further attempts to get another judicial review.
Gary Bullivant said…
Thanks for that, although I'm not convinced that an interjection a week before a committee and a three month delay can be so easily explained. Anyway, I look forward to reading your take on the link between Jenrick's announcement and Sharma's move to COP 26.

Since we are on legal process, I expect Coumcil counsel will be looking at the 2 Oct decision again just in case some bright lawyer prompted by SLACC or KCCH crowd funding spots a flaw in that process. I also recall that Planning decisions can't be called in by Council by law, although I don't see that written down in the Constitution.
Chris Whiteside said…
I have not seen any evidence at all that there is any such link.

You are correct that planning decisions are not subject to the local government "call in" procedure by councillors, which is an entirely different procedure than the one for "call in" of a planning application by the secretary of state, which is what he has confirmed that he is not going to use.

The reason for this is that local government "call in" procedure applies only to decisions by the executive (or council cabinet) or by a member of the executive, or by an officer or committee exercising powers or functions delegated to him, her or them by the executive.

Hence it is sometimes referred to as call in of executive decisions.

So as the DC&R (Development control and regulation) committee is not a subcommittee of the county council cabinet, but of the full council, and is exercising powers on behalf of the full council, its' decisions cannot be called in.

Exactly the same applies to the planning committee of any other council.
Gary Bullivant said…
Indeed and thank you for the clarification on procedure. That both announcements were made in the same week is link enough for me. Jenrick's officials would no doubt have circulated the papers to other ministries for comment, hence the post meeting delay. BEIS and Environment would have been key but Environment will have its own say when the MMO and EA deal with the inshore applications. That leaves a thumbs up from BEIS being prime, since even metallurgical coal is E as well as B. The implication is clear enough; AS is going to have to deal with the COP26 situation where "do as I say not as I do" criticism is very likely from those who are climate change sceptics or antis.
Chris Whiteside said…
"That both announcements were made in the same week is link enough for me."

Holds head in hands.

Oh dear, oh dear.

That kind of argument was first made, and was first rebutted, a sufficiently long number of centuries ago that the two main versions of it have names in latin.

I suggest you look up "Cum hoc ergo propter hoc" or "Post hoc ergo propter hoc."

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