A tale of two coal mines.

The government has rightly rejected a proposal for an open cast coal mine on a greenfield site which Banks Mining had put forward at Druridge Bay in the North East.

The Rt Hon Robert Jenrick, secretary of state for Housing, Communities and local government "called in" and refused the Banks Mining proposals which faced strong local opposition, including from local MPs.

It is important to emphasise that about the only thing the Banks proposal had in common with the West Cumbria Mining proposals which are due to come back to Cumbria County Council next month is that both are for coal mines - within that category their merits are about as different as two proposals could possibly be.

  • The Banks proposal was for an open-cast coal mine which, if you are going to extract coal at all, is just about the most environmentally-damaging way possible to do it, and would have been likely to cause massive impact on the local area and community.
  • By contrast West Cumbria Mining are proposing a deep coal mine with environmentally friendly disposal of the spoil.
  • The Banks proposal was to dig coal to burn for fuel, which is not necessary and for which there are far better economic and less-environmentally damaging alternatives.
  • By contrast the West Cumbria Mining application is specifically for metallurgical coal for steel production for which there are currently no satisfactory and economic alternatives.
  • The Banks proposal was strongly opposed by the local community and by local MPs.
  • By contrast the West Cumbria Mining application has overwhelming support among the local community including the support of every MP representing areas within an hour and a half's drive of the site. (With a very small number of exceptions, most of the opposition to the mine is not local. It does not come from anywhere near St Bees and Whitehaven or even Copeland but from the other side of the highest mountain and the largest and deepest lakes in England and from groups with words like "South Lakeland" in their titles - or from the other side of the country.)  

So I do not think the government decision on Banks Mining, with which I strongly agree, has any relevance to West Cumbria.

It is currently expected that the West Cumbria mining application will come to committee on 2nd October.


Anonymous said…
When is Cumbria CC going to take action to secure the restoration of the Keekle Head since the council allowed the operator to walk away without reinstating it?

Gary Bullivant said…
I'm not sure that you are correct when you say that the Banks proposal was for power generation coal. I know that their business case started off by saying that but it was dropped a couple of years ago and was switched wholly to UK industrial use. Jenrick acknowledged this but was sceptical about demand for the same, even in the short term. On the other hand, I'm sceptical that WCM have in the same time frame mastered alchemy, other than by changing their definition of metallurgical coal. There are other diferences too that you don't mention; Banks is owned by Brits and has a history of coal mining success, WCM isn't and hasn't. Highthorn was clearly feasible, whereas it isn't at all clear that Woodhouse is. Finally, WCM has just confirmed again that the majority of its product will be exported worldwide via the good offices of brokers Javelin Global Commodities. No details of contracts other than to JGC have been made available; something that Jenrick saw as flawed at Highthorn. You end by saying that, in your opinion, the Highthorn decision is not relevant to West Cumbria. I tend to agree but not for the reasons you have put forward.
Anonymous said…
Since when did what local people and politicians think and say become a planning factor?
Chris Whiteside said…
To deal with the last point first.

When I was serving on planning committees, the advice in government circulars, which I don't believe has changed, was that representations from the public should be given substantial weight if, and only if, it was based on sound planning reasons.

It would be utterly ridiculous to have rules under which planning authorities are required to publish details of planning applications, usually writing directly to neighbours, and invite comment, and those comments themselves are public documents which anyone can see, if the planning authorities were then not allowed to take any notice at all of what is said in those representations!

Where local opinion and the views of local representatives is based on sound and clear-cut planning reasons, those representations not only can, but should, be taken into account.

Unlike the West Cumbria Mining proposal, Banks Mining was proposing an open-cast mine, which does vastly more damage to the local environment, and it's my understanding that a lot of the local opposition was based on this environmental damage. That is a valid planning matter. Therefore the local opposition was relevant in planning terms.

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