I and four other Cumbria county councillors have called for a special full council meeting over the West Cumbria Mine application, following a decision by council officers to take a neutral position on the application.
The requested for a special meeting was in order to ask specifically for a meeting of the council’s Development Control & Regulation committee to be convened so it can confirm its position on the application for a deep coal mine in Whitehaven, to produce coking coal for the UK and European steel industry, ahead of the public inquiry which is due to start in September.
The DC&R committee has considered the planning application for a mine three times between March 2019 and October 2020: on each occasion there was an exhaustively detailed process looking at every aspect of the proposals, with reports running to hundreds of pages being produced and hours of debate and discussion. On all three occasions the committee voted in favour of the mine: the first two votes were unanimous, the last by a four to one majority, and in all three cases there was majority cross-party support.
Despite these three decisions by elected members at the conclusion of a full and proper process, officers of the council submitted in the last 48 hours before the deadline to submit the council’s case, a neutral position.
Whether you believe we should be for or against this mine, it Is an abdication of responsibility to pretend to be neutral. Speakers at the public inquiry should be able to indicate where the council actually stands, and that decision should be taken in public by elected councillors who are accountable to the voters, not by officers and not behind closed doors.
For procedural reasons, the motion to be considered at full council cannot and must not pre-judge which way the Development Control and Regulation committee should vote.
Among other reasons this is becayse seventeen members of the full council serve on the DC&R committee, If the motion considered at full council indicated which way the council expects the committee to vote, this would open up a potential quagmire of legal issues and potential accusations of malpractice, of which the fact that those seventeen councillors would be unable to vote on the motion without pre-judging their position at the committee would be only the first.
I sincerely hope the council will have the opportunity to submit an informed local opinion on this application at the public inquiry.
The notice requesting a meeting was submitted by myself and councillors Arthur Lamb, Graham Roberts, Mike Johnson and Val Tarbitt
It reads as follows
“We the undersigned hereby give notice under rule 3.1 (f) of the Council procedure rules and part 5A of the constitution that we request a special meeting of council to be called to consider a single item of business, specifically the following proposed resolution:
‘This council believes that it should be not be taking a neutral stance in the matter of the Planning Application No. 4/17/9007 by West Cumbria mining for a new mine to extract metallurgical coal.
This council therefore requests the Head of Paid Service to convene a meeting of the Development Control and Regulation committee prior to the public inquiry, so that members of the committee can consider their response to this application in the light of current planning considerations including the implications of the Climate Change Committee report on the Sixth Carbon Budget and the council can provide a better informed, definitive and more relevant contribution to the Inquiry.’
This cannot wait until the next scheduled meeting of the full council due to take place on 8th September as that would not leave time for the Development Control and Regulation committee to be called before the start of the public inquiry, which is scheduled for 7th September.”
At the time of putting up this post council officers are currently considering the request for a special full council meeting.