Environmental group Friends of the Earth have launched a legal challenge against the UK government following the recent decision to give planning permission for a new coal mine in Cumbria. The group will file its claim later this month.
The green light for the mine at Woodhouse Colliery was given by the government last month. West Cumbria Mining, the company behind the project, say that the new mine will bring benefits to the local area including through direct employment and skilled training for local young people.
However, the plans for the colliery have been met with objection by environmental groups including Friends of the Earth. A representative for the group said that due to the climate emergency, the matter shouldn’t need to be taken to court.
South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC), is also considering legal action and sent a letter to the Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove, in December seeking more information and setting out some of the errors in law in his decision.
The colliery opening would signal a return to deep coal mining in the UK for the first time in almost a decade. The once thriving industry was slowly dismantled through the 20th and early 21st century. The last deep coal mine left open in the UK was Kellingley Colliery in North Yorkshire. This closed in 2015.
Niall Toru, lawyer at Friends of the Earth, said: “By giving the go-ahead to this polluting and totally unnecessary coal mine the government has not only made the wrong decision for our economy and the climate, we believe it has also acted unlawfully. Michael Gove has failed to account for the significant climate impacts of this mine, or how the much-needed move to green steelmaking will be impacted by its approval.
“The steel industry is under no illusion that it must decarbonise if we’re to meet our climate goals, which calls into doubt the long-term viability of the mine and the jobs used to justify it.
Just as many jobs could be created locally through a programme to guarantee every home in the area is properly insulated. This would bring a myriad of benefits the mine simply can’t offer, such as lower energy bills, warmer homes and fewer carbon emissions released into our atmosphere.
“With the world facing a climate emergency, we shouldn’t have to take this challenge to court. Any sensible government should be choosing to leave coal in the ground, and accelerating the transition to a safe, clean and sustainable future.”
Rowan Smith, solicitor at Leigh Day, said: “A critical issue raised by Friends of the Earth during the inquiry was the signal that granting a new coal mine in the middle of a climate emergency would send to the rest of the world. Friends of the Earth believes that this was never properly grappled with by either the Inspector or the Secretary of State. We hope that the court will agree that this argument justifies a full hearing.”