Robert Jenrick launches public inquiry on Cumbria coal mine as campaigners hail ‘startling U-turn’


nvironmental campaigners have hailed a decision by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick to “call in” a controversial application for a new coal mine on the Cumbrian coast.

In a letter to Cumbria County Council, the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) said Mr Jenrick believed the application had raised issues of “more than local importance”.

It said he had decided that a public inquiry should be held to explore the arguments put forward by both supporters and opponents of the proposal by West Cumbria Mining (WCM) to open the deep mine near Whitehaven.

It follows intense pressure by scientists and campaigners who warned it would undermine the Government’s hopes of progress when it hosts the international Cop26 climate change talks in Glasgow later this year.

Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Tony Bosworth said it was “a startling, but very welcome U-turn” after ministers had previously resisted calls to intervene in the application.

“It was not possible for the Government to maintain, as it claimed only two months ago, that this was just a matter of local importance and the decision will now rightly be taken at national level,” he said.

Robert Jenrick

/ PA Archive

However the decision is likely to dismay some northern Tory MPs who were banking on the project to bring much-needed jobs and investment to the region.

Workington MP Mark Jenkinson accused ministers of a “capitulation to climate change alarmists”.

“This represents a risk to significant private sector investment in Cumbria and the Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda,” he said.

The announcement came after the council said last month it would reconsider the application by WCM to mine for coking coal for use in steel production.

The move prompted the company to declare last week that it was lodging papers with the High Court to commence judicial review proceedings.


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