Even The Coal Authority Oppose Coal Mine Plan – Why Don’t We Know About It?

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Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole
Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole

Even The Coal Authority oppose the coal mine planned under the Irish Sea. It is a mystery why none of this is reported in the press.  Those opposing the coal mine include:  RSPB, Natural England, National Trust, The Environment Agency, Colourful Coast Partnership, Coal Action Network, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and many more.   So why do the local and national press insist on parroting West Cumbria Mining’s own press releases?

There is a theory that this coal mine plan is a Trojan Horse to ensure deep mining infrastructure is embedded into Cumbria.  This theory is borne out by several facts:

  • The money financing West Cumbria Mining is from China, a country looking to make a killing (literally) from building new nuclear reactors here in the UK.  New reactors require a plan for the waste, what shady deals have been done in the corridors of power?
  • George Monbiot ‘the UKs leading environmentalist’ usually so vocal in his opposition to “the truly lethal coal industry”  has said nothing about this plan for the first deep coal mine in the UK for 30 years.  People may remember that George  is very keen on new nuclear and he could not find it in himself to congratulate  Cumbria County Council for very sensibly saying no to the deep geological nuclear dump plan in 2013.
  • There are so many groups opposing this coal mine plan for very good reasons but we are not being told this in the press.   Meanwhile the mega buck inducements are being ratcheted up.  Depressed areas of West Cumbria are being groomed to expect apprenticeships, employment and £millions of community benefits.  The infrastructure and workforce is being put into place for a deep geological dump courtesy of this coal mine plan.  The Operations Director, Steve Reece of West Cumbria Mining’s previous job was with the government on behalf of the nuclear industry.  He was tasked with ensuring the infrastructure and workforce was in place for geological disposal of nuclear wastes.
  • West Cumbria Mining talk of their “current focus” on coal mining suggesting that the focus may shift elsewhere once the plan is firmly embedded in hearts, minds and wallets.

There are many reasons to oppose this coal mine and maybe the geological nuclear dump Trojan Horse theory is a conspiracy theory too far?  However – the lack of press coverage on the damage that deep mining would do under this area of West Cumbria suggests that the plan is being given a free ride.  A free ride for as long as possible to allow the idea of deep mining to have fertile ground when the geological nuclear dump rears its head again?  And it will rear its head again unless geological disposal of nuclear wastes is given the thumbs down, as has happened in Scotland.

Here is The Coal Authority’s Opposition to the coal mine plan…

For the Attention of: Mrs Rachel Brophy – Case Officer Cumbria County Council

[By Email: developmentcontrol@cumbria.gov.uk]

4 July 2017

Dear Mrs Brophy

PLANNING APPLICATION: 4/17/9007

Development of an existing surface mine entrance for a new underground metallurgical coal mine and associated surface development including: coal storage and processing buildings; access road; security fencing; lighting; outfall to sea; surface water management system; landscaping; at the former Marchon site (High Road) Whitehaven; interconnecting underground coal conveyor to a new coal loading and railway siding to the Cumbria Coast Railway Line, with adjoining office/welfare facilities; extension of railway under pass; security fencing; lighting; landscaping; construction of a temporary development compound and associated permanent service access off Mirehouse Road, Pow Beck Valley south of Whitehaven at Pow Beck Valley and area from Marchon Site to St Bees Coast, Cumbria

Thank you for your consultation email of 7 June 2017 seeking the views of The Coal Authority on the above planning application.

The Coal Authority is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. As a statutory consultee, The Coal Authority has a duty to respond to planning applications and development plans in order to protect the public and the environment in mining areas.

The Coal Authority Response: Substantive Concern

I have reviewed the proposals and confirm that the application site falls within the defined Development High Risk Area; therefore within the application site and surrounding area there are coal mining features and hazards which need to be considered in relation to the determination of this planning application.

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Protecting the public and the environment in mining areas

The majority of the proposed built development is located clear of the Development High Risk Area, however, certain aspects of the proposal do encroach in the High Risk Area:

  •   The Conveyor Intermediate Access Station would be located within the zone of

    influence of recorded mine entry (shaft) 297514-001;

  •   The underground coal conveyor passes through a thick outcropping coal seam which

    may have been subject to historic unrecorded working; and

  •   Construction Access B (including road extension) and temporary laydown on the

    former Main Band Colliery site would be located within the zones of influence of mine entries (shafts) 298514-019 and 298514-020

    The Coal Authority notes that Chapter 13 of the Environmental Statement considers ground conditions and contamination matters, however, we do not consider that the contents of the chapter adequately address the potential risks posed by coal mining legacy to those specific elements of the scheme located within the Development High Risk Area as outlined above.

    The Coal Authority takes this opportunity to advise the applicant that any form of development over or within the influencing distance of a mine entry can be dangerous and raises significant safety and engineering risks and exposes all parties to potential financial liabilities. The Coal Authority has adopted a policy where, as a general precautionary principle, the building over or within the influencing distance of a mine entry should wherever possible be avoided. Our adopted policy on this matter can be found at: http://www.gov.uk/government/publications/building-on-or-within-the-influencing-distance-of- mine-entries

    It is a requirement of the National Planning Policy Framework, paragraphs 120-121, that the applicant demonstrates to the satisfaction of the LPA that the application site is safe, stable and suitable for development. In addition, the National Planning Practice Guidance in section 45 makes it clear that planning applications in the defined Development High Risk Area must be accompanied by a Coal Mining Risk Assessment.

The Coal Authority Recommendation to the LPA

In accordance with the agreed risk-based approach to development management in Development High Risk Areas, the applicant should be informed that they need to submit a Coal Mining Risk Assessment Report as part of this application which relates to those parts of the development proposal located within the Development High Risk Area.

Without such an assessment of any risks to the development proposal posed by past coal mining activity, based on up-to-date coal mining information, the Coal Authority does not consider that the LPA has sufficient information to determine this planning application and therefore objects to this proposal.

If the applicant ultimately fails to demonstrate to the LPA that the application site is safe and stable to accommodate the proposed development then the LPA may refuse planning permission, in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework, paragraphs 120- 121.

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Protecting the public and the environment in mining areas

The Coal Authority would be very pleased to receive for further consultation and comment any subsequent Coal Mining Risk Assessment Report which is submitted in support of this planning application.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like to discuss this matter further. Yours sincerely

James Smith BSc. (Hons), Dip.URP, MRTPI Planning Liaison Manager

General Information for the Applicant

Under the Coal Industry Act 1994 any intrusive activities, including initial site investigation boreholes, and/or any subsequent treatment of coal mine workings/coal mine entries for ground stability purposes require the prior written permission of The Coal Authority, since such activities can have serious public health and safety implications. Failure to obtain permission will result in trespass, with the potential for court action. In the event that you are proposing to undertake such work in the Forest of Dean local authority area our permission may not be required; it is recommended that you check with us prior to commencing any works. Application forms for Coal Authority permission and further guidance can be obtained from The Coal Authority’s website at: http://www.gov.uk/get-a-permit-to-deal-with-a-coal-mine-on-your-property

Disclaimer

The above consultation response is provided by The Coal Authority as a Statutory Consultee and is based upon the latest available data on the date of the response, and electronic consultation records held by The Coal Authority since 1 April 2013. The comments made are also based upon only the information provided to The Coal Authority by the Local Planning Authority and/or has been published on the Council’s website for consultation purposes in relation to this specific planning application. The views and conclusions contained in this response may be subject to review and amendment by The Coal Authority if additional or new data/information (such as a revised Coal Mining Risk Assessment) is provided by the Local Planning Authority or the Applicant for consultation purposes.

In formulating this response The Coal Authority has taken full account of the professional conclusions reached by the competent person who has prepared the Coal Mining Risk Assessment or other similar report. In the event that any future claim for liability arises in relation to this development The Coal Authority will take full account of the views, conclusions and mitigation previously expressed by the professional advisers for this development in relation to ground conditions and the acceptability of development.

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Protecting the public and the environment in mining areas

 

 

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