Dear Friends,

Big apologies as this will read like blowing my own toy trumpet – but recent uncorrected press reports re the legal challenge have stated that climate groups and their campaign organisers were “involved in the legal challenge” . This is not true. See below….

MANY THANKS to all who have supported the Legal Challenge from myself Marianne Bennett (aka Birkby) against  Cumbria County Council’s decision to approve West Cumbria Mining’s original planning application.


My decision to take on the legal challenge was not made easily.   As a known anti-nuclear campaigner and founder of the small, volunteer anti-nuclear group Radiation Free Lakeland, I  have no climate activist following (despite nuclear being the ultimate block on a healthy future). Our focus at Radiation Free Lakeland is nuclear safety. Namely to stop new nuclear build, the dumping and dispersal of nuclear wastes and the biggie – the proposed Geological Disposal of Nuclear Wastes.  I took the Legal case on with the extraordinary help of top lawyers Leigh Day primarily because at that time no one and no other group in Cumbria or the UK was willing to take such a bold stance against the plan.  The plan to mine for coal so near to the Sellafield nuclear waste plant and directly below the radioactive Cumbrian Mud Patch is outrageous on many levels.  So on behalf of Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole which is a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign – we took up the challenge – and that challenge has been successful in that we have engaged the interest and energy of climate activists and West Cumbria Mining have been forced back to the drawing board  (they deny their new application is anything to do with the legal challenge- more on that below!). 

Brief Time- Line of the Legal Challenge 

31st May 2017 – West Cumbria Mining applied to Cumbria County Council for planning permision for a new underground coal mine with coking coal intended for use in the steel industry and middlings coal intended as a fuel source for other industrial uses.

March 2019 – Cumbria County Council resolved to grant planning permission.

June 21st 2019 – Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole wrote to Cumbria County Council pointing out that their flawed decision justified a reconsideration.  The Secretary of State had also been asked by Tim Farron MP and KCCH and others to call in the decision for his consideration.

October 31st Cumbria County Council’s Development Control and Regulation Committee reconsidered their resolution and once again resolved unanimously to grant consent.

November 2019 – the Secretary of State resolved not to call in the decision  (In the same month the CEO of West Cumbria Mining was appointed to the government Committee on Radioactive Waste Management – tasked with delivery of a Geological Disposal Facility)

The application by Marianne Bennett V Cumbria County Council  for Judicial Review was filed on 12th December 2019.   The Grounds included failure to consider Green House Gas emissions,  15% extraction and ‘need’ for Middlings coal and failure to have regard to the introduction of the net zero target by 2050 into the Climate Change Act 2008 on 27thJune 2019.

 7th May 2020  – The High Court made an order listing the hearing for the 18th May 2020. Coincidentally, on the same date, West Cumbria Mining submitted the amendments to its planning application to Cumbria County Council.   West Cumbria Mining proposed that they would amend their planning application to exclude Middlings Coal – ie the Middlings Coal would undergo a new process on site to render it into Coking Coal.  In order to do this the overall quality of the coking coal would be reduced to include a much greater ash and sulphur content.  

13th May 2019 – Marianne Bennett withdraws the now null Judicial Review challenge against the original planning application.  

Fast forward to August 2020 and the thorny issue of who pays for the Court Costs.    

Battle Over Costs

West Cumbria Mining (the Interested Party) applied to the High Court for their costs of over £26,000 to be paid for by M Bennett.  The Judge – Mr Justice Dove ruled that “In short, there is in my view no substance to the Interested Party’s application for costs against the Claimant and it is dismissed.”

M Bennett on behalf of KCCH made a counter claim for costs on the basis that the amendments to the developers planning application had been made with a view to overcoming the grounds upon which judicial review was based.   Unfortunately for us the Judge dismissed this claim also.


This means that Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole have achieved, despite all the odds stacked against, us a massive victory in doing what we set out to do – namely to Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole and send the Developers back to the drawing board (date of amended planning application may be 2nd October). 

This achievement would not have been possible without the massive generosity of all those who have contributed to the Crowd Fund.  Our lawyers Leigh Day have put in far more time and expertise than the amount we have raised.  By not achieving any Costs through the High Court – All the monies raised will now go towards covering some of Leigh Days costs (the work they have done has been far in excess of the monies raised) and also the court costs.  

This means that we no longer have a fighting fund – but the good news is that others are now ‘on the case.’   

We will continue to oppose the amended planning application and with all our collective opposition  – we will stop this plan in its tracks for good.   


There is more information here on how you can continue to TAKE ACTION against the plan to mine for coal under the Irish Sea spitting distance from the worlds most dangerous nuclear waste site, Sellafield.

One thought on “LEGAL CHALLENGE – The Story So Far…

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