Cumbria County Council Put On Notice

Dear Friends,

Thanks to so many of you who supported our call out for crowd funding way back in November 2017. Only With your help did we secure the advice of top Lawyers,  Leigh Day.

Leigh Day have on our instruction written an excellent letter to Cumbria County Council putting them *on notice* that their approval of the first deep coal mine in the UK in 30 years puts the Council at serious risk of legal challenge.

The downside to this is that we now have no funds left for legal challenge and we are exploring the possibility of a brave soul stepping up who is eligible for legal aid.

Below is a press release sent out to all press (the press most notably the national press have so far abandoned any attempt at journalistic honesty in reporting on this coal mine and our battle to stop it)



Campaigners battling to stop the first deep coal mine in the UK in 30 years have issued a warning to Cumbria County Council that their unanimous vote of approval on 19th March 2019 could be the focus of a legal challenge.

The letter issued by top environmental lawyers Leigh Day acting on behalf of Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole puts the Council on notice that there is a *serious risk of legal challenge.*

In March Cumbria County Council’s Development Control and Regulation Committee resolved that planning permission should be granted for a major new underground metallurgical coal mine on the former Marchon Chemical Works site in Whitehaven, Cumbria. Finalised planning permission is not actually expected to be granted for at least a few months as West Cumbria Mining and others need to enter into a special 106 agreement for example with surrounding landowners in advance of that final permission being granted. KCCH was also informed, on 13 June 2019, that the Secretary of State is still considering whether to call-in the application for his own determination and that he does not expect to make a decision on this before July.

Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole is a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign, RaFL is a small civil society group whose primary focus is on nuclear safety, the mine would extend to 5 miles from Sellafield. KCCH was one of the many objectors to the planning application focussing its objections on environmental grounds.

The letter sent to Cumbria County Council on 20th June from Leigh Day informs the County Council of a number of flaws and omissions in their planning assessment and invites the Committee to formally re-consider its resolution to grant permission.

The issues and legal flaws are listed and described in detail in the letter. They include Cumbria County Council’s failures to consider:

GHG emissions of the mining operations
The need for, and GHG impacts of, Middlings Coal
GHG impacts of an increase in coal production.
4. Failure to consider and apply Policy ENV2 of Copeland’s Local Plan (2013 to 2028)

The letter states in conclusion:

*For the reasons given above, KCCH formally requests that the Committee reconsiders its resolution to grant planning permission for the Whitehaven Coalmine development and asks that the Committee has full regard to each of the considerations listed above when it does so. The Council’s officers are asked to facilitate that process. In the event that the Council refuses to reconsider its resolution to grant, KCCH requests that the Council provide its reasons for doing so.*

Marianne Birkby from KCCH says *we are delighted that Leigh Day have agreed to represent campaigners battling to stop this coal mine which is disastrous on so many different levels and we hope that Cumbria County Council take this opportunity rethink their decision which will impact on so many generations to come*

Anna Dews, solicitor at Leigh Day, said: *We are in the midst of a global climate crisis and our client is strongly of the view that Cumbria Country Council must now rethink its resolution to grant planning permission for the Whitehaven Coalmine. In doing so it will have to reconcile the fact that coal-fired power was the biggest single contributor to the rise of emissions in 2018 with the need to urgently tackle the climate crisis in the local area.*

Rowan Smith, solicitor at Leigh Day, added *Since the Committee resolved to grant planning permission, British Steel (one of the proposed main recipients of the coal) went into compulsory liquidation and the UK government laid legislation in parliament for a net zero Climate Change Act target. Our client KCCH strongly believes that these developments are very persuasive reasons for the Committee to rethink its decision. If it does not, then KCCH will be prepared to take legal action.


Main Text of the Letter to Cumbria County Council- references available


As you are aware, on 19 March 2019, Cumbria County Council’s Development Control and Regulation Committee (the Council; the Committee) resolved that planning permission should be granted for a major new underground metallurgical coal mine on the *former Marchon* site in Whitehaven, Cumbria subject to various matters including the execution of a section 106 agreement. This permission, if and when actually granted (presumably by an officer acting under delegated powers), will allow for 50 years’ of continuous coal-mining operations. At full capacity, the mine will produce 2,430,000 tonnes per annum of *coking coal* and 350,000 tonnes per annum of *middlings coal*(otherwise known as *industrial coal*).

KCCH was one of the many objectors to the planning application, focussing its objections on environmental grounds. KCCH noted the lack of any carbon footprint assessment of the emissions from the mining activities and it doubted the applicant’s (West Cumbria Mining) allegations of expected CO2 savings from import substitution of coking coal.

KCCH does not expect planning permission actually to be granted for at least a few months from the date of this letter, having regard to the need for WCM and others to enter into a significant section 106 agreement in advance of any permission being granted. KCCH was also informed, on 13 June 2019, that the Secretary of State is still considering whether to call-in the application for his own determination and that he does not expect to make a decision on this before July.

Consequently, it may be some time before a grant of planning permission could be made. KCCH nonetheless seeks – by way of this letter – to inform the County Council of a number of flaws and omissions in the planning assessment underlying the Committee’s resolution to grant. We consider that these flaws also represent a number of grounds for a legal challenge, should any subsequent decision to grant planning permission be based on the same reasoning/assessment. Through this letter we, therefore, intend to put the Council on notice that there is a serious risk of legal challenge, should any such planning permission be granted.

Furthermore, we invite the Committee to formally re-consider its resolution to grant permission (and by this letter ask officers to refer the matter back to the Committee for that purpose), taking into account the substance of each of the matters raised below. Each of the matters is plainly a material consideration which could, and we believe would, lead the Committee to reverse its previous resolution.

With that in mind we note that British Steel went into compulsory liquidation in May, putting 5,000 jobs at risk and prompting a Parliamentary inquiry which will consider the serious challenges being faced by the UK steel sector. We consider that this recent news fundamentally undermines the *need* case for *coking coal* in the UK market. As a result, it materially impacts on the Council’s assessment that the “supply of indigenous metallurgical coal to support the UK steel industry in place of imported coal is positive and should be afforded considerable weight” and its conclusion that there will be a *likely need* for metallurgical coal for the steel industry which has the potential to result in *national benefits* of *considerable weight* (officer’s report at 6.514).

For this reason alone, we request that the Committee formally reconsider its resolution to grant. There has been a clear change to the factual circumstances underlying the resolution made on 19 March and it cannot be known whether the Committee would reach the same conclusion again in light of these new facts.

Issues and legal flaws

Failure to consider GHG emissions of the mining operations

There can be no doubt that the mine will emit green-house gases (GHG) through its production processes. This was accepted by officers in the report to the Committee (OR) at 6.44. KCCH can see no evidence that the applicant provided any estimate for the GHG emissions arising from the mining operations themselves. It appears that the only assessment of site emissions is in Chapter 15 of the Environmental Impact Assessment, but this concerned local air quality impacts and dust emissions.

The development’s impact on climate change was central to the planning balance. The Committee was required to consider this under both national and local policy. In carrying out the balancing act at *stage 1* of the NPPF paragraph 211 test (and the policy test in DC13 of the Cumbria Minerals and Waste Local Plan), the emissions from mining operations were afforded *moderate weight”*(officer report at 6.503). This is the same broad category of weight (“moderate”) afforded to the potential benefits alleged to arise through GHG savings from import substitution of coking coal (at 6.502). However, whilst a crude estimate (5.3 million tonnes of CO2) was provided for the alleged GHG savings, there is no equivalent estimate for the expected emissions from the operations themselves.

It follows that the mine’s GHG emissions was a material consideration that was left out of account. Furthermore, the Committee could not rationally balance (as it needed to do) (i) the alleged GHG savings against (ii) the new GHG emissions, without comparable (and robust) information on each.

Failure to consider the need for, and GHG impacts of, Middlings Coal

The production of middlings coal will constitute up to 15% of total output. This is roughly 364,000 tonnes per annum and is a significant amount of production. It correlates, for example, to the 360,000 tonnes per annum of coking coal that will be supplied to UK steel plants.

In stark contrast to the Committee’s assessment of the coking coal to be produced from the mine, the Committee has failed to lawfully consider the need for the middlings coal – both in terms of the level of demand for it and where that demand will arise.

The OR states, at 6.70 that:

…since government policy is to move away from coal as an energy source, the likely market for this product will be industrial processes such as cement manufacture. Since the middlings coal would otherwise be disposed of with the waste rock material, I consider that if markets are available for this product for non-energy uses, this is potentially a beneficial use of a product that would otherwise be disposed of as waste. (emphasis added)

There is no further assessment of whether such markets are available, nor where they are located (whether in the UK, Europe or elsewhere in the world). There is no consideration of the likelihood of import substitution for middlings coal, or the CO2 emissions associated with transporting it to its end destination. Moreover, the Committee failed to consider whether – if permission were to be refused – any *need* for middlings coal would be likely to be met by imported industrial coal or lower carbon-emitting sources.

In short, the Committee failed to have regard to the carbon footprint of the middlings coal and its potential GHG emissions impacts. This failing fundamentally undermined any assessment of the development’s overall impact on climate change.

It was irrational for the Committee to consider only the potential carbon footprint of the coking coal and not all coal to be produced. What is more, the Council has suggested a 15% restriction on the production of middlings coal, without providing any reasons why this is a suitable limit (see the officer’s report at 6.72-6.74).

Failure to consider the GHG impacts of an increase in coal production

The UK Parliament passed a motion to declare a climate emergency on 1 May 2019. As the High Court recently stated, the increase in global temperatures is *potentially catastrophic* (R (Spurrier and others) v Secretary of State for Transport [2019] EWHC 1070 (Admin) at [559]). In this context, it was imperative on the Committee to scrutinise any potential for an increase in GHG impacts arising from increased coal production at Whitehaven. It failed to do so.

Any addition to the global stock of fossil fuels will de facto increase the likelihood of GHG emissions. If the Whitehaven Coalmine were to be permitted, a very substantial amount of coal will be added to the global stock over a very significant amount of time (50 years). This will clearly increase GHG emissions and is a highly material consideration that the Council should have had regard to.

This is notwithstanding any (non-binding) intentions of the applicant that the coal to be produced will not be used for power-generation industries (KCCH have particular concerns that there is little guarantee on how the middlings coal will eventually be used and nothing to prevent it from being used in power-generation industries).


It is also notwithstanding any (again non-binding) intentions of the applicant that some of the coal to be produced will substitute for imports that would otherwise have had to travel further (with associated transport-related CO2 emissions). In addition to there being no assessment of import-substitution in relation to middlings coal (see point 2 above), KCCH highlights that the vast majority of coking coal will be exported (only 360,000 tonnes is destined for the UK steel plants at Scunthorpe and Port Talbot).

Nothing in the proposed planning permission restricts these exports to Europe (or Western Europe) and it remains entirely possible for the applicant to export the coal further afield (particularly as the permission will remain in place for 50 years, over which time the markets for both coking coal and middlings coal will continue to change). If the coal is exported further afield, the alleged GHG savings from import substitution could easily be cancelled out, or outweighed by additional transport emissions associated with exported coal from the mine to non-European destinations.

The Committee should have considered these possibilities but failed to do so.

Worldwide prices

Finally, the increase in coal production could lead to a depreciation in the worldwide price of coal which could, in turn, lead to an increase in demand for coal. The OR noted that this concern had been raised (at 6.45) but concluded that it was an issue *far broader than can be addressed or influenced through this planning application* (at 6.50). That is not a sustainable answer.

This conflicts with the approach taken by the Secretary of State in his decision on the Highthorn open cast coal mining development at Druridge Bay in south-east Northumberland. In assessing this application, the Inspector did consider whether the additional production of coal could affect international prices, albeit he concluded that it could not (at C114 of the report) and the Secretary of State did not disagree with this position (para 34 of the letter). Notably, the Highthorn mine proposes to extract significantly less coal than at Whitehaven (the total amount of coal to be extracted will be a maximum of 3 million tonnes) and for a much shorter period (5 years).

Climate Change Act 2008

The failings noted at points 1-3 above also prevented the Committee from fully appreciating, and having regard to, the Development’s contribution to the UK’s CO2 emissions, in a context where the Government has set legally binding national targets to cut emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050 through the Climate Change Act 2008 (in order to comply with the UK’s international commitments to keep the global temperature rise to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels in 2050).

What is more, on 12 June 2019 legislation was laid before Parliament designed to implement the Government’s announcement that the UK will eradicate its net contribution to climate change by 2050. The legislation will amend the Climate Change Act 2008 to achieve this and it is expected to greatly enhance the duties imposed by the Act. We consider this recent announcement to be another material change in circumstances, since the resolution to grant, mandating reconsideration by the Committee.

Failure to consider and apply ENV2

Policy ENV2 of Copeland’s Local Plan (2013-2028) is not listed as a relevant policy for the Development in the OR. However, it states that

To reinforce the Coastal Zone’s assets and opportunities the Council will

E Protect the intrinsic qualities of the St Bees Head Heritage Coast in terms of development proposals within or affecting views from the designation. At the same time encourage schemes which assist appropriate access to and interpretation of the Heritage Coast area.

The Development clearly impacts on the St Bees Heritage Coast area. Officers advised that it would have a *moderate adverse impact* on the heritage sensitivity of St. Bees Heritage Coast (at 6.375 and 6.383).

However, there appears to have been no consideration whatsoever of development plan policy ENV2 and whether the *intrinsic qualities* of the St Bees Heritage Coast could be protected. As a result, the Committee has unlawfully failed to have regard to a relevant policy in the development plan.


For the reasons given above, KCCH formally requests that the Committee reconsiders its resolution to grant planning permission for the Whitehaven Coalmine development and asks that the Committee has full regard to each of the considerations listed above when it does so. The Council’s officers are asked to facilitate that process.

In the event that the Council refuses to reconsider its resolution to grant, KCCH requests that the Council provide its reasons for doing so.

Please send all future correspondence in this matter to Rowan Smith and Anna Dews, solicitors with conduct of this matter, using the details in our letterhead.
Yours faithfully,
Leigh Day


Thank you for signing the petition Call in the Decision and Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole (its too near Sellafield), can you help spread the word by forwarding the link below to your friends?

MANY Thanks

Marianne Birkby


You Can Send This Postcard to the Secretary of State to Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole

This template can easily be printed out on one side of ordinary A4 paper (just drag the template image onto the desktop to print it out – or highlight it to print)

Follow the instructions on the paper (can also be seen in the slideshow)

The heart can be coloured in for Xtra effect!

Remember to put a 2nd class stamp on.

Your name will then be added to those asking that the Secretary of State call in the decision made by Cumbria County Council so that it can be properly looked at in a public inquiry




Postcard to SOS - KCCH.jpeg
Postcard to Print out on A4 paper to fold up and send to the Secretary of State asking him to call in the Coal mine decision. 

Bad News and Good News

Dear Friends,

There is bad news and good news.  Bad news is that apparently the Development Control & Regulation decision cannot be ‘called in’ internally by Cumbria County Council

Good news is that all your fantastic emails and messages to councillors and others has resulted in Tim Farron MP requesting that the Secretary of State calls in this diabolic decision to give a green light to the first deep coal mine in the UK in decades.

We shall give an update on how we can best support this request for a call in by Tim Farron MP to the Secretary of State as soon as possible.

In the meantime – for those folk who were not able to get to the meeting, here are a few videos taken on the day (sorry I didn’t get all the speakers including myself!)   Grab a cuppa and watch the terrible drama unfold – and make no mistake this will make your toes curl.  It is significant that the proximity to Sellafield was not even brought up as an issue by the Council officers.  Sickeningly the members of the committee laughed their socks off when I pointed out that a liquefaction event had taken place in Barrow in the 1800’s – the ground at Sellafield is at high risk of liquefaction in the event of seismic activity.  The last thing we need is earthquake inducing deep mining and massive fresh water extraction to wash the coal (to be extracted from a fault near Whitehaven – they kept that freshwater extraction quiet!).


Part 1. Council Officials addressing the  Development Control and Regulation Committee of Cumbria County Council. The full council did not have a chance to debate this.  We heard Lib Dem Cllr and Chair of the meeting Geoff Cook clearly approve of the first deep coal mine in the UK in decades. Incredibly the close proximity (8km) to Sellafield was not discussed at all by councillors or by their officials.



Part 2 . Part 2. Official of Cumbria County Council outlining how adverse effects can be mitigated from the first deep coal mine in the UK in decades (really?)


Part 3. Dr Henry Adams of SLACCtt making a presentation to Cumbria County Council “SLACCtt most strongly objects to West Cumbria Mining’s application because the carbon emissions it would add are so huge that they would have very significant negative consequences that would far outweigh the benefits claimed.”


Part 4.  Dr Laurie Michaelis IPCC Emissions report author and coordinator of Living Witness.  making a breathtaking presentation to Cumbria County Council –

“Speaking to you feels like possibly the single most important thing I’ll do in my life.”

which they totally ignored.


Part 5. Sam of Radiation Free Lakeland/Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole exposes West Cumbria Mining’s false promises over jobs. “It would be truly difficult to find a bigger dead duck proposal than producing fossil fuels for a declining European steel industry. …Cumbria has had it’s fair share of dead and dying industries – old coal and now nuclear – we do not need another dead duck industry . . . Coal is not the future. It could perhaps be said of the WCM proposal that it was a well-intentioned attempt to bring employment to the area. It could equally be said that it was an unrealistic bubble from the start What we need are jobs that do have a future. Please look to the future stability of jobs in Cumbria and JUST SAY NO.”


Part 6.  Dr Stuart Parkinson, Executive Director of Scientists for Global Responsibility   “In summary, approving this application for a coal mine would be a huge step backwards for efforts to tackle climate change – and thus would increase the risks of extreme weather events such as storms and floods. Meanwhile, the economic case for the mine is flawed. Therefore, I strongly urge the planning committee to reject the application. ”   

Part 7. Mayor of Copeland, Mike Starkie tells councillors to Ignore the “sensationalist” claims of the objectors who have nothing to do with West Cumbria and the objectors views should carry no weight whatsoever (?! what a brass neck this Mayor has… many objectors are local to Whitehaven  and WCM is a dodgy company funded by who knows who from who knows where). Councillors agree entirely with the Mayor of Copeland (who makes the ‘Jaws’ Mayor look quite reasonable) and vote unanimously to approve the first deep coal mine in the UK in decades.  The Mayor points out that Sellafield are right behind this plan to mine deep holes in Cumbria.




Will 3 Councillors Please Step Up to Protect Cumbria and the Planet??


Mark Kirkbride CEO of West Cumbria Mining going into the Council Chamber. Photo credit Philip Gilligan of South Lakeland CND

Dear Friends,

We are shell shocked but regathering our resolve to challenge this outrageous decision taken by just a handful of Cumbria County Councillors.   There are legal actions we can take and are looking into but we feel the first course of action should be for CCC to have the chance to rethink this shameful decision.  We do not have much time to do this – just till early next week (we think – any advice welcome!)

There is a way to do this with an internal ‘call in’.

So it would be fantastic if folk could write to Cumbria County Councillors and ask for this decision to be ‘called in’.

The Councillors details are here…

An example letter is below but using your own words making these points would be really good.

On the 19th March The Development & Regulation Committee  voted unanimously in favour of the plan for the first deep coal mine in the UK in decades not far from Sellafield. This terrible plan hassuch damaging consequencesfor the planet and for Cumbria it should be discussed and debated by the whole council.   The Scrutiny and Overview committee decision can then be informed by the feeling of the whole council rather than by a handful of committee members.
It would just take 3 councillors step up to protect Cumbria and agree to a *call in* . If you are one of those councillors and would like to have a briefing to advise on wording for the call in then please urgently contact
From CCCs website:  The *call in* requires three non-Cabinet members to email the Assistant Director- Corporate Governance, giving reasons and identifying a Lead Member.  The notice must specify which aspect or aspects of the decision the members wish to question or challenge.
Yours sincerely,

There is also a petition which we are keeping open can you help spread the word by forwarding the link below to your friends?

Many Thanks

Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole

Cumbria County Council would be responsible for “causing many thousands of climate deaths” should this Coal Mine plan be approved says Ecological Consultant


You can still write to oppose this plan until the Planning Meeting on 19th March – email

This is from South Lakes Action on Climate Change –     Bravo!


Dear Rachel Brophy,

Re: Application ref 4/17/9007 by West Cumbria Mining Ltd re proposed coal mine at Whitehaven

Last week’s High Court judgement: A pro-fossil fuel Paragraph in the 2018 NPPF is effectively illegal.

I am writing on behalf of South Lakes Action on Climate Change to make Planning Officers aware of a High Court Judgement which effectively makes illegal a paragraph in the ‘Oil, gas and coal exploration and extraction’ section of the 2018 NPPF, which has important implications as regards how climate change impacts should be considered as a planning consideration at local government level. We at SLACCtt most strongly advise that this ruling and their implications are given urgent and priority attention by the Planning Officers involved in producing their report to the Development Control Committee on WCM’s coal mine application.

The attached letter is an addition to our letter of objection dated 18/2/18 and covers the above key addition as well as important implications of IPCC’s Special Report for 1.5 degrees, WCM’s carbon emissions and the many thousands of consequential climate deaths, and also a critique of WCM’s claims as regards emissions from shipping coal.

The attached letter was written just before I heard that the Planning Officers have produced their report to the committee on WCM’s application. We regard the implications of the High Court Judgement of sufficient importance, together with the implications of the IPCC SR1.5 report, and the consequent many thousands of deaths that the WCM project will cause, that the report should be withdrawn and revised.

The Court judgement means that Project Officers can no longer work on the basis that the NPPF, the Planning System, and indeed Written Ministerial Statements, are necessarily legally correct in facilitating or providing loop-holes for, the extraction of more fossil fuels. Fossil fuel extraction is now being legally challenged.

This means that the Cumbria County Council, its Planning Officers and Councillor Committee members, can no longer use an excuse that they have to follow government statements or policies that are pro-fossil fuel extraction, when they recommend or decide on fossil applications such as from the WCM.

This also means that any officers who advise councillors to accept WCM’s application, and likewise any councillors who vote in favour, will share responsibility for causing the many thousands of climate deaths and air pollution deaths that will very likely result from their decision.

Yours sincerely Dr Henry Adams (Ecological Consultant)


Dear Ms Brophy,

12th March 2019


Re: Application ref 4/17/9007 by West Cumbria Mining Ltd for Development of an existing surface mine entrance for a new underground metallurgical coal mine and associated surface development including: […] at the former Marchon site (High Road) Whitehaven […] off Mirehouse Road, Pow Beck valley and area from, Marchon Site to St Bees Coast

This letter adds to SLACCtt’s 18/2/18 letter of objection to WCM’s proposal, which is appended here.

Both letters are also separately online, at and in date order.Key additions to 18/2/18 letter: High Court judgement on NPPF and its implications, IPCC SR1.5, WCM

emissions and consequential climate deaths, critique of WCM shipping emissions claims.

1. A High Court judgement last week has in effect made illegal a paragraph in the ‘Oil, gas and coal exploration and extraction’ section of the 2018 NPPF, which has important implications as regards how climate change impacts should be considered as a planning consideration at local government level. We at SLACCtt most strongly advise that this ruling and their implications are given urgent and priority attention by the Planning Officers involved in producing their report to the DevelopmentControl Committee on WCM’s coal mine application.

2. The High Court Judge ruled on 6th March that the Government was acting illegally to ignore recent scientific papers on climate science and fossil fuel extraction, when it copied across a 2015 Written Ministerial Statement into Paragraph 209a of the 2018 Revised NPPF, despite having received a report showing that the 2015 WMS was not scientifically valid. Although Paragraph 209a concerns onshore oiland gas extraction, nonetheless the High Court ruling has wider implications as regards all ‘Oil, gas and coal exploration and extraction’ in chapter 17 on minerals, including Paragraph 211 on coal, and also on government planning policies in general – where fossil fuels and climate change are involved.

3. Put simply, the ruling implies more widely that other paragraphs in the NPPF, and the wider planning structure put in place by central government where it concerns fossil fuels, need to be re-examined and updated with regards recent additions to climate science. The judge also appeared to accept that it is valid for campaigners and local government to treat climate impacts as a planning consideration at a local level (instead of leaving this consideration to central government policy under pressure from above). These 2 points are of vital relevance to WCM’s very high carbon application.

4. It is essential for CumbriaCC to look ahead at such implications regarding future inevitable changes in policy including to the NPPF, to avoid decisions that result in future stranded assets (If WCM’sproject is wrongly given the go-ahead, it will have to be closed down in a few years).


How does this apply to coal, WCM and CumbriaCC?5. 2018 Revised NPPF: Quotes from p.61:

Oil, gas and coal exploration and extraction

209. Minerals planning authorities should:
a) recognise the benefits of on-shore oil and gas development, including unconventional hydrocarbons, for the security of energy supplies and supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy; and put in place policies to facilitate their exploration and extraction;

211. Planning permission should not be granted for the extraction of coal unless: a) the proposal is environmentally acceptable, or can be made so by planning conditions or obligations; or b) if it is not environmentally acceptable, then it provides national, local or community benefits which clearly outweigh its likely impacts (taking all relevant matters into account, including any residual environmental impacts).

6. So 209.a is now illegal (or at least – the process that put it there). We reckon this should apply in a wider sense also to 211 – which persists with loop-holes for the most climate-damaging (and health- damaging) big fossil fuel. 211 should have banned all coal mining. For advocates of metallurgical coal aka coking coal being an exception – there is no carbon budget scope now for any new coking coal mines in the UK.

7. We have known for years that the NPPF does not accord with climate science as regards the emissions reductions required, and the 2018 Revised NPPF failed to plug the loopholes ( Furthermore, legislation including even the 2008 Climate Change Act, failed to plug the other over-used loophole that allows fossil fuel advocates (including the UK government) to frequently claim “climate benefits”, or “climate savings”, for fossil fuel projects by confining attention to just UK territorial emissions (as shown by Paragraph 209a), and ignoring additions to global emissions. Claims of “displacing” possibly higher carbon imports actually mean adding to global emissions if the displaced fuel is burnt abroad. Such claims – if they are to comply with climate science, should be considered invalid if they fail also to apply to global emissions (to stop the hypocrisy of“gaming the [international carbon-accounting] system”). WCM provides an example:*


* 8. The “climate savings” from shipping coal that WCM wishes to divert us to, are only about 1% of the size of its combustion emissions, and are only realizable as regards global emissions reductions if another nation –WCM points to the US – is willing enough to leave in the ground at least 99% of the same quantity of coal that WCM wishes to extract. We doubt if the US would oblige by even 1%!

WCM would be adding its coal and all associated emissions to the global total without any mechanism to ensure any replacement of other coal sources. Increased supply would have an influence towards lowering the global price of coking coal, which would have a detrimental influence on the economics of lower carbon methods of producing steel such as using renewable-powered electric arc with steel from recycling, or new innovative methods under development for iron ore.

My spreadsheet calculations are or soon will be online here:

9. These loopholes have kept the door open to Banks Group to pursue new open-cast mining applications, and WCM the present project. All these coal projects are incompatible with the UK being on track for the 2015 Paris temperature goals, and even more so for keeping below +1.5 degrees, the latter now requiring the world to halve emissions by 2030, which for wealthy countries means the UK being carbon net zero by 2030.

10. Very obviously, the 8 million tonnes of CO2 per year that WCM coal would emit if combusted, canin no way fit with such a rapid and immediate emissions reduction requirement, and that’s beforeadding the significant within-UK upstream emissions from the project, and other GHGs such as methane. Such emissions would be very high in relation to Cumbria’s carbon budget. The emissions would undermine the possibility of Cumbria meeting a 1.5 degrees emissions reduction path, i.e. of reaching net zero carbon by 2030, and thus the aim for Cumbria County Council to declare a Climate Emergency to assist putting those targets in place. Also as Laurie Michaelis points out: “If Cumbria County Council knowingly allows this mine to be developed, it bears at least a share of moral responsibility for those deaths and may in the future bear legal responsibility.”

11. Climate-related deaths equivalent to WCM carbon emissions
I have calculated from WCM production figures that the combustion emissions from the 133 million tonnes of

coal they hope to extract over 50 years to be 400 million tonnes CO2e

Both Laurie Michaelis and SLACCtt (myself) have separately calculated climate deaths from a subset of climate health impacts (from a WHO report) and we produced figures of similar magnitude of thousands of deaths from the subset category alone. It would be significantly higher if other categories of coal-products-related deaths are added. I have calculated a minimum of 1 climate death per year in the subset category from 1 year of WCM emissions. x50x100 gives a minimum of around 5,000+ deaths over 100 years from 50 years mining, which relates to over ten deaths per job. A more-than linear relationship (which is more likely according to LM), could hugely amplify these figures (NB: see LM’s submissions for details as well as what they mean and imply).

This means that Officers writing the report, and Committee members making the final decision – will be deciding the fate of many thousands of lives – and would need to use their own ethical and moral judgements. The High Court ruling means that an equivalent of “just following orders” (which I have seen too much in hearings by other committees) would have even less ethical weight now than before the ruling.

We must no longer discount or externalize impacts outside of application localities in space and over time.My spreadsheet calculations for emissions and deaths are, or soon will be, online here:

12. SLACCtt thus recommends that CumbriaCC now has a legal precedent as well as an ethical and moral duty to regard Paragraph 211 as legally suspect, and in urgent need of updating to accord with up-to-date climate science. This would mean looking forward to how policy including the NPPF will have to change in the future, and assuming that there should be no more coal mining in the UK. Cumbria CC should take into account the following:

13. On 2 May the Committee on Climate Change (CCCuk) will publish it’s “Report: Advice on the UK’slong-term climate change targets: In light of the Paris Agreement, and the IPCC’s recent special reporton global warming of 1.5°C, the Committee on Climate Change will provide new advice to theGovernment and the devolved administrations on the UK’s long-term climate change targets.” If thisreport takes care to avoid loopholes or ambiguities, and has regard for UK impacts on global as well as UK territorial emissions, then it is likely to state or imply that the UK must stop mining for coal, and urge other changes to the NPPF and planning. Please anticipate this.

14. The CCCuk informed Government that its policies are not on track for meeting UK’s carbon budgets over this coming decade. These budgets are to meet the “at least 80% of 1990 levels by 2050”emissions reduction target of the 2008 Climate Change Act. It is important to realize that climatescientists now agree that the “80% by 2050” target is now inadequate to meet its original target of +2 degrees or “a little above 2 degrees”. This means that current government policies head not just


slightly above 2 degrees, but a lot above 2 degrees, which means that big changes in policies will have to urgently be implemented – and should include the NPPF.

15. The temperature goals of 2015 The Paris Agreement are to keep “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 20C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.50C above pre-industrial levels”. Government emission reduction policies are thus totally inadequate for the goals the UK signed up to. Furthermore – CCCuk’s remit enshrinedin the 2008CCA have yet to be both updated to comply with the Paris temperature goals. Ref:

16. The IPCC’s Special Report for 1.5 degrees has shown much more clearly, by assessing the climate impacts at 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees in comparison, that the impacts of 1.5 degrees are bad enough, that 2 degrees is much worse than 1.5, and that the 2 degrees target is now considered much worse than thought in the last decade (except by low-lying/island nations), and that the 1.5 degrees target should be the one to aim for rather than 2 degrees. Yet UK policies are still nearer +3 degrees than 1.5.

17. To stay below 1.5 degrees we need to do more than just greatly change UK policies, and I’vesummarized and collated relevant studies and their implications here: (on behalf of SLACCtt. Main target readers: local government officers and cllrs).

18. Furthermore, a significant number of climate scientists reckon IPCC’s SR1.5 is over-conservative, gives inadequate consideration of potential climate tipping points in its summary report, and that 1.5 degrees may be exceeded by 2030.

19. I hope by now you are fully convinced that Paragraph 211 should be regarded as incompatible withUK’s climate commitments, and that WCM’s application can be rejected on climate grounds alone (aswell as on other important issues summarized by FoE and other groups).

20. It is heartening to see that Councillors used climate impacts as a planning consideration against the high emissions application by IGas at Ellesmere Port, and climate scientist Professor Kevin Anderson gave evidence on the GHG impact: into-igas-test-plans-for-ellesmere-port-well/ Fossil fuel applications must be challenged. The case for doing so is strong, and is now helped by the High Court precedent for challenging the NPPF.

21. As to priorities: It is important to view “jobs and growth” as what is possible within a framework of climate and environment – without going beyond ‘planetary boundaries’ (Kate Raworth 2017‘Doughnut Economics’). Acting on climate will require many jobs (e.g. house insulation).


In light of the above, SLACCtt most strongly recommends that CumbriaCC does not shy from making climate impacts a key planning consideration, and to incorporate up-to-date climate science and itsimplications in both the Planning Officers report for the Committee and the Councillor members’reasons for the final decision. The pro-fossil parts of both NPPF and applications should be challenged.

Yours sincerely,


Chris Rowley / –

Dr Henry Adams on behalf of SLACCtt



The above includes the first author’s interpretation of how the Judge’s High Court ruling should be regarded – in a way that looks forward in the direction to future such legal steps and policy changes to hopefully follow climate science (and hopefully not too far behind). I have appended copies of write-ups by Leigh Day and others below – so that you can form your own interpretation, which I hope will view the direction of travel that law and planning will have to take to catch up with climate science – and how this will apply to long-term high carbon applications (like that by WCM) that could if not stopped, become stranded assets.


I can provide further references for above statements if requested have appended a copy of SLACCtt’s first submission to CumbriaCC objecting to WCM’s application.

I most strongly recommend everyone reads the objection letters by Laurie Michaelis – who has had much experience in climate science, and by by Maggie Mason – who has had years of very relevant experience in planning. I also recommend as regards climate impacts letters by FoE and Stuart Parkinson (Director of Scientists for Global Responsibility).

6mar19 Government’s fracking policy ruled unlawful – Leigh Day
The High Court has today ruled that key elements of the government’s national fracking policy are unlawful.


The 2018 revised NPPF and the planning system in relation to ‘economic growth’ and climate change- Dr Henry Adams – draft towards a several-document potential SLACCtt publication, now online

6mar19 Breaking: Campaigners win court challenge over government support for fracking – RUTH HAYHURST support-for-fracking/

6mar19 High court rules government’s fracking guidelines ‘unlawful’ – Court finds government failed to consider scientific evidence against fracking – Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondent unlawful

6mar19 Government fracking policy declared unlawful by High Court

‘It is clear what the government must now do, namely hold a full review of its policy support for fracking’- Josh GabbatissScience Correspondent @josh_gabbatiss news/fracking-policy-high-court-ruling-government-unlawful-housing-energy-a8810101.html

6mar19 Fracking: Government guidance ‘unlawful’ rules High Court – By Dulcie LeeBBC News

BBC Northwest Tonight: High Court decision on planning rules for fracking

Kate Raworth (2017) ‘Doughnut Economics’ (book) – summary re climate in



Excellent Letter from Maggie Mason


Here is an excellent letter from Mrs Maggie Mason reproduced with her kind permission.

It would be really good if folk could write to Cumbria County Council before 13th March saying that they fully support Mrs Maggie Mason’s letter.  Perhaps making some of your own points too.

Please email:



Mrs Rachel Brophy County Offices Busher Walk Kendal

Cumbria LA9 4RQ


Dear Mrs Brophy


Planning Application: 4/17/9007 West Cumbria Mining


I am writing to express my objection to the West Cumbria Mining’s planning application number 4/17/9007. Having considered the revised submissions I consider that the application should be refused because it does not conform to policies the following policies in Cumbria County Council’s Minerals and Waste Local Plan:

SP1 Presumption in favour of sustainable development

SP13  Climate change mitigation and adaptation

SP14  Economic benefit

SP15  Environmental assets

SP17 Section 106 planning obligations

DC2 General criteria

DC6 Cumulative environmental impacts

DC13 Criteria for energy minerals

DC22 Restoration and aftercare

I note that the Environment Agency, the Coal Authority and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds continue to maintain that insufficient evidence has been provided to approve this planning application and I hope that the officer’s report will recommend that the Development Control and Regulation Committee refuse the application.


I consider that the disbenefits of the development outweigh the benefits, which makes the proposal fail to meet many of the policies above. This is the case whether we take into account just the onshore development (where CCC is the Planning Authority), or the total development including off shore fossil fuel extraction (where the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is the decision maker).

It is clearly wrong to include benefits of the offshore activity without the adverse impacts.


Due to my recent bereavement I cannot fully develop the case I wish to make into formal reasons for refusal on each policy, but I request permission to speak at the planning committee on the 19th March.

The following section explains the three core problems with this proposal as I see them, which cut across all the policies above.

1. This is a proposal for additional fossil fuel extraction at a time when the world faces a totally unprecedented environmental, human catastrophe if urgent action is not taken to leave fossil fuels in the ground.


a. Although the development is for coking coal for use in the steel industry, a significant volume of high emissions “middlings” coal will be produced. There can be no watertight, enforceable way of guaranteeing it will only be used in processes which capture the worst emissions from that coal (as per the assurances the applicant has made).


b. In any case, the use suggested, is itself a huge contribution to dangerous climate change. The “carbon” assessment assuming that this coal extraction would not be additional to the current US source of coking coal, but that the difference in miles travelled constitutes carbon reduction has been fully considered and minimised is oversimplified and unrealistic . It ignores the reduction in price due to additional supply which will enable more to be sold, and burnt. Hence I consider that a significant proportion of the carbon emissions arising from the coal to be extracted should be included in the carbon assessment.

c. The applicant states that this coal will support the UK steel industry, whose future has now been secured. This is not the case, Port Talbot is supported only until 2022. The European Steel Industry is also under severe threat from China, and the UK. The likely outcome is either: that the demand for this coal will drop sharply, OR that it will be transported longer distances.


2. There are significant risks of subsidence offshore, where there are known to be layers of chemical and radioactive pollution on the sea bed. The application addresses this by extracting only a significant distance off shore, and pumping mining waste back into the voids which it is claimed will reduce the subsidence risk.

a. Toxic substances disturbed by subsidence would move freely through the marine environment and there could be no way of preventing adverse impacts in protected areas, and to fish and other marine organisms. One impact which can bring the reality of the risk home to us, is that the percentage of multi-wintering salmon returning to Cumbrian rivers has reduced from 25% to 2-3%. All the rest die at sea. Our river salmon populations are plummeting, and have been described as an extinction event, and it is due to changes in the marine ecology and environment.


b. No credible evidence seems to have been offered to the claim that pumping waste back into the mine will reduce subsidence. Pumping waste water back into shale gas wells has been shown to be the main cause of earthquakes in shale producing regions of the world. Inadequate seismicity testing is referred to in the Coal Authority response to the revised EIA, but note that they are only considering the onshore development. It must be even more concerning off shore.

3. It is tempting to think that this development will enable the detoxification and restoration of the Marchon site, that has been a problem for Whitehaven, and Copeland Borough Council for many years. It also appears to bring more jobs and prosperity to the town. However, this is very likely to bring more problems than benefits in the long term.

a. There are jobs during the development phase, but the application emphasises a long term future, with well paid jobs. These are related to the offshore extraction, and should not be weighed in the balance unless the potential, and unknown impacts of the offshore extraction is known.

b. An earlier application/proposal by the same backers but a different company name proposed initial coal extraction, followed by Underground Coal Gasification (UCG). This has never been done successfully in the UK, but is included in the Coal Authority Licence. The dangers of UCG, to both excess fugitive emissions, earthquakes and further subsidence would be controlled by the MMO, with no input from Cumbria County Council, as it could potentially be achieved with a minimal onshore planning permission.

c. It is perhaps more likely that UCG would be refused by the MMO , in which case this mine will close, leaving us with fugitive methane gas emissions (as in the N Cumbria Coal Bed Methane applications) and a restoration problem somewhat like Keekle Head. The finance/ownership of this mine is from Australian and other international mining corporations. S106 agreements or deposited bonds would be very difficult to pursue, and even if funds are allocated, both Scottish and Cumbrian experience shows it is never enough to cover restoration.

Yours sincerely
Mrs Maggie Mason : BA(Arch) Dip TP

Polar Bear Urges Freeze on Coal Mine Plan

Polar bear.jpg

Whitehaven News .jpg

Last Friday 22nd February the Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole ‘Polar Bear’ highlighted the Beyond Crazy plan to mine for coal under the Irish Sea.  A photographer from the Whitehaven News met us at the train station in the town to walk up to the Haig Pit.

Everyone in the town we spoke to was opposed to the mine, some of the comments we heard were: “its a backward step”  “its too near Sellafield, too dangerous”.  This was all witnessed by the photographer from the Whitehaven News and shows the distance between the truth and the enthusiastic PR we have seen from West Cumbria Mining and those with an unaccountable (?) vested interest in seeing deep mining become ‘a thing’ once again in West Cumbria.  We also spoke to folk who live opposite the Haig Pit and their view is : “We don’t want it.”

The Whitehaven News reported : “The ‘polar bear’ was actually Sam Morris who, along with Marianne Birkby of the Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole campaign, was protesting against West Cumbria Mining’s plans to extract coking coal off the coast of St Bees.

“The pair tore up a copy of the Paris Agreement – a global agreement to tackle climate change – outside the developer’s Whitehaven office.

They believe the application goes against the agreement and Cumbria County Council’s Carbon Reduction Plan and Climate Local programme and that the mine’s proximity to Sellafield would increase the risk of earth tremors. They also claim mining under the Irish Sea could re-suspend radioactive particles from decades of Sellafield reprocessing and argue that there are other ways to produce steel.”

In response to our protest the developers replied to the local press that : 

“The WCM planning submission clearly sets out and responds to all of the questions raised by external parties over the last three years and provides clear scientific evidence based responses to all of these points, clearly demonstrating that there are no risks or significant impacts from the scheme.”   

Really?  The fact that this must be the most deferred planning application to go before Cumbria County Council ever, rather belies this statement.  The reason for the delays are that the Council, and the regulators are not happy with the content of WCM’s application and require further clarification and answers from the developers.

What can be clarified is that this development is Beyond Crazy while the rest of the world looks Beyond Coal.   A recent document handed to Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole (below) gives some insight into the climate impacts and the deaths that would result from opening up this deep coal mine.


Meanwhile, the impacts on Sellafield are of course unquantifiable – an increase in seismicity in the area housing such a vast stockpile of the world’s most dangerous radioactive wastes is unthinkable.

There is a Petition To Sign Here – Please Sign and Share and lets give Cumbria County Council the message that this dangerous coal mine is not wanted