THE elected Mayor of Copeland has insisted the council is “fully signed up to the climate change agenda” despite opposition to his pro-mine stance.
Mike Starkie made the comments after campaigners opposed to a £165m mine planned for West Cumbria descended on Whitehaven over the weekend.
The plans have been ‘called in’ by Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron amid environmental concerns, but Mr Starkie is among those calling for the challenge to be thrown out by the Government.
Protestors from Extinction Rebellion marched from Haig Pit museum to Copeland council’s Market Hall to express their concerns, though the plans were agreed at county level.
West Cumbria Mining wants to extract coking coal off the coast of St Bees, with a processing plant on the former Marchon site at Kells were given the go-ahead in March.
Speaking at a meeting of the executive, major Mike Starkie insisted that the council was working hard – alongside other local authorities in the county – to make Cumbria carbon neutral.
But he also took aim at some of the protestors who he said were “not local” and had “probably travelled here in their diesel cars, putting all the carbon emissions into the air en route.”
Mr Starkie said the only disturbance caused by the campaigners was to members of the Whitehaven public who were “absolutely disinterested” with anything they had to say.
The mayor reiterated his “100 per cent unequivocal support for the mine” in the face of opposition.
He also described the planning process as “rigorous” and stressed that “everything was considered” in the run-up the county council planning panel’s decision.
He added: “And I am going to once again call on the Government to throw out the call in as soon as possible.
“At the end of the day there is a climate change agenda that we’re 100 per cent bought into and we are absolutely understand, but there is an economic agenda as well – and we need a balance.
“We need renewable energy and the last time I checked you still need steel for the windmills and that’s what the coking coal is being mined to produce.”
Mr Farron and Workington MP Sue Hayman, who is the Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, are the only two of the county’s six MPS who have not written to the Government to get this ‘call in’ thrown out.
Copeland’s green credentials.
Copeland has hosted the first commercially operative nuclear power station (Sellafield) that powered the nation through low-carbon energy supply for almost 50 years;
In 2018/19, the council invested £1 million into our doorstop recycling service and collected 3,354 tonnes of recycling – doubling the previous years’ collection;
The council is signatories of the Cumbria Joint Public Health Strategy Commitment which commits local authorities in Cumbria to become a net-zero carbon county.
The authority has pledged to reduce its climate footprint by 1.6 per cent every year – in line with statutory commitments in the Climate Change Act of 2008.”
On the same day that we were delivering the petition the Mayor of Copeland sent an extraordinary letter to the Secretary of State. In his letter the Mayor, Mike Starkie restates the view he expressed to Cumbria County Councillors. The Mayor urges the Secretary of State to ignore the high level expert advice which has described the damage that this plan would do to our planet’s climate, and to ignore the very real concerns of nuclear safety campaigners who fear this plan would increase the already intolerable and overwhelming radioactive risks from Sellafield to Cumbria and beyond.
West Cumbria Mining have spent £millions on promoting this plan with lobbyists wooing local MPs and government ministers many of whom have been lured by the entirely faux ‘environmental’ reassurances.
The Mayor of Copeland repeats the mantra that this plan has overwhelming support from ordinary West Cumbrians. We would like to invite the Mayor of Copeland to take a walk with us, in the presence of a journalist to act as a witness, and to ask those we meet in the streets of Workington, Egremont, Whitehaven and Kells what their view is of West Cumbria Mining’s plan.
The Mayor of Copeland and WCM keep on repeating the mantra that this mine is wanted by local folk. It is true that West Cumbria is desperately in need of jobs and investment. What West Cumbria is not in need of is yet another dead duck and expensive (in more ways than one) industry to suck the remaining life out it.
Here are some excerpts of what locals are saying…
This was the view of everyone we chatted to in Workington (except one)
What are folk saying who live even nearer the proposed mine?
This is an extract from a letter sent by local folk to Cumbria County Council (it may be available on the CCC website – although our letters of objection from Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole are not on!!)
“Pow Beck has the railway and a couple of wind turbines but in the main it is a tranquil, fairly secluded and pretty place. In our opinion the Railway Loading Facility will affect our environment with emission, dust, noise and light, and detrimental to the ecology here. The facility will impact the peaceful enjoyment of our home, St. Bees village and Pow Beck wildlife.
The building is large and railway sidings extensive. The facility will be visually overbearing and no amount of tree planting or timber clad buildings will soften its appearance on the landscape. They have planned technically advanced building to keep the dust, noise and emissions to regulation levels, but the Loading Facility will still be a noisy, dusty and bright facility in our quiet, dark valley.
By its very nature mining is a messy business and we are not convinced by the marketing and bright coloured CGI animations used to demonstrate how this MODERN mine will operate. The animation makes it looks so clean but we have the opinion that is far from the facts. It does not show the shunting of wagons to the sidings, the plumes of dust as each wagon is loaded; We read somewhere 4 trains’ daily transporting coal to Redcar. These quieter modern trains can pull at least 21 large covered coal wagons, not the 7/8 shown on the CGI.
In our estimate that must be a train over 200m long. The CGI does not show those large trains trundling past homes through Mirehouse, Parton or Harrington to name a few. Pow Beck is going to be a very different place at all times of the day and night. We thought the United Nations and EU have in place regulations to reduce carbon emissions to meet climate targets, yet here we are in Cumbria giving consideration to digging out millions of tonnes of coal. We would have thought political policy would have put the kibosh on mining in this country, indeed in March of this year our government rejected an open cast mine in Northumberland saying the environmental impact outweighs economic benefits.
In Wales, only last month, they have reached the decisions no new mining unless under exceptional circumstances. WCM say 80% will be exported. We produce the coal and let someone else burn it. What a legacy, will we ever learn? Mining coal is a retrograde step, Apologies to all those miners past and present, We don’t wish to be ungrateful for their legacy, but we should not be thinking of building a new mine, burning coal is never going to be clean enough and that’s the facts.
Since 2014 WCM Ltd have marketed the mines with the creation of jobs for a lot of people over a very long time, benefits for the economy; an investment for West Cumbria. It is our belief that the environmental costs and environmental risk are too high a price for all that. The coal is not an asset anymore, the burning of fossil fuel is a liability that our children will be paying for. Therefore, we ask that Cumbria County Council refuse this planning application and keep Copeland coal, and other pollutants locked beneath the sandstone out of harm’s way.”
That last line from folk living near this proposal is worth repeating
..”we ask that Cumbria County Council refuse this planning application and keep Copeland coal, and other pollutants locked beneath the sandstone out of harm’s way.”
These are the locals that the Mayor Mike Starkie wants the Secretary of State to ignore – having sucessfully urged the County Council to ignore them! Is this what a Mayor is for?
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.”
“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.
The plan gets a little bit of opposition on the BBC ……at the 11th hour!
Well done to Jill Perry who admits that the local Green Party did originally try and love this plan (which has made our campaign against it doubly difficult) but Jill made some excellent points about the climate impacts and exposed some of the nonsense from WCM that the plan is ‘environmentally sound’
Notable that the Mayor of Copeland and Trudy Harrison were given time to gush their appalling support.