Call in Request to the Secretary of State by Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole

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CEO of West Cumbria Mining , Mark Kirkbride (who interestingly also happens to be an expert in ‘geological disposal’ ) going into the Council Meeting past Protestors

Here is our letter to the Secretary of State.  Anyone can write requesting that the decision be called in and the more individuals and  groups that do this the better.

If you don’t have time to write a letter then there is a petition here 

(some folk may have already signed it – it has been updated – but the more shares the better!)

LETTER TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE

james.brokenshire@communities.gsi.gov.uk

The Rt Hon James Brockenshire MP,
Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government, Ministry of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government, 2 Marsham Street,
London SW1P 4DF.

3rd April 2019 

Dear Secretary of State, 

Re: Application Reference No. 4/17/9007 – Former Marchon Site, Pow Beck Valley and area from Marchon Site to St Bees Coast, Whitehaven, Cumbria 

I write on behalf of Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole, a campaign by Radiation Free Lakeland to ask that the Secretary of State calls in the above decision. 

We are a civil society group that aims to remove the risk of environmental damage both nationally and internationally that may arise from the presence of an extensive nuclear industry close to the Lake District National Park, a World Heritage Site. 

On 19th March Cumbria County Council (CCC) granted conditional planning permission for a resumption of the long abandoned onshore coal mining at St Bees to West Cumbria Mining Limited (WCM). 

The applicant has confirmed that their onshore proposal is commercially dependent upon the extraction of coal from under the adjacent coastal waters of the Irish Sea for which they would need agreement from the Marine Management Organisation. 

Our concerns primarily relate to potential cross boundary radiation impacts resulting from damage to Sellafield as a result of aggressive deep mining activity in methane rich coal beds and freshwater extraction to wash the coal (from a geological fault). We are, however, also concerned about wider environmental impacts arising from the mine, including climate change. 

We support the call in by Tim Farron MP, and we refer you to the climate scientists and experts (Dr Laurie Michaelis, Dr Henry Adams and others) who have outlined the cross boundary climate impacts that would result from this mine (impacts as outlined by the Climate Change Act 2008). 

We request the Secretary of State calls this application in for his own determination on the basis that the proposal fulfils the following (Caborn) criteria for call-in: 

1. The proposal conflicts with national policies on important matters 

We refer to paragraphs 205, 211, 7 and of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) 2019. 

NPPF Paragraph 205 states: “When determining planning applications, great weight should be given to the benefits of mineral extraction, including to the economy” except in relation to the extraction of coal, in which case reference is made to paragraph 211. 

Paragraph 211 states: “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).” 

It is our view that the proposal cannot be made acceptable by planning conditions or obligations and that any national, local or community benefits do not outweigh the likely impacts. 

We also refer the Secretary of State to key paragraphs of the NPPF concerning sustainable development (as set out in paragraphs 7-14). 

We also refer to a paper published by the Interdepartmental Liaison Group on Risk Assessment (ILGRA), in 2002 entitled The Precautionary Principle: Policy and Application. This paper highlighted a number of important points including noting that the precautionary approach should be invoked when: “there is good reason to believe that harmful effects may occur to human, animal or plant health, or to the environment; and the level of scientific uncertainty about the consequences or likelihood of the risk is such that best available scientific advice cannot assess the risk with sufficient confidence to inform decision-making”. 

The proposal potentially conflicts with paras of the NPPF concerned with “Meeting the challenge of climate change, flooding and coastal change” (see pages 44-45). 

2. The proposal could have significant effects beyond their immediate locality; give rise to substantial cross-boundary or national controversy. We draw your attention to the close 8km proximity of this coal mine to Sellafield’s uniquely dangerous storage of high level wastes and highly active liquors (see Consequences in Norway of a hypothetical accident at Sellafield: Potential release – transport and fallout Strålevern Rapport 2009:7. Østerås: Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority) 

Cross boundary impacts: For example, there is no guarantee that subsidence will not occur following mining and backfill of the voids with a cement mix. If subsidence does occur, there is a significant risk that highly carcinogenic and dangerous radioactive and chemical sediment and silt will be re-suspended from the Irish Sea bed and mobilised with the tides not only to Cumbrian beaches but also to European beaches (and beyond). Similarly, mining and freshwater abstraction from faults is known to increase seismic activity. It is significant that the only area of the UK ever to experience a liquefaction event from a minor seismic event is a small village not far from Sellafield in the 1800s. A recent paper published by the Yorkshire Geological Society (The susceptibility of glacigenic deposits to liquefaction under seismic loading conditions: a case study relating to nuclear site characterization in West Cumbria by Martin Cross, Anass Attya and David J. A. Evans Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society,18 September 2018) found that Sellafield and its surrounds are at “high risk” of liquefaction. 

If a liquefaction event happened at Sellafield as a result of mining the consequences would be catastrophic, not just for Cumbria but for the rest of Europe. Given the catastrophic radiological impacts that a seismic event at Sellafield induced by nearby coal mining could have on other EU countries this proposal is potentially subject to Article 37 of the Euratom Treaty. Article 37 requires Member States to provide the Commission with general data so that they may give an opinion on whether the proposal is likely to have an impact on other Member States. Post Brexit we hope that this protection afforded to other European Countries is honoured. 

Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole has a following of approximately 1500 supporters including academics and scientists. We have been campaigning to raise awareness about this development since 2015. In 2016 Radiation Free Lakeland received a personal letter of thanks for our ongoing civil society work in nuclear safety from Austria’s Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management who are equally concerned at the danger Sellafield poses to Europe even without deep coal mining under the Irish Sea. 

Finally, we would also highlight that there remains a significant question about the extent of the climate change impacts arising from this scheme (even if coal used in steel production, there will be CO2 emitted). In this respect, we note the purpose of the power under s.77 Town and Country Planning Act 1990 is to give the Secretary of State the power to call in planning applications where he considers that this is “necessary or desirable in the national interest” (R. (on the application of Adlard) v Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions [2002] 1 WLR 2515). We would submit this is clearly one such case.

In light of the above, we urge the Secretary of State to call this application in for his own determination at the earliest opportunity. 

Yours sincerely,
Marianne Birkby
On behalf of Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole A Radiation Free Lakeland campaign

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/keep-cumbrian-coal-in-the-hole-its-too-near- sellafield 

 

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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