Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State (SoS) for Housing Communities and Local Government, has at last taken the responsible decision and “called in” the Coal Mine to determine it himself. At 18.20 today (Thursday 11th March) SLACC’s lawyers, Richard Buxton Solicitors, were sent a copy of Jenrick’s letter to Cumbria County Council, and a reply to our Pre Action Protocol Letter. This is a very welcome success, and puts an end to our legal challenge. Unusually, the SoS gave his reasons for intervening:
The Secretary of State has decided to call this application in because of the further developments since his original decision. The Climate Change Committee’s recommendations for the 6th Carbon Budget have been published since he was advised on this decision. The Secretary of State recognises that proponents and opponents take different positions on that matter, and considers that this should be explored during a public inquiry. Furthermore controversy about the application has increased. Overall the Secretary of State considers that this application raises planning issues of more than local importance, and further considers that the limbs of the call-in policy relating to potential conflict with national policies in Chapters 14 and 17Letter from Robert Jenrick to Cumbria CC 11 March 2021
of the Framework and substantial cross-boundary or national controversy are satisfied.
This means that the Council’s Development Control and Regulation Committee does not have to reconsider the mine, and West Cumbria Mining’s legal challenge, which attempted to stop the planning application being re -considered in the light of the 6th Carbon Budget has failed. A Public Inquiry, led by a Planning Inspector will “hear” the case, and a report eventually sent to the SoS, who will then make the decision whether to approve or refuse the mine. We cannot be sure of the outcome. A Public Inquiry will probably take a few months to organise and SLACC will need to prepare our case, and bring in relevant expert witnesses to show why the Coal Mine should be refused.
National Government now needs to get new jobs for West Cumbria. Boris Johnson might not call it a “green new deal” or a “just transition” but he needs to get support for Whitehaven, Workington and the communities nearby. There is much to do to build a green and fair future, to renovate and climate proof homes, reduce energy bills and restore ecosystems across Cumbria. There is a brilliant network of groups in Cumbria, many of whom have also worked together in a loose “coalition” over the coal mine campaign, and we are sure that a better future for Cumbria is possible.