Friends of the Earth and a Cumbrian environmental group have been granted a court hearing to challenge the government’s planning permit for Britain’s first new coal mine in three decades.
In December levelling-up secretary Michael Gove granted the West Cumbria Mining company planning permission to proceed. The venture, to be located near Whitehaven, is mooted as producing coke with a low-carbon content for UK steel production.
Friends of the Earth & local protest group South Lakes Action on Climate Change appealed, arguing that the minister’s decision paid no heed to the plant’s likely climate impacts. Their appeal was granted last week in Kendal.
In a procedural move, the High Court ruled that, instead of convening a hearing this week on whether to proceed to a full trial, their cases will now be heard at what’s known as a ‘rolled up’ hearing.
In practice, say the protest groups, this is the same as a trial. It will last for three days and is likely to take place in the summer or autumn.
SLACC and Friends of the Earth contend that Mr Gove failed to account for the significant climate impacts of the mine, including the acceptability of carbon credits to offset the mine’s emissions, the international precedent that opening a new mine would set and the impact of opening the mine on the global coal market.
Objectors to the Whitehaven coking mine are encouraged by reports that another hearing due next month before the Supreme Court could set a precedent for the legality of approving new fossil fuel developments.
That challenge, relating to onshore oil extraction at Horse Hill, Surrey, is due to take place on 21 June, with the company behind the Cumbrian mine registering itself as an interested party.
Maggie Mason of SLACC said: “This is a positive and sensible decision. Having looked at the submitted papers, the Court has decided it is worth scheduling a three-day hearing on SLACC and Friends of the Earth’s legal challenges.
“SLACC members and supporters will observe the Finch versus Surrey County Council Hearing in June, and hope that the death and destruction caused by burning oil and gas will, in future, be taken into account before any new mines and oil wells are given planning permission.”
Friends of the Earth spokesperson Tony Bosworth said: “We’re delighted the court agrees that our legal challenge against this mine deserves to be heard”.