By Rachael Grealish
Conservative MPs and local leaders, from constituencies across Britain which have a strong industrial heritage, have spoken out against attempts to block the approval of a new coking coal mine in West Cumbria.
The letter has been signed by 47 Parliamentarians, alongside local leaders Cllr Mike Johnson, Deputy Leader Allerdale Borough Council, Mayor Starkie, Elected Mayor, Copeland Borough Council and Ben Houchen, Elected Mayor, Tees Valley and has been sent to Stewart Young the Labour leader of Cumbria County Council – the local authority that has already approved planning for the West Cumbria Mine three times.
Recently Cumbria County Council put plans for the mine on hold after ‘new information’ came to light, it was said.
This has been backed by Senior Labour politicians such as the Shadow Business Secretary Ed Milliband, and Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds.
Northern Research Group has also backed the new coal mine in Whitehaven, accusing Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds and Shadow Busines Secretary Ed Milliband of ‘Turning their Backs on Northern Communities’
Mark Jenkinson, MP for Workington, said: “Labour claims to represent working class people. What they are really doing over the mine is playing politics with ordinary people’s lives. This stance is putting much needed future jobs and investment at risk.
“I am incredibly disappointed by Cumbria County Council’s short- sighted and eleventh- hour decision to consider the application for Woodhouse Colliery for a fourth time. I am equally disappointed by senior Labour politicians wading into what should be a local and apolitical planning issue for Cumbria.”
Trudy Harrison, MP for Copeland said: “As the requirement for steel and dependence on coking coal continues, it makes no sense to turn a blind eye and offshore our emissions whilst turning away £165 million of inward investment.
“West Cumbria Mine will be a world leading, low emission, environmentally conscious development in a world where the transition from fossil fuel dependency to clean energy generation is wholly reliant on steel, for the long- term.”
West Cumbria’s mine falls within the Government agendas for net zero by 2050 and levelling up; with the ten-point-plan for a Green Industrial Revolution and the aim to upskill our workforce to strengthen regional and local economies.
Mike Starkie, the Elected Mayor for Copeland, has been incredibly vocal of his support of the mine and disappointment of the County Council putting plans on hold.
He said: “Last week Cumbria County Council should have issued the relevant permits in line with the planning decision to West Cumbria Mining.
“It is shocking that instead of doing just that they have sent it back to the planning panel to reconsider for a fourth time. Sadly this is typical of a council that has weak leadership and contributed so little to the development and growth of the local economy.”
The elected mayor went on to say the County Council is ‘not fit for purpose’ and their ‘demise’ cannot come ‘a moment too soon’.
“I have stated on numerous occasions Cumbria County Council are not fit for purpose and this decision to delay and put at risk huge investment and jobs into our local economy is just another example of how poor they are,” he continued, “Local Government Reform and the demise of Cumbria County Council will not come a moment too soon.”
Simon Fell, MP for Barrow & Furness and John Stevenson, MP for Carlisle also commented in support of the mine.
Fell said: “Steel underpins every single renewable technology that we need to employ to hit our Net Zero target and we cannot make that steel without coking coal.
“The choice we face is whether to offshore the carbon debt of mining coking coal to countries like Russia and accept the huge environmental and humanitarian cost of doing so, or to allow this mine to proceed and wrap our own high environmental standards around it. We simply can’t pretend that this is all someone else’s problem, and pat ourselves on the back for hitting Net Zero 2050 while outsourcing the problem elsewhere.”
John Stevenson added: “This is a significant investment which will make a substantial difference to the local cumbrian economy and the lives of many individuals and families who live there.
“As has been said many times this is coking coal used for a particular purpose which would otherwise have to be imported with all the implications for carbon targets. There are therefore a variety of benefits to home mining that can fit in with our carbon commitments.”
Cumbria County Council has been contacted with a request to respond.