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Ministers intervene in furious row over Cumbria coal mine and order fresh public inquiry

ROBERT Jenrick has bowed to pressure in long-running row over a new coal mine in Cumbria tonight – ordering a fresh inquiry into whether it can go ahead.

Cumbria County Council was due to review the decision to open the first new coal mine in Britain for decades, after approving it twice.

The proposed new coal mine in Whitehaven has sparked a furious row


The proposed new coal mine in Whitehaven has sparked a furious rowCredit: PA:Press Association
Robert Jenrick has called in the decision over the controversial new mine


Robert Jenrick has called in the decision over the controversial new mineCredit: Alamy Live News

After an outcry from green campaigners, ministers have u-turned and it will now be subject to a local public inquiry.

But a furious row erupted in Westminster after Tory MPs complained they would miss out on massive investment in their local area

They pounded Downing Street with furious complaints about the u-turn.

Workington MP Mark Jenkinson told the Tory MP’s Whatsapp group that Mr Jenrick has “bowed to climate terrorists” and said the decision was a “kick in the teeth”.

He pointed to the likely loss of £165m in private investment to his area.

And former Minister Robert Goodwill added that the UK would be forced to buy steel “from those lovely Chinese people instead.”

And the new mine would be in Copeland seat of Boris Johnson’s key aide Trudy Harrison.

She is under pressure tonight to quit as the PM’s parliamentary bagcarrier.

One MP said: “She’s been made to look a fool and should not put up with this.”

An independent head of planning will make the final call on whether it can go ahead, taking the decision out of local chiefs’ hands.

The Housing Secretary tonight ordered planning bosses to get involved instead, calling the decision in.

In letters explaining the decision, it says: “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.”

Officials on the Climate Change Committee wrote to Mr Jenrick earlier this year warning it would increase Britain’s polluting emissions and would undo work to reach net legally binding targets.

And they said it was a bad look just months before hosting the international climate summit.

The Government had previously vowed not to reverse the decision.

But it was revealed last month that due to the high sulphur content of the coal itself, it might be able to be used at all – either in Britain or sold to other markets.

Most of the coal is expected to be exported to other countries, with around 15 per cent shipped to companies in the UK.

The decision comes just hours after COP President Alok Sharma said the issue of the coal mine was a “local matter”.

Campaigners were up in arms about Britain opening its first coal mine in decades – the same year as it hosts an international climate crisis demanding nations around the world go green.

Local Tories say the mine will create jobs in the area


Local Tories say the mine will create jobs in the areaCredit: PA:Press Association

But local Tories said it would create hundreds of jobs, and it was more eco-friendly to dig up coal in the UK – which is needed to make steel – rather than fly it thousands of miles from all over the world.

One Red Wall Tory last night was said to be “absolutely apoplectic” about the decision – and others were confused as to why a sudden u-turn had been ordered.

Some Cabinet ministers were understood to have preferred the case to be decided by independent planning inspectors rather than have ministers decide.

One source said: “It’s a politically toxic row with two marginal ‘Red Wall’ seats nearby.

“Some ministers would be quietly relieved if they decided not to go ahead with it.”

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Labour’s shadow business secretary, Ed Miliband, welcomed the news tonight. He said: “The truth is that this mine is terrible for our fight against climate change, won’t help our steel industry and won’t create secure jobs.

“The Government must now block the mine and focus instead on real solutions to secure the long-term future of UK steel – and create low-carbon jobs in Cumbria and across the country with a proper green stimulus.”

Nearby MP Tim Farron added: “It’s fantastic news that the Government have at long last finally woken up to the fact that this mine would be an alrighty backwards step in our fight against climate change.

“In the year that Britain hosts COP26, it is blindingly obvious that we won’t be taken seriously on the world stage with this coal mine hanging round our neck.

“I hope this public inquiry leads to these plans finally being axed.”

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