FRIENDS OF THE EARTH and South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC) will ask the High Court in England to reconsider its refusal to hear a legal challenge over the UK government’s decision to grant planning permission for a new coal mine in Cumbria.

Claimants have a right to a specially convened hearing to try and persuade the court to change its mind, and such challenges often succeed.

Friends of the Earth and SLACC sought permission for a legal challenge after Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, gave planning permission to the controversial coking coal mine in December 2022. The organisations were the two main parties opposing the coal mine at the planning inquiry which took place in September 2021.

The organisations 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.

Friends of the Earth campaigner Tony Bosworth said: “This isn’t the decision we had hoped for, but it isn’t the end of the line. We still believe that giving the go ahead to the Whitehaven coalmine was unlawful and we will be asking the court to reconsider its decision. Opponents of the mine raised critically important, climate-related questions in the planning inquiry, but these were either fudged or avoided. With the world in an accelerating climate crisis, these issues cannot be ignored.”

Carole Wood, chair of SLACC, said: “We are disappointed with this decision, but we and our legal team are firmly of the view that there are legal errors in the government’s decision to permit the mine.The government sought to turn a blind eye to the climate impacts from burning the coal that will be produced by the mine, and we look forward to a hearing to consider whether this approach can be lawful.”

Since the mine was approved, campaigners say the need for it has been further undermined after it emerged that the UK government is in discussion with UK steel manufacturers about how to decarbonise the industry by moving away from coal.

* South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC) is a small charity based in Kendal, Cumbria. More information here.

* Read a short summary of SLACC’s case here.

* Read an outline of the grounds for Friends of the Earth’s legal challenge here.

* Source: Friends of the Earth