Landscape conservation charity Friends of the Lake District has joined forces with 79 other concerned groups and written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson questioning why his Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick decided not to put the proposed Whitehaven Mine in west Cumbria through a Planning Inquiry process.

This means that Cumbria County Council’s decision to approve planning permission for the UK’s first deep coal mine in 30 years, still stands and will go ahead.

Mr Jenrick claims that the planning decision is of “only local significance”, ignoring that carbon emissions are an international issue. The Climate Change Committee, the UK’s independent adviser on tackling climate change, wrote to the government last week asking for this decision to be reconsidered, highlighting that the increase in emissions from this mine alone would amount to more emissions than it has projected for all open UK coal mines to 2050. The coal extracted would emit 420 million of tonnes of carbon dioxide over the mine’s lifetime, the equivalent of UK’s entire emissions in 2018, and any claims that using the coal for making British steel will reduce carbon emissions from imports are weakened as 85% of the coal will be exported.

In the year the UK hosts the UN Climate Change Conference, the COP 26, the largest global climate talks since the signing of the Paris Agreement, it is astonishing that a new coal mine is about to be approved in Cumbria.

Jobs and growth will be a key focus as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic but we have a chance to build back better, prioritising clean, green industries with new jobs created in renewable energy, increasing energy efficiency and finding alternatives to coking coal in the steel industry. The Government has rightly talked about a green industrial revolution, and Cumbria should be at the forefront of developing these clean, green industries and lead the way with low-carbon technologies, rather than perpetuating the polluting industries of the past.

Steel manufacturers across the world are moving towards lower carbon manufacturing, and the Climate Change Committee says that there will be no place for coking coal in the UK after 2035, 14 years before the end of the planning permission for the mine.

Of course it is crucial to support west Cumbria communities in their transition to genuinely sustainable employment, and Local Government Association research shows that concerted action and investment in green and low carbon energy industries in the region would provide significantly more than the 500 jobs promised by the new mine.

Kate Willshaw, policy officer at Friends of the Lake District said:

“Cumbria is a place filled with both natural beauty and a proud history of industrial innovation.  It cannot be right that the birthplace of the conservation movement will be exporting its climate changing greenhouse gases right across the globe. 

“We urge the Government to reconsider its position, and to put this planning decision through a Public Inquiry process in order to properly address the climate change issues.  Making this decision at a national level would help to restore confidence in the UK Government’s climate leadership both internationally and at home in the months before COP26.”

Read the full letter to the Prime Minister about the Cumbria Coal Mine here:


  1. COP26 – The 26th UN Climate Change Conference will take place in November 2021, in Glasgow.

  2. Coal emissions and exportation figures come from this article by Cumbrian resident and Professor of Sustainability Becky Willis: 
  3. Local Government Association statistics on green jobs in their report Local green jobs - accelerating a sustainable economic recovery:

Image: Coal is dirty energy, and new mines will worsen the climate emergency, Redmal / iStock