United Kingdom Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has rejected plans for a new opencast coal mine at Hightorn, Northumberland on grounds that it would exacerbate climate change, reversing a planning decision 18 months ago that initially allowed the project to proceed.
The secretary concluded the project’s carbon footprint, combined with the harm it would bring to the local landscape, outweighed its economic benefits, The Guardian reports. “Environmental lawyers ClientEarth said the decision was the first time the UK government had rejected a planning application citing climate change as the reason,” the paper adds.
“This is a significant victory for local residents and the climate,” said Friends of the Earth UK Campaigner Rose Dickinson. “It means an important step forward has been taken in ending the era of fossil fuels.”
Ministry officials explained Javid had concluded “that overall, the scheme would have an adverse effect on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change of very substantial significance, which he gives very considerable weight in the planning balance.”
Project proponent Banks Mining called the decision “perverse”, with Managing Director Gavin Styles contending the decision “has been made for purely political reasons, and is totally contrary to the principles of local decision-making that previously appeared so important to Mr. Javid.” The company hasn’t decided whether to appeal the decision.
While past and upcoming closures will soon leave the UK with just six remaining coal-fired generating stations, there’s one possible new coal mine on the books, a £200-million project at Woodhouse in Cumbria. West Cumbria Mining “plans to extract metallurgical coal for steel-making rather than power generation,” The Guardian notes, in what would be the UK’s first deep coal mine in several decades.
“Cumbria county council has so far postponed meetings on the project, and late May is understood to be the earliest it will decide whether to approve or reject the mine.”