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The government’s chief planning officer has defended its recent judgement to allow a new coal mine in Cumbria. Joanna Averley stated in a conference that the decision to approve the mine application was left to Cumbria Council, as it was only a local issue.

The new coal mine in Cumbria was given the green light by the government in 2019, with the Woodhouse colliery project set to cost around £165m. It will become the first new British deep coal mine in 30 years, and it is believed that the project will fuel the UK’s steel industry and bring jobs to a region with high unemployment, with an expected 500 people being employed, increasing to an estimated 2,000 more jobs created in its supply chain.

However, Environmentalists have responded with astonishment and disbelief, saying the carbon from burning coal is clearly a global concern. They warned the decision will diminish the UK’s credibility. This will be tested at the crucial climate summit being held in Glasgow later in the year. As it hosts the meeting, the UK will play a crucial role in persuading other countries to cut their emissions.

Protests from climate campaigners began after the backing was given in March 2019, it is expected that the new coal mine project will harm the UK’s efforts to reduce CO2 emissions and damage their targets.

Ms Averley’s comments came in a conference on planning policy arranged by the countryside charity CPRE.

She was asked why, given the UK’s policies on cutting carbon, the Planning Secretary Robert Jenrick had not exercised his powers to overrule Cumbria Council’s approval of the mine.

Ms Averley said: “The Secretary of State has to make a judgement based on whether the impacts of the scheme are more than local. And in this case, the decision was that this was a decision for local determination, and the application was approved by the local authority, a decision for local democracy.”

Paul Miner, from CPRE, said: “All coal mines should be refused planning permission, according to current government policy. So, it beggars belief why ministers have not stepped in and refused the planning application for this coal mine in Cumbria. Not only does coal mining scar the landscape and cause pollution for countryside communities, its further fuels climate and ecological breakdown. If the UK is to host COP26 while simultaneously approving the extraction of coal.”

The critics have pointed out that the UK has also helped drive an international group called the Powering Past Coal Alliance. Supporters of the mine say it’ll supply coking coal for steel manufacture in the UK, and that will save the need to import coal.

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