Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove has granted planning permission for a controversial coking coal mine in Cumbria.
Here is a timeline of how the scheme has reached this point:
– March 2019: Cumbria County Council grants planning approval to West Cumbria Mining (WCM) for a new underground mine near Whitehaven, to be known as Woodhouse Colliery, to supply UK and European steel-making plants.
The go-ahead is hailed by the company as the culmination of five years of planning for the project but is immediately criticised by environmental campaigners.
The plans are subsequently approved again in October 2019 and October 2020.
– January 2021: The Climate Change Committee (CCC) warns communities secretary Robert Jenrick that a decision not to call in the plans for an inquiry gives a “negative impression of the UK’s climate priorities” and the scheme will increase greenhouse gas emissions.
– February 2021: Cumbria County Council says it will reconsider the planning application for the coal mine, in light of recommendations published in December 2020 by the CCC on legal limits for carbon emissions in the 2030s.
– March 2021: In what is labelled a “startling U-turn” by campaigners, Mr Jenrick announces he is now calling in the application as it raises issues of “more than local importance”, with a public inquiry to be held to explore the arguments over the mine.
The move comes after the company declared it would take legal action following the county council’s decision to reconsider the scheme.
– June 2021: The Government brings forward the date to end the use of coal to generate electricity in the UK to October 2024, though the announcement does not cover other uses of coal such as the steel industry, or domestic coal mines.
– September 2021: A public inquiry is held into the mine, lasting four weeks.
– November 2021: The UK hosts the Cop26 UN climate summit in Glasgow, with efforts to phase down use of fossil fuels high on the agenda.
– April 2022: The Planning Inspectorate confirms the planning report has been submitted to communities secretary Michael Gove for final determination on or before July 7 2022.
– June 2022: CCC chairman and former Tory environment secretary Lord Deben steps up his criticism of the plan for the mine, labelling it “absolutely indefensible”, and says it creates another example of the UK saying one thing on climate change and doing another.
But prime minister Boris Johnson adds to speculation the Government could approve the scheme, which is backed by a number of Tory MPs, when he tells the Commons that “plainly it makes no sense to be importing coal, particularly for metallurgical purposes, when we have our own domestic resources”.
– July 6 2022: The Government delays a decision into whether to approve the new coal mine, as political turmoil grips Westminster, with Mr Gove sacked a day before Mr Johnson announces he will quit.
– August 11 2022: The decision is delayed again, and a new deadline of early November is set.
– November 1 2022: The Government delays the decision for a third time to early December, as ministers are said to need more time to consider the case.
– December 7 2022: Mr Gove approves planning permission for the mine, with a Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesman saying it will be “net zero in its operations”.