Open cast coal mine rejection faces High Court challenge

The government's rejection of plans for a new open cast coal mine faces a High Court challenge amidst accusations by the project's backers that the move will push up energy prices by increasing the UK's reliance on risky overseas supplies of the fuel.

Banks Mining has registered its intention to challenge communities and local government secretary of state Sajid Javid’s decision last month to reject its plans to carry out surface mining in Highthorn, Northumberland.

Javid ruled that the scheme could undermine the UK’s efforts to meet its statutory climate change targets if it was allowed to go ahead.

Banks is lodging a challenge on the grounds that there are serious errors in the legal basis on which the decision was made and that Javid had departed from guidance in the National Planning Policy Framework, which states that mining applications can be allowed if their benefits outweigh likely environmental impacts.

The County Durham based company points to the Planning Inspectorate’s support for the scheme claiming its national benefits will “clearly outweigh” any adverse impacts and contends that the secretary of state’s decision wrongly takes into account greenhouse gas emissions from the ultimate use of coal as opposed to its production.

Gavin Styles, managing director at Banks Mining, said: “We have been advised that we have strong legal grounds for registering this challenge and will be working to get a decision from the High Court as quickly as possible.

“The approach adopted by the secretary of state in reaching his decision could have far-reaching, unintended consequences for all hydrocarbon extraction industries such as coal, gas and oil, including the shale gas industry, as well as other sectors of the minerals extractive industries and major infrastructure developments, such as road, rail and air projects, and could significantly impact on UK industry’s competitiveness against overseas rivals.”

Styles said that last year’s record low demand for coal electricity generation of 8.7 million tonnes was still five times greater than the UK is currently able to supply with the shortfall being met by imports from Russia and the USA.

He added: “The necessity for all available coal generation capacity to be deployed during the recent ‘Beast from the East’, when around 25 per cent of the electricity used in the UK was generated through the use of coal, should be a wake-up call that its role in our country’s energy balance is still very important, and will continue to be so over the transition period to a low carbon generation network.

“The secretary of state’s misguided decision will make us ever more reliant on energy imports, as well as more vulnerable to both price rises and supply interruptions, the consequences of which will inevitably be rising prices for the consumer such as those recently announced by British Gas and EDF Energy. In the current international political environment, it surely cannot be in the UK’s best interests to rely on imports of coal from Russia rather than that produced at home by the highly skilled and experienced workforce of a long-established and reputable British company.

“We have no wish to enter into a dispute with the government, but when such a perverse decision has been made, it is not only important for ourselves that we challenge this decision, but also for all the other UK industries who would be so badly affected by.”

A spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government, said: “In refusing the plans, Mr Javid considered all the evidence heard at the public inquiry, together with the recommendation of the planning inspector.

“His decision took account of all material considerations, including the potential environmental impacts of the scheme.”

David Blackman

This article first appeared on edie’s sister title, Utility Week

Comments (1)

  1. Andy Clarke says:

    Anyone else find it ironic that they make this appeal citing "security of supply" when the UK has just gone 55 hours without using any coal for Power Generation demonstrating that our reliance on "King Coal" is waning?
    I also know the location of this proposed extraction site and it would damage a beautiful part of Northumberland – so why don’t we keep the coal in the ground for when/if we really need it?

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