Climate change evidence at mine inquiry

Paul Bedwell, Senior Planning Director at Pegasus Group, was among the expert team called upon to give evidence at the recent West Cumbria Mine public Inquiry. Here the Yorkshire planning expert outlines the process.

Leeds firm worked alongside Friends of the Earth

I was delighted that Pegasus Group was able to take on the brief from South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC), opposing the plans by West Cumbria Mining Ltd (WCM).

WCM had applied to Cumbria County Council to develop a new underground metallurgical coal mine on the former Marchon chemical works site in Whitehaven, that would see the removal of coking coal for the production of steel in the UK, Europe and Asia.

The application was called in by the Secretary of State. During a four-week Public Inquiry, that concluded earlier this month, I was among a number of expert witnesses called by lawyers for SLACC, a community-based charity fighting to protect against climate change who worked alongside Friends of the Earth throughout the Inquiry.

Benefits of new mine ‘moderate’ compared to climate change impact, says Leeds expert

The case against the new mine is that, in the context of local and national planning policy and the UK Government’s commitments to address climate change, there is no need for the mine and that, if approved, the mine would increase greenhouse gas emissions, exacerbate climate change impacts and cause significant adverse environmental harm, and that the claimed benefits are local and exaggerated.

My evidence considered the application proposals in light of relevant local and national planning policies. I confirmed to the Inspector that in my professional judgement, the benefits of WCM’s application proposals were ‘moderate’ compared to the significantly harmful and serious adverse environmental impacts that would arise from development and subsequent operation of the mine and that consequently, the scheme conflicts with the requirements of local and national planning policies.

This was an extremely high-profile and important case with a lot of press attention ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), but ultimately, the facts of any planning application remain to be considered against the requirements of local and national planning policies and relevant material considerations.

A lot of my specialist work involves providing evidence as a planning witness at public inquiries, so it was particularly pleasing that SLACC recognised Pegasus Group’s track record in working to address climate change through development of renewable energy schemes throughout the UK.

Find out more about the work of Pegasus at https://www.pegasusgroup.co.uk/offices/leeds/