UK orders inquiry into new coal mine

London, March 12 (AFP/APP):Britain has ordered a public inquiry into a planned deep coal mine, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed Friday, with the government performing a U-turn before hosting a key climate summit.
Johnson said the coal mine plan “is something that needs to be looked at very carefully”.
The prime minister, who will host the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November, ran into fierce criticism from environmental campaigners over his January decision to delegate approval for the carbon-intensive facility to the local authority.
The proposed coastal project, whose developer is Australian-owned West Cumbria Mining, would be located near the town of Whitehaven in northwest England and supply European and UK steelmakers with metallurgical coal.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick’s department wrote Thursday to Cumbria County Council to reveal that plans for the controversial mine would be “called in”, or reviewed.
“Overall the Secretary of State (Jenrick) considers that this application raises planning issues of more than local importance,” the department wrote.
“To consider all the relevant aspects of the proposed development, the Secretary of State has decided to hold a local inquiry.”
The letter added that the inquiry, undertaken by the department’s planning inspectorate division, would begin immediately.
Jenrick had previously declined to intervene in the matter.
Cumbria County Council had initially given the go ahead for the mine in October, but decided in February it would review the plans to assess environmental impact more accurately.
The public inquiry comes after a long-running campaign against the project by environmental groups, which accused Johnson’s government of undermining its climate pledges.
Greenpeace welcomed the U-turn, but warned that its overall environmental strategy was still lacking.
“This is certainly fantastic news and definitely better late than never,” said Greenpeace UK chief scientist Doug Parr.
“The government may have just about saved its blushes, so long as the mine is canned.”

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