The government has agreed to revisit its decision to grant planning permission to a new coal mine in County Durham after admitting “a flaw” in the decision making-process. Residents have long argued that the mine would be inconsistent with the government’s coal phase-out plan.
The Department for Communities, Housing and Local Government has agreed to revisit the decision to allow the Bradley coal mine, in Pont Valley, to proceed after a judicial review was brought by local resident June Davison, who lives less than 300 metres from the mine.
Davison argued that the Secretary of State James Brokenshire had failed to justify his decision to allow the mine to proceed given another proposed mine near Druridge Bay in Northumberland was rejected in 2018 on the grounds that it was incompatible with the UK’s climate change commitments.
Davison’s case has been adjourned until 25 February 2019 after the department “identified a flaw in the original decision-making process” and agreed to revisit the decision within 35 days. Residents will be able to bring a fresh judicial review if no decision is made within that timeframe.
Reacting to the decision, Davison said in a statement:
“The Secretary of State can’t repair the damage that has been done here but the least he can do is stop it getting worse. We are fighting back for what remains of the wildlife in the Pont Valley, for the climate and for the health of our community.”
Anne Harris, a campaigner with the Coal Action Network, which has been helping local residents resisting the coal mine, said:
“The government should seize this opportunity to end the dirty industry of opencast coal extraction for good. Supporting either Bradley or Druridge Bay would be inconsistent with their promise to end coal use in power stations by 2025.”
The Bradley coal mine is operated by Banks Group, which owns a number of coal mines in the North East, including one on the estate of hereditary peer and climate science denier Matt Ridley.
Banks Group inherited the permission for the Bradley mine in June 2015 after the previous owner, UK Coal, went bust. Work began at the mine in May 2018. Planning permission for the mine would have expired on 3 June 2018 had work not commenced by that date.
The mine’s rapid development meant local residents that opposed it “didn’t have time to get together and organise” a proper resistance to the project, they previously told DeSmog UK.
In July 2018, a DeSmog UK investigation identified a number of ways in which the company appeared to have contravened its contract with the local council – known as a section 106 agreement – in order to commence work before the deadline.
Mark Dowdall, Environment and Community Director for Banks Group, said in a statement:
“Work is continuing to progress well at Bradley in the safest, most efficient and most environmentally responsible way possible, with more than 40 people from in and around the local area now directly employed at the site, and we do not believe there would be any justification for the revocation of the planning permission that was granted to the scheme through the appropriate processes.”
Image credit: Campaign to Protect Pont Valley. Updated 16/01/2019: A statement from Banks Group was added.