Challenge the Cumbria Coal Mine Decision

by South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC)

Challenge the Cumbria Coal Mine Decision

by South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC)
South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC)
Case Owner
SLACC members oppose the mine because they know it will make climate change worse. This funding page was compiled by Maggie Mason, a retired minerals and waste planner and member of SLACC since 2007.
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South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC)
Case Owner
SLACC members oppose the mine because they know it will make climate change worse. This funding page was compiled by Maggie Mason, a retired minerals and waste planner and member of SLACC since 2007.
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Latest: July 18, 2024

The High Court Hearing is over . Now we wait.

Lunchtime on Day 2 of the Coal Mine Legal Challenge Hearing.

The Hearing closed at little after lunchtime of day 3, Thursday 18th July, and we hope that the amazing South Lakes Action on Climate Chang…

Read more

Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC), has now approved the new coal mine in Cumbria, shocking climate scientists, splitting the governing Conservative party and dismaying activists. National and international voices have denounced this as hypocrisy that completely undermines any climate leadership that the UK might have previously claimed.  

South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC) has opposed this mine for 4 years and the reasons and details can be found on our webpage. Now the decision has been made, it can only be overturned by a successful Judicial Review. There is nothing to be gained by going over the issues again or submitting more evidence. Any legal challenge is only on procedural grounds or error of law. 

SLACC's legal team are currently going through Michael Gove's decision and the Planning Inspector's recommendation to see if there are reasonable grounds to mount such a legal challenge. SLACC Trustees need this "Counsel's Opinion" before they can decide whether to proceed, and take this battle for sanity to the bitter end. SLACC is a small charity, and all those who work on the Coal Mine are volunteers, but our legal team need funds to continue their magnificent work*.

So we cannot do this without your support. 

Our initial target is £10,000. After that SLACC will probably need another £60,000 to challenge Gove, and we will amend our stretch target later if necessary. Please give what you can afford, share around your friends and networks - and accept our heartfelt thanks for all your support. 

Contribute and share this page now! 

Also follow us on Twitter on @slacctt  and perhaps send a message to @luhc to let them know that you do not agree this mine should have been approved. 

* Our legal team have assisted SLACC since 2019,  enabled us to secure and take part in a Public Inquiry in 2021, and achieve everything up to this point. 

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Update 19

South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC)

July 18, 2024

The High Court Hearing is over . Now we wait.

Lunchtime on Day 2 of the Coal Mine Legal Challenge Hearing.

The Hearing closed at little after lunchtime of day 3, Thursday 18th July, and we hope that the amazing South Lakes Action on Climate Change and Friends of the Earth legal teams are getting a short breather after their hard work.  

You can read SLACCs simplified account of the battle on our website. The key point however is that West Cumbria Mining ONLY HAD ONE point. They said the 220 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from the use of their coal would not add to global greenhouse gas emissions: because their coal was just a replacement for coal  that other existing mines would stop extracting once WCM's mine opened.

James Strachan KC , with some difficulty, carried on repeating that this was a Zero Carbon Coal Mine until it looked as if the Judge was unconvinced. Then Strachan switched to saying the Planning Inspector and Michael Gove, then Minister at LUHC, had agreed with WCM, and given their reasons, and so that decision was lawful and could not be quashed.  

SLACC and FOE lead counsels, Estelle Dehon KC and Paul Brown KC , had very talented legal support, preparing notes over night, passing up key points and references on yellow post it notes, as we battled to rebut West Cumbria Mining's submissions in the short time left at the end of the Hearing. We hope they have managed to add enough to Mr Justice Holgate's reading list as he considers his  decision over the next month or so.

Update 18

South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC)

July 14, 2024


West Cumbria Mining is NOT conceding defeat. It has confirmed that it will defend it's planning permission, in the High Court from the 16th to 18th July.

 SLACC and FOE will , of course, continue as well.

Lawyers for the Government will be present in Court to answer questions from the Judge, but will not defend the previous planning consent, approved in December 2022 by the previous Secretary of State. 

Like the Government, SLACC is convinced that the Supreme Court's recent judgment in the Finch v Surry County Council case makes the previous planning consent unlawful. 

Read this excellent legal briefing from Friends of the Earth.

Update 17

South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC)

July 11, 2024

Government accepts "error in law" on coal mine decision!

The Secretary of State (SoS) of Levelling Up Housing and Communities (LUHC) has accepted that there was an “error in Law” in the previous decision to grant planning permission for the mine. The Government will therefore not be defending the decision, made in December 2022, to grant planning permission for the new mine, and will argue that it should be quashed.

In a reasoned and careful “Statement of Reasons” the SoS explains that the re-assessment is the result of the Supreme Court's recent judgement on the “Finch v Surrey County Council'' case.  It is now clear that the combustion emissions, i.e. from the use of the Cumbrian coal, should have been assessed as an indirect effect of the new extraction in the Environmental Impact Assessment. 

 If that is agreed by the Court,  the planning application goes back to the SoS to make a fresh decision.

This is HUGE news. We don't know what West Cumbria Mining will do, but we are pretty sure that the Hearing of our legal challenges will open on the 16th July as scheduled. Only the Court can quash the planning consent, and that is what we are hoping for.

Update 16

South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC)

July 9, 2024

Just a week to go before our High Court Hearing.

The date of the Hearing approaches, and final legal submissions have been emailed. They will be available once the Hearing starts, but I couldn't resist a backward glance at West Cumbria Mining (WCM)'s arguments on climate impacts.

Cumbria County Council had originally ruled that GHG emissions from the use of the extracted coal (known as Scope 3 emissions) in steelmaking should be included in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). This was, in fact, the position confirmed by the Supreme Court judgement on the 20th June 2024, but a very different position was taken in 2020 by Justice Holgate in the Appeal Court, and an intervening High Court decision in 2021, which left a lot of discretion for decision makers.

WCM had, in any case, left any assessment of the GHG from the use of the coal OUT of the Environmental Statement, giving a range of possible excuses, including a an argument that they would be ZERO anyway. This is known as "substitution".

" The general approach to GHG emissions has hitherto been based upon substitution. That is, recognising that coal produced by the Proposed Development for the UK and European market would replace coal that would otherwise have been extracted and imported from further afield, principally in the USA" . Page 2 WCM 2020 revised Planning Statement 

The same document offered an alternative to the Cumbria CC " GHG emissions assessment has now been included within the Environmental Statement to provide a worst case analysis of GHG emissions caused by the Proposed Development."  but that  ONLY included the construction and operational emissions.

 In other words WCM anticipated Finch would eventually fail, and that they had no obligation to publish a quantitative estimate of the Scope 3 emissions {i.e. from using the coal} in their Environmental Statement. It would not have automatically led to rejection of the mine, but harms and benefits could have been be assessed rationally., in the public arena.

WCM's fall-back defence is now likely to be the "100% substitution" concept, or some alternative that argues its all irrelevant under the law. You can find a short video explaining substitution in SLACCS recent newsletter. View and share if you find it helpful. 

There will be a short rally at the Royal Courts of Justice at 9.00am on Tuesday 16th morning. If you can attend  Contact FOE so they have an idea of numbers.

Update 15

South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC)

June 30, 2024

Winds of change?

Is change in the air ? Might there be a "fair wind" behind SLACC and FoE efforts to get the planning permission for a new coal mine on the west coast of Cumbria overturned?

The Judge at our High Court Hearing, which starts on the 16th July, will consider our request for permission to take a Statutory Review of the decision of Michael Gove (as the then Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) to approve the new mine in Cumbria. The same "rolled up" Hearing will consider updated grounds for our belief that his decision was unlawful,  and our response to the Supreme Court's recent decision on the Horse Hill oil well.

You can read the Supreme Court's Judgement here. The Office of Environmental Protection's written submissions to that court can be found here, and commentary on the case from Cornerstone Barristers here.

Papers for the Cumbria coal case will not be available until the Hearing has begun. 

Update 14

South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC)

June 20, 2024

Horse Hill oil well ruling today

Today's ruling at the Supreme Court is brilliant news for the Weald Action Group, for Friends of the Earth and also great news for our team at South Lakes Action on Climate Change.

After the judgement was handed down this morning our solicitor, Matthew McFeeley, said:  “This is an important recognition by the Supreme Court that the downstream impacts of fossil fuel projects must be adequately considered, and calls into question the Secretary of State’s approach in relation to the Cumbria Mine."

Michael Gove's approach, based on considering the mine as climate neutral", should be reconsidered in the light of today's judgement during the High Court Hearing on the 16th -18th July , No doubt the "stop Rosebank" campaigners will follow through in the autumn. 

Even with a new government in place on the 5th July, the coal mine will not be stopped unless FoE and SLACC achieve a victory in July, and our hard-working legal team do need to be paid. 

So SLACC needs funds. If you are able to help, please do!


Update 13

South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC)

June 13, 2024

It's all happening!

After 5 years of campaigning it's suddenly all happening at once! 

The Hearing for our legal challenge starts at the Royal Courts of Justice on the 16th July, but a new Government is likely to be in place on the 5th July.  This is unlikely to significantly change the Hearing and it's immediate outcome, but there are other regulatory processes further down the line, and a potential Appeal if we lose the current challenge.

In addition, we have heard today that the ruling on the Horse Hill oil well case will be handed down on the 20th June. Previous updates on this page explain how this could affect our own legal challenge.

One thing is certain. We need to fight and win the legal challenge ahead of us, and for that we need funds. If you have not donated yet and can genuinely spare some cash, we would be very grateful. 

Update 12

South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC)

April 19, 2024


The High Court Hearing for our legal challenge now has to be before the 31st July, and we also have a clearer idea of the likely costs of this struggle. So we are increasing our fundraising target by an extra £25,000, to £60,000.

Obviously, and understandably, West Cumbria Mining has worked hard to stop our challenge. First of all consent to challenge the decision was refused. Then a 1 day initial Hearing was eventually listed for 23 May 2023 but cancelled almost on the day, because the Judge agreed that a 3 day "rolled up" Hearing could be held instead of the 2 separate days that we were expecting. 

WCM intervened in the "Finch "case  which we had to follow carefully, then the Courts halted our case to wait for the outcome, and just before Easter 2024 WCM applied to the Court for the  "stay" on our case to be  "lifted".  This will add great difficulty if the Finch ruling comes out near, or after the time of our Hearing.

If you can afford to, please help us stop this mine from getting consent. The UK's hypocrisy has been noted, including at COP 28 and the UK claim that a new coal mine can be "climate neutral" and have no impact on global heating is giving a green light to other nations to open new coal mines or oil and gas wells. 

If you are not in a position to donate, please share the link to this page, read and share our website or our short video

Update 11

South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC)

April 16, 2024

Coal mine Court Hearing to be before 31 July 2024!

The Courts have "lifted the stay" on our High Court Hearing, and ruled that it must happen before the 31st July 2024.  

You can read more about in on our website at

Update 10

South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC)

Jan. 5, 2024


West Cumbria Mining have NOT started work to develop their coal mine AND our legal challenge of the planning permission is still "pending".

It could all kick off anytime. We expect a Hearing date for our legal challenge this spring, but it's held up waiting for the Supreme Court's decision on the Horse Hill oil well case.    Visit our website for more information now.

Update 9

South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC)

June 1, 2023

We've got a court date

The Hearing is going to start on the 16th July 2024 at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, and last up to 3 days.

We are immensely grateful to all those who have helped us get to this point, including by donating to, and sharing, this fundraiser. As I write this update, we have just over £42,500 towards our £60,000 target. This is really encouraging. 

Watch and share this Video or go to our website for the video and more updated information.

Update 8

South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC)

May 19, 2023


High Court agrees to hear coal mine legal challenge

South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC) today welcomed a ruling from High Court judge Mrs Justice Thornton DBE, which means that the two legal challenges to the decision of the Secretary of State to grant permission for a new coal mine at Whitehaven, Cumbria will go forward to a three-day hearing in the second half of this year. 

This is in place of the Hearing that had been planned for next Tuesday, 23rd May, at which SLACC and Friends of the Earth (FoE), the two charities involved in the Public Inquiry in 2021, were going to renew their request to challenge Michael Gove's decision to approve the mine.

Having considered the documents submitted by all the parties in advance of the Hearing planned for next Tuesday, the Court cancelled the Hearing and gave permission for SLACC and FOE to present their case at a future ‘rolled-up’ hearing, where the application for permission and the substance of the Claimants’ statutory review will be heard simultaneously.

The case will be heard after the landmark Supreme Court challenge brought by Sarah Finch concerning oil drilling at Horse Hill in Surrey, which is scheduled for 21 June.

A key issue in that case is whether the greenhouse gases from burning oil should be taken into account when assessing the environmental harms from their extraction, and the Office of Environmental Protection has been given permission to intervene in the case.

West Cumbria Mining, the company behind the Whitehaven Mine have also been given permission to intervene, presumably because of the parallels with the use of coal in blast furnaces.

 SLACC view;

“This is a positive and sensible decision, which reflects the complexity and importance of the issues that need to be determined in the Whitehaven case, but which might also allow a rational and consistent process.

We look forward to a full hearing of our case, including that the Secretary of State failed to properly take into account the climate impacts of the mine and the international implications of this decision, and that the Inspector did not fairly consider the evidence as he should have.  

SLACC members and supporters continue to pursue this issue because the climate and ecological impacts of burning coal are increasingly rapidly, and new extraction starting now and continuing until 2049 is madness "

SLACC and FoE launched their legal challenges in January after the Secretary of State controversially granted planning permission for the UK’s first deep coal mine in 30 years, following a month long planning inquiry which took place in September 2021.


Update 7

South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC)

April 23, 2023

Waiting for a court date...

SLACC is now waiting for a  court date,  to explain why there SHOULD be a Statutory Review of Michael Gove's decision.  We understand our request will be considered in the Royal Courts of Justice, i.e. in London not Manchester.

 If, as a result, we DO get permission to challenge the approval of the mine, the substantive case will also be heard at the Royal Courts of Justice.

Legal teams for SLACC and Friends of the Earth will both present their cases on the same day, and will liaise so that their cases don't overlap or repeat arguments. 

Update 6

South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC)

April 13, 2023

High Court judge says NO to our challenge

On 11th April Sir Ross Cranston, sitting as a High Court judge, ruled that SLACC cannot start a Statutory Review to challenge Michael Gove's decision to approve the proposed coal mine at Whitehaven , Cumbria.

We are allowed to request a review of the High Court decision, and should be able to get a day in Court to explain why we SHOULD be allowed to challenge Gove's consent for the mine.

We have 7 days to "renew" our request, and the day in Court should then be in a couple of months time.

More news soon... Thanks to all who have helped us so far.

Update 5

South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC)

Feb. 27, 2023

Further submission to High Court

On Friday 24th February SLACC and our legal team sent another submission to the High Court. This was in response to letters sent in to the Court by the Government's and West Cumbria Mining's legal teams. 

We expect a ruling from the Court fairly soon on: a) whether we have permission to continue with the legal challenge;  b) whether we have costs* protection and if so c) how much that "cap" would be.

Huge thanks to all those who have supported us to this stage. Updates will appear here, and also on our website.

* If SLACC loses the case the defendants (the  Secretary of State LUHC, West Cumbria Mining and Cumbria County Council) would ask us to pay their legal costs. The international Aarhus Convention provides for a "cap" to be set in this type of case.

Update 4

South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC)

Jan. 13, 2023

Request for Statutory Review lodged!

We lodged papers at the High Court in Manchester yesterday - 13 January.  This is a huge step on the way to challenging Gove's decision. 

SLACC is asking the High Court for permission to bring a Statutory Review of Gove’s decision, and sets out four grounds of challenge which, in SLACC’s view, mean that the decision was unlawful and should be quashed.

Gove acknowledged that 220 million tonnes of greenhouse gases would be released from the coal extracted over the mine’s lifetime, and that most of the coal would be exported rather than used in the UK or EU,. but he still concluded that the mine would be “climate neutral or slightly beneficial”.

Our claim sets out the errors in law; the failure to give intelligible reasons, and the disparity of treatment between the parties that Mr Gove employed to arrive at this contradictory conclusion.

More details about the grounds for our challenge will appear on our website over the weekend. There are several more stages to the process and it may take several months before the final outcome of this challenge is clear.

We are also lowering our stretch target FOR NOW,  until we actually get consent to start the Statutory Review, and can see how our funds stand. 

Update 3

South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC)

Jan. 7, 2023

Government Lawyers Reply!

On Friday 6th Government lawyers replied to SLACC's Pre Action Protocol letter. This will help us refine our claim, which must be lodged at the High Court by Friday 13th January.

Work on our legal challenge, how it dovetails with the challenge by Friends of the Earth, and how potential costs can be covered continues.

The UK government has backed the arguments of the international fossil fuel industry, and we need to face up to their combined forces in court.  We are much stronger together than either charity would be on their own!

We must hope that the fantastic support from all our donors here, and some charitable funders who are expressing interest will carry us through.

Please keep an eye on this page and we will let you know when we need another big push for funds.

(The deadline on this funding page is now 7 February and can be extended further if need be.)

Update 2

South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC)

Dec. 23, 2022

SUPPORT the ONLY way to stop the Cumbria Coal Mine

You may have been asked to sign petitions to Rishi Sunak to stop the Cumbria Coal Mine. 

The Labour Party may have promised to reverse the decision. 

But the ONLY way Michael Gove's consent for this damaging, "coal phase down busting" decision can be reversed is by a legal challenge known as a Statutory Review.

Tiny Charity South Lakes Action against Climate Change has employed a great legal team since 2019, and they know the best way to challenge and reverse this decision. 

So many business and political leaders, faith groups and scientists have spoke out against the mine, but SLACC needs MONEY to take this forward. 

Our Trustees need to "press the button" on this by the 5th January. They should not be in the position of risking their homes in the battle for rationality and a just climate transition.  

Please help us. Fossil Fuel extractors cannot be allowed to ignore the GHG from the use of their oil, gas or coal, on the spurious grounds that they "don't have control" over them. Or that "someone else would supply if they didn't". 

The UK Government appears to have backed these "arms dealers" defences, and the chimera of Carbon Capture and Storage to allow a Hong Kong based,  Australian coal magnate to develop a replacement for a Siberian coal project!  

Please donate to, and share this fundraiser, as widely and quickly as you can.  

OR email me and the SLACC team to discuss any direct charitable donation.

Update 1

South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC)

Dec. 23, 2022

SLACC working towards legal challenge of Coal Mine decision.

Today,  23rd December 2022, SLACC's legal team have sent a pre-action letter to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up Housing and Communities. This is not a definite commitment to submit a legal challenge. Our Trustees will take that decision very early in the New Year. 

They will need to have enough funds available to take that decision, so please give generously if you can afford it, and share this appeal with your networks and friends. Be assured that, in the unlikely event that SLACC does not proceed, and any funds are unspent, they will be passed on to support another legal battle against climate change.   SLACC will not retain such funds for our general funds. 

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