• This is a copy of a letter to Coun Stewart Young, leader of Cumbria County Council.

We write to you as concerned residents of Whitehaven in regard to Woodhouse Colliery.

When we and the wider community here in West Cumbria thought that the last hurdle had been cleared there is now another obstacle to clear in Cumbria County Council (CCC) reconsidering the application granted to West Cumbria Mining (WCM).

We were of the impression that the representations had been made both in support of and opposing Woodhouse Colliery during the long process and to now see the goalposts moved yet again leaves the community here dismayed.

We are appealing to you to apply leadership and come out and publicly support WCM in their application to build Woodhouse Colliery. We appreciate that this will put you at odds with the national Labour Party who have taken a stance of opposition to the mine.

We do not seek to become embroiled in the fingerpointing and blame game of the political parties that has unfortunately dominated the issue this week; we approach you as concerned residents who wish to see Woodhouse Colliery operational providing 500 direct jobs (80% of which WCM have stated will be sourced from the local labour pool) and also double that number of jobs in the supply chain and finally the enormous number of jobs created in the construction phase.

The mine would also offer much-needed skills and retraining to many employees as well as potential apprenticeships.

West Cumbria cannot be reliant on Sellafield anymore in providing jobs for everyone.

There have been thousands locally backing Woodhouse Colliery; the consequences of it not going ahead would be a devastating blow to our community.

Woodhouse Colliery will hopefully be sited within the council ward of Sandwith where unfortunately the child poverty rate sits at 49%.

Were Woodhouse Colliery to go ahead poverty in the ward would be eradicated, not to mention the benefits for our communities in West Cumbria also and the prosperity and spending power it will bring.

The socio-economic argument far outweighs the environmental one; in fact sourcing the coking coal for steel production from Woodhouse Colliery would mean the UK does not offshore it’s greenhouse emissions and also would mean that the UK do not need to import coking coal from as far afield as Australia. It is said that Woodhouse Colliery would contribute less than 0.1% to the UK’s Sixth Carbon Budget and in that the environmental argument fails.

We need you to put your faith and support in the working class communities of West Cumbria and support WCM’s application.



By email

No need for mine

To many, this decision by central Government to allow carbon-based minerals to be dug is ludicrous, retrograde thinking, globally embarrassing and hypocritical given the UK is hosting COP26 in November and the Govt declaration to ‘build back better’ in a carbon free and ecologically sustainable manner.

Furthermore, minister Robert Jenrick uses the usual Tory ‘slope-shouldered’ tool of declaring it as a local decision, whilst those of us with just a little common-sense equate it to appeasing the newly appointed Tory MPs out west and those that voted for them.

This west Cumbrian mine will produce about three million tonnes of coking coal for steel production in the UK to replace our current practice of importing coal from across the globe: a process that is ecologically beyond comprehension. However, what isn’t so well known is that 85% of this is to be exported to the EU, increasing our carbon footprint even further and all to serve a declining steel industry in the UK.

Nationally, we produce about seven million tons of steel per year (as against 30 million in the 1970s): that is economically insignificant to UK PLC and more importantly detrimental to the recently announced Tory green-plan.

However, within spitting distance of these shores the EU produces 170 million tons of steel each year, the very place we intend to ship 85% of west Cumbria’s coal to assist in their steel making processes: coal they don’t actually need. It makes much greater ecological and economic sense to import the steel we need from the EU, negating the current need to import coal from across the globe and digging a new mine in west Cumbria. In addition, this would reduce our carbon footprint even further and send out a positive message to the world that the UK is serious about a new green future.

Clearly pulling down the ‘final curtain’ on the British steel industry is not an insignificant political decision – these are areas of the country that have been kicked from pillar to post through 35 years of uncertainty and job insecurity, west Cumbria being one them, and as a native of the north-east, during those dark days of Thatcherism, I am only too familiar with what these difficult decisions can do to communities: but these areas were ignored, falsely promised, paid-off and patronised.

These post-industrial regions must be rebuilt and be at the forefront of the Green Plan. They must be given a structured, sustainable and properly funded training, innovation and technology future: our young people must be given the option that Cumbria physically offers this technical training, enterprise and excellence: Government must invest in optimism, remove uncertainty and allow these working-class heartlands to prosper through supported opportunities as part of the Northern Powerhouse Plan. I would like the numerous Tory MPs we now have in the county to guarantee, direct to the public, that Cumbria will be on the front-line, first in the queue, of the promised green rebuild.

The public does not want a one-line answer, nor do we want to hear patronising promises: give us the details in black and white print.


Cliburn, Penrith

Much-needed employment

It appears many green campaigners and local councillors are not familiar with the process of steel manufacture. Having worked at Workington Iron & Steel Company at Moss Bay works, I feel that I am qualified to educate them.

Presently, there is no viable commercial process to allow steel to be manufactured without using coke or charcoal as a fuel source. Currently, about 70% all new steel globally is produced using iron oxide, coking coal and limestone. Coking coal is usually coal with special qualities that are needed in the blast furnace. The other 30% of steel is made from recycled steel in electric arc furnaces which consume huge amounts of electricity.

By allowing construction of a new coal mine at Whitehaven, it will reduce the transportation emissions of coal being shipped to Britain from far-flung countries such as Australia, Brazil, Canada and Russia. Why create these emissions by transporting coal thousands of miles when we have coal on our doorsteps?

Perhaps, at some future date the ‘Hydromor’ process which proposes to replace coke with hydrogen as the fuel source to make steel can become economic, but the time frame for this technology is decades. Producing hydrogen consumes energy to liquify the gas to make it useable. Hydrogen needs to be compressed which uses energy to reduce the temperature to minus 273.87 degrees C.

Therefore, by allowing construction of coal mine at Whitehaven, this will provide much needed employment for the people of west Cumbria, which is fast becoming an economic desert unless other forms of well-paid employment are forthcoming. What is the difference between burning coal mined and Whitehaven and burning coal that has to be transported from Australia?



Highest-level talks

Four years ago, all local political parties (including the Green Party) opted to support the Whitehaven coking coal mine during the Copeland by-election.

As the Lib Dem in that election I have, over the years, had to deal with many hundreds of people who passionately believe that the mine is a bad idea, but cannot present any coherent rationale to support their feelings.

The most plausible claim is that blocking the mine will help to create market force pressures which will push steel production to decarbonise. Unfortunately, this economic argument isn’t correct in this case because the amount of investment needed is so vast that collective global government policy action and investment is needed. Market pressures won’t be enough.

The decision has been called in for review again because there is a clash between our government’s commitments on carbon neutrality and its inability to develop a plan to tackle very complex issues like decarbonising steel production.

My hope now is that the controversy about the mine will cause the decarbonisation of steel production to be thoroughly discussed at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow this November (COP26) and that significant progress will be made towards this vital goal. Hopefully then, after the very highest-level global discussion, a decision can be made about this mine which can be seen by all to be wise. I also hope that our national plan to become carbon neutral will take a significant step forward.


County Councillor (Cockermouth North)