A DECISION could finally be on the way for polarising plans to build a coking coal mine off the coast of Whitehaven.

West Cumbria Mining’s bid to build the Woodhouse Colliery was the subject of a contentious public inquiry in September 2021 but has remained in limbo since all sides made their arguments to the planning inspectorate.

READ MORE: Public inquiry into West Cumbrian coal mine plan concludes

And it has been revealed that planning inspector Stephen Normington has now submitted his findings to the Government.

A letter seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service reveals that a decision must now be issued on or before July 7.

Now that a recommendation has been made, the final decision lies with Secretary of State for Levelling-Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove.

Mayor of Copeland Mike Starkie recently wrote to the Levelling-Up boss as well as the Prime Minister urging them to ensure the mine is approved.

Mr Starkie believes that the mine, which will be a key supplier for British steel, is even more vital given the situation in Ukraine.

The United Kingdom currently imports 1.6 metric tonnes of coal from Russia.

Speaking this week, he said: “This process has dragged on for over six years. Now the planning inspector has completed his report which I hope and expect is a recommendation to approve that the approval is granted immediately with no further unnecessary delay.”

Environmental campaigners like Friends of the Earth believe the UK should not be opening new coal mines in the march to net zero.

Dr Ruth Balogh West Cumbria FOE co-ordinator said: “The mayor wants to know about 500 jobs but its very clear if the climate crisis is taken seriously, there are many thousands of jobs which can be created in retrofitting, nature conservation, renewable energy parks and so forth.”

But supporters of the mine point out that the mine would be used to extract metallurgical coal, for steel and not thermal coal. Supporters argued during the inquiry that it would create more emissions in the long-run to continue shipping coal in from other nations.

Mr Starkie said: “I would urge the Secretary of State to approve the mine immediately, there is a clear demand for coking coal and the mine at Whitehaven will be the most environmentally friendly mine ever constructed and approval will give a huge economic boost to West Cumbria and also supports both the governments levelling up agenda and the need to become more self-reliant.

“There is no need to delay approval for this mine a minute longer.”

READ MORE: Friends of the Earth make fresh arguments in Whitehaven coal mine row

Friends of the Earth made new arguments to the planning inspector last month after a ruling by the Court of Appeal made it clear that planning authorities should take the end use emissions into account when giving their verdict on developments.

FOE say that this undermines West Cumbria Mining’s argument in the inquiry that end use emissions - caused when the coal is eventually used, cannot be classed as an ‘effect’ of the mine.