A Pegasus Group planning professional was among the expert team giving evidence at a public inquiry into plans for a new coal mine near Whitehaven in Cumbria.

Paul Bedwell was called upon as an expert witness on behalf of South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC), opposing the plans by West Cumbria Mining Ltd (WCM) for the mine.

SLACC are a community-based charity fighting to protect against climate change and promote a more sustainable lifestyle.

West Cumbria Mining Ltd applied to Cumbria County Council to develop a new underground metallurgical coal mine on the former Marchon chemical works site in Whitehaven, that would see the extraction of coking coal for the production of steel in the UK, Europe and Asia.

Paul Bedwell

The application was called in by the Secretary of State and during a four-week Public Inquiry, Paul Bedwell was among a number of experts called by lawyers for SLACC to present its case that, in the context of local and national planning policy and the UK Government’s commitments to address climate change, there is no need for the mine and that, if approved, the mine would increase greenhouse gas emissions, exacerbate climate change impacts and cause significant adverse environmental harm, and that the claimed benefits are local and exaggerated.

In her closing submissions to West Cumbria Mine Inquirythe Inquiry, Cornerstone’s barrister Estelle Dehon on behalf of SLACC said Mr Bedwell ‘gave reasoned and measured evidence’ and that he ‘set out the impacts of the harms and the benefits, including giving moderate weight to the benefit of restoration of the former Mainband Colliery site and to the delivery of jobs’.

Ms Dehon said: “Mr Bedwell concludes that the proposed development fails to comply with Development Plan policies DC13 and SP15 of the Cumbria Minerals and Waste Local Plan; and policies ENV1, ENV2, ENV3, ENV4 ENV5 and ER10 of the Copeland Local Plan. He sets out why material considerations do not indicate that planning permission should be given; rather there are a number of material considerations weighing against the granting of planning permission.”

Paul Bedwell is a Chartered Town Planner with 30 years’ specialist experience. He has provided evidence as a planning witness at multiple public inquiries, in expert’s determinations, land tribunals cases and in the High Court.

He said: “I was delighted that Pegasus Group was able to take on this brief from SLACC, who recognised our track record in working to address climate change through development of renewable energy schemes.

“This was an extremely high-profile and important case with a lot of press attention ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), but ultimately, the facts of any planning application remain to be considered against the requirements of local and national planning policies and relevant material considerations. I was able to confirm to the Inspector that in my professional judgement, the benefits of this application were “moderate” compared to the extremely harmful and serious adverse environmental impacts that would arise from operation of the mine.”

SLACC’s lawyers pressed the Government to call the public inquiry and secured Rule 6 status, ensuring SLACC had a key and leading role in preparing and presenting evidence, and interrogating evidence put forward by WCM.

The planning Inspector will report back to the new Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing Communities (MHCLG) Michael Gove who is expected to make a final decision on the application in 2022.

For more information about this inquiry, or any of Pegasus Group’s services please contact us.