A mining boss has branded the Government’s decision to block an open-cast coal mine “perverse” and said it would have kept £200 million within the UK economy.
The Green Party claimed “coal is “over” and campaigners celebrated a “significant victory” after Communities Minister Sajid Javid overturned local councillors’ decision to allow three million tonnes of coal to be extracted from scenic Druridge Bay in Northumberland, as he cited environmental concerns.
Friends of the Earth said it was the first time a coal mine had been rejected in the UK because of the impact of climate change, and said the decision was a vindication of the argument for fossil fuels to be left in the ground.
And Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party, said: “Coal is over. This landmark ruling by Sajid Javid to reject coal mining in favour of protecting our planet signals the end of this dirty industry’s future in Britain.”
Banks Mining said their application would have created 100 jobs, invested £87 million in the Northumberland economy and kept £200 million in the UK that will now be spent on coal from the US or Russia.
Managing director Gavin Styles likened the situation to the row about UK passports being made in France instead of in Gateshead by British firm De La Rue.
He called it an “absolutely perverse decision” which went against both the planning inspector’s recommendation following a public inquiry and Northumberland County Council’s planning committee.
Mr Styles criticised Mr Javid for making the decision “from the comfort of his London office” and without visiting the site.
And he said it was unprofessional of Mr Javid to release his judgment on social media 90 minutes before the firm was officially told.
He said: “If the Prime Minister takes up the invitation of the De Le Rue chief executive to come to the region and explain the passport contract decision to his employees, we would ask that she also brings Mr Javid with her, so he can explain his thinking to our loyal North East workforce and the many local suppliers and customers with which we work.”
He said coal was still part of the country’s energy mix and was used to meet more than a quarter of the UK’s energy requirements during the recent cold snap.
Protesters had argued the plan would damage local wildlife and badly affect local tourism.
And environmentalists said the UK should not give the mine the green light while urging other countries to reject fossil fuels.
In Mr Javid’s explanation for overturning the application, he concluded “overall the scheme would have an adverse effect on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change of very substantial significance”.
For Rose Dickinson, of Friends of the Earth, it was a “significant victory”.
She said: “This is the first coal mine ever to be rejected in the UK because of climate change impacts – a vindication for everyone who has been calling for fossil fuels to be left in the ground.”
The bay is a regional beauty spot and attracts an annual gathering of skinny dippers.
Protesters said the plans would have affected otters, dolphins and pink-footed geese.