ALL sides of the coal mine argument have given their opening statements in the first day of its public inquiry.

A livestreamed inquiry by the planning inspectorate began yesterday morning, scrutinising West Cumbria Mining's planning application for a coal mine in Whitehaven.

The inquiry is the result of housing secretary Robert Jenrick's decision to call-in the plans, meaning that they can no longer be approved or rejected by the local authority.

Solicitors for West Cumbria Mining, Cumbria County Council and Friends of the Earth and South Lakes Action on Climate have given their opening statements about the Woodhouse Colliery coal mine in the first day of the planning inspectorate’ public inquiry.

Speaking on behalf of West Cumbria Mining this morning, Gregory Jones, Queen’s Counsel solicitor said: "Coal is an emotive word that's seen as a major contributor to climate change and as an obstacle towards a net zero economy but of course this coal in relation to this development is not thermal coal it's high quality coking coal, essential we say for the primary steel manufacturing."

“It’s all too easy to object to this development that it’s a coal mine, coal is dirty or bad and the reality is some industries, especially the steel industry, will continue to need coal for many years.”

West Cumbria Mining maintains that the proposed mine will be net zero.

"It's clear that there will continue to be a global need for coking coal which West Cumbria Mining can continue to meet and we would say it is better for it to be from a modern net zero mine than elsewhere."

Paul Brown QC, advocate for Friends of the Earth said: “The threat which the climate crisis poses is not just very serious, it is existential.”

He said that such statements about the climate crisis are “uncontroversial” and accepted widely.

Mr Brown said that Friends of the Earth believe it is crucial local developments like the mine are halted because they contribute to climate change “cumulatively.”

“Every coal mine that is not allowed to open, every lump of coal that stays in the ground helps to tackle the existential threat of climate change.

He said that the nation would lose “moral authority” if seen by countries like China to be granting coal mine planning applications whilst claiming to be a leader on climate action.

“The UK can only credibly claim to be a world leader on climate issues if it practices what it preaches.”

Cumbria County Council will maintain a presence in the inquiry should they be called on for clarification on the planning process but in his opening statement, their representative Christopher Katkowski QC said they would continue to hold their position of “strict neutrality.”

He said: “Since it’s original submission in 2017, this application has had a long and protracted history leading up to this inquiry.

“The complexity of the project, amendments to it over time, the ever evolving debate concerning to how to tackle climate change and controversy of the proposals reflected in strong support from some quarters but vehement opposition from others has presented the council as mineral planning authority with no easy task.

“But the decision is now out of the council’s hands and rests with the secretary of state who will following this inquiry have to grapple with the considerations which have previously tasked the council, and the fresh considerations which have arisen since.”

Cumbrian MPs were due to give their side of the argument in the afternoon.