“These are fundamentally different things. Planning damage caused by unauthorized construction can be repaired by the final removal of the building.
“In contrast, damage to planning caused by unauthorized coal mining cannot: coal cannot be put back into the ground; carbon emissions from burning coal cannot be removed from the ‘atmosphere,’ the legal notice notes.
The lawyers argue that the eight-and-a-half-month delay by Merthyr Tydfil CBC and the Welsh Government is arguably unlawful, and that there are strong arguments that they would be acting unlawfully if they did not serve a stop notice before the June 27, 2023, the day on which the formal notice must take effect.
Either way, the failure of both authorities to take decisive enforcement action in this case amounts to “maladministration and sets a terrible precedent,” the lawyers said.
“This sends a message to all mine operators in Wales that there is no need to halt operations when planning permission expires as the planning system can be ‘manipulated’ to allow continuation. operations for an extended period beyond that date without consequence,” they concluded. Merthyr South Ltd is acting “unilaterally and unlawfully” by continuing to operate without permission, they said.
CAN is considering taking the matter to the Public Services Ombudsman (Wales). Merthyr Tydfil CBC did not respond to a request for comment before this article was published. Merthyr South Wales did not respond to a request for comment for this article.
Meanwhile, the UK government is trying to scrap proposed legislation that would ban new coal mines. The ban was proposed via an amendment to Liberal Democrat Lord Teverson’s Energy Bill in April, which says the government should introduce regulations to prevent the Coal Authority from authorizing new mines.
Coal miners who obtain licenses from the Coal Authority still need to obtain planning permission from a local authority, but the fact that the Coal Authority still has a legal obligation to develop an economically viable coal industry encourages mine operators to continue planning new mines, according to Julie James, Welsh Minister for Climate Change in a letter to the UK government in October 2021.
However, the government opposed Teverson’s amendment and pledged to withdraw it when the bill passes parliament.
The move contradicts the position of Energy Secretary Greg Hands, who in a January 2022 response to James’ letter wrote that the Coal Authority’s duty to promote the coal industry was ‘at odds’ with UK climate leadership ambitions and coal policies. The government was considering steps to review this obligation, he wrote.
“It highlights the backsliding at the highest level of the UK government on its climate targets,” said Daniel Therkelsen of Coal Action Network.
A Welsh Government spokesman said: ‘Our position is clear – we want a controlled end to the extraction and use of coal.
Catherine Early is a freelance environmental journalist and chief reporter for The environmentalist. She tweets at @Cat_Early76.