THE date has been set for a final showdown over Copeland’s most divisive issue.
West Cumbria Mining’s Woodhouse Colliery will be the subject of a public inquiry carried out by the planning inspectorate. 
The inquiry will run from Tuesday, September 7 and is anticipated to last for 16 days.
Copeland MP Trudy Harrison, a vocal supporter of the mine, called for any physical venue of the inquiry to be in the local area.
Mrs Harrison also confirmed she would be speaking in favour of the mine at the inquiry. 
She said: “Clearly the people who will benefit the most and who will be most affected by the Woodhouse Colliery development are my constituents in Copeland. That is why, if there is a physical venue, it must be in Whitehaven.
“I will be speaking in support, arguing the present and future societal need for steel, especially as we transition from fossil fuel dependency to low carbon alternatives and green jobs.
“I will explain the current and long-term coking coal requirements for the UK and European steel plants, whilst also making the case for a net zero compliant steel industry. 
“Ultimately, I’ll set out the pragmatic and positive impact West Cumbria Mining would bring to both our area’s economy and the wider environment.”
The deadline for any submissions is Thursday, May 6. Copeland residents have all been encouraged to submit their responses on the planning inspectorate’s website.
The inquiry comes after sustained pressure from campaigners, coupled with a change in government policy, saw Cumbria County Council “reconsider” the application, having previously given it the green light.
While some residents are keen to see the coal mine built due to the employment prospects it would bring to the area, campaigners are concerned over the impact the mine would have on the environment. 
The South Lakes Action on Climate Change group is among those against the mine, and will be presenting evidence against it at the inquiry.
Dr Henry Adams, a consultant ecologist and group member, argued that the main argument for the mine – that the coal is needed for the production of steel – is incorrect.
He said: “All this about the UK steel industry needing the coal is absolutely, totally incorrect. It’s absurd.
“There’s plenty of coking coal on the market. The two blast furnaces in the UK can get all the coal they need from overseas.
“They would anyway, because they use a mixture of different grades and types of coking coal to form a blend. 
“They can only use a small amount of West Cumbria’s, because it’s not the high quality that they make out. It’s too high sulphur for the furnace in Scunthorpe to use at all.”