Rishi Sunak facing fresh row with Tory MPs as he approves coalmine

Rishi Sunak says 'no' to onshore wind turbines in August

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Rishi Sunak is bracing himself for a new clash with Conservative backbenchers after his Government signed off on the first UK coalmine in a generation. Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove has given the go-ahead to a new mine outside Whitehaven in Cumbria.

The decision comes despite intense criticism of the plans from a number of Conservative grandees.

Former cabinet ministers Kwasi Kwarteng, Alok Sharma, Robert Buckland and Tobias Ellwood as well as Boris Johnson have all spoken out against the plans.

Mr Johnson said when he was in No10 that he was “not in favour of more coal, let’s be absolutely clear”.

In total at least 10 Tory political heavyweights have demanded the Prime Minister not go ahead with the new coalmine.

It is the first such mine to be opened in 30 years.

The Whitehaven site will be used for coking coal used by the steel-making industry, rather than for energy to power homes.

Approval for the site was originally granted in 2020 but was then delayed for review.

Mr Sunak’s fresh headache from the backbenches comes after already facing revolt over planning reform and onshore wind farms.

On Monday the Prime Minister was forced to water down his Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill to remove top-down house building targets.

As many as 60 MPs had threatened to vote against the legislation in the House of Commons.

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Instead, local house-building targets will be advisory rather than mandated by the Government.

Mr Gove said the changes were a “sensible compromise” with local authorities incentivised to adopt local development plans drawn up in consultation with residents.

Meanwhile, last night Mr Sunak bowed to pressure from his own MPs and lifted the ban on onshore wind farms.

In the summer Conservative leadership race, the Richmond MP had signalled that he opposed lifting a moratorium on onshore wind that was first imposed by David Cameron in 2015.

However, he climbed down after 34 Tories including Mr Johnson and Liz Truss, signed an amendment to a Bill in support of onshore wind.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities confirmed on Tuesday evening that the Government was committing to consult on how local communities can consent to fresh projects.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay played down the U-turn this morning, saying: “I think it’s important that we listen to colleagues, that is our parliamentary process.

“It’s important that we do these things with local consent.”

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