WHAT fantastic news that Sir David Attenborough is lending his voice to those opposing the coal mine under the Irish Sea off St Bees.

As a nuclear safety group concerned about the safety of Sellafield, we have been opposing this nearby coal mine from the outset.

Sellafield is recognised as the most hazardous place in Europe with stockpiles of the most dangerous radioactive wastes on the planet. This coal mine would extend to just 8km from these nuclear wastes, so there are big concerns.

The Sellafield area has been identified in a recent geological report as being at high risk of liquefaction (where the earth turns to mush). Liquefaction can result from earthquakes, and the only place in the UK to have had such an event is at Rampside near Barrow - it was a very small-magnitude earthquake.

This March, when I stood shaking at the planning meeting in Kendal and spoke opposing the coal mine, the councillors laughed. They laughed about Sellafield being at high risk of liquefaction (as described in a recent geological report); they laughed as the last liquefaction event near Barrow was in 1865, pre Trident: the blink of an eye in geological terms.

There are other considerations. The area at St Bees is the last breeding place in England of the black guillemot and the RSPB has voiced its opposition to the mine.

Former director of Friends of the Earth, Jonathon Porritt, pointed out very early on that: "As I understand it, the sole justification from a sustainability point of view is that the extracted coal will be coking coal, not thermal coal (for use in power stations), with some preposterous notion that this will apparently produce a lower carbon footprint than coking coal imported from other countries. Yet so far as I can tell, no detailed lifecycle analysis, both direct and indirect, has been done by West Cumbria Mining...”

The coal mine would also have to mine “middlings” coal, cynically described as a by-product in order to get to the coking coal.

It seems to us there are two very powerful things Sir David Attenborough is uniquely placed to do to stop this coal mine entirely in its tracks:

1. He could ask the Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary, Robert Jenrick MP, to call Cumbria County Council’s flawed decision in for a public inquiry.

2. From our correspondence with Prince Charles’ office, we believe he is sympathetic to campaigners opposing the coal mine. A quiet word from Sir David to his friend Prince Charles may be all it takes to rip up the Crown’s existing and future planned agreements with West Cumbria Mining for the mineral exploitation of the coal under the seabed. Without these agreements between the developers and the Crown, the coal mine cannot proceed.

Those actions would make Sir David our true knight in shining armour and the black guillemots would not be the only ones celebrating!

Marianne Birkby

On behalf of Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole, a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign