On 19th March 2019 Cumbria County Council unanimously approved the planning application by West Cumbria Mining (WCM) for Woodhouse Colliery just south of Whitehaven. The Colliery project will develop a new underground mine to extract metallurgical coal for use in steel making. Within 5 years of the completion of construction, the mine will achieve a steady state level of production of 2.4million tonnes per annum over a minimum of 43 years.

So how do you obtain planning permission to open the first new underground coal mine in 30 years?

An Exceptional Scheme

It may seem obvious, but start with an exceptional scheme. At an early stage WCM were clear that the scheme they would be bringing forward would be one of which the local community could be proud. It would be wholly different from traditional coal mines in terms of its design and environmental impacts. Iconic buildings which totally enclose the receipt, processing, and dispatch of the coal from the underground mine provide a blend of statement building design with minimised environmental impact. Coal transported by rail avoids the issues associated with road traffic. The design of the rail loading facility reflects its location in the Pow Beck valley was designed to blend with its largely rural surroundings within its operational constraints.


WCM are also committed to engaging with and responding to the local community. This started at the very inception of the scheme and continues now. WCM have maintained a dialogue with the local community and other stakeholders through a liaison group, regular open days and newsletter updates. Given a history of coal mining within the local area a degree of support could have been anticipated, but the open attitude to the development of the project with the local community and the investment in pro-actively seeking views has resulted in a better scheme. As a consequence the level of support for the planning application overwhelmingly exceeded its opponents.


It was also very important to WCM to establish a productive working relationship with Cumbria County Council as the relevant planning authority for their proposal. This was manifest in a Planning Performance Agreement which secured a collaborative approach to the preparation of the planning application and its subsequent determination. This agreement also provided additional resources to the county council to facilitate the engagement of specialists to advise planning officers. The WCM team also worked with bodies that were consulted on the planning application to ensure that potential issues were identified and addressed at an early stage.

The role of Stephenson Halliday

Stephenson Halliday provided support to West Cumbria Mining in two key areas:

• planning, and
• landscape design and impact assessment.


We have been involved in all stages of the planning process, from scoping, through preparation of the Environmental Statement, Planning Statement and Design Statement, to managing the post submission stage, responses to the local planning authority and negotiating and drafting planning conditions and assisting with the S.106 legal agreement.

It will come as no surprise that a project of this scale and complexity led to a series of issues which required managing and responding to in the post submission stage. Our planners helped to provide solutions to a number of such issues. One example was the issue of potential contamination on the main site. This site is a former chemical factory with a high probability of residual contamination from the chemicals it produced. This was a very real concern for the Environment Agency (EA). Stephenson Halliday and WCM met with EA representatives to go through the concerns and look at solutions. Stephenson Halliday planners worked up a suite of conditions to manage the development in a way that provided the EA with sufficient comfort to allay their concerns. Indeed, our planners worked up a comprehensive set of conditions for discussion and negotiation with the planning authority which ultimately addressed all outstanding issues to allow the application to move forward with a recommendation for approval.


Our landscape staff were tasked with the challenge of preparing a landscape design for the main site and rail loading facility. The challenge for the landscape design was to also accommodate significant volumes of excavation spoil which would arise from driving new drifts down to the target coal measures.

The resulting landscape design for the main mine site comprised two significant landscape mounds to the north and south. The mounds utilised the available material to develop mounds which provide visual and acoustic screening of the site supplemented by the proposed planting. The organically shaped mounds allow for carefully selected framed views of the iconic mine buildings.
For the rail loading facility selected areas of planting provide softening of the views of the new building helping it integrate with its environment and providing partial screening of the railway and trains in the process of being loaded.

Overall, Stephenson halliday have been proud to work on this scheme. It is a truly exciting project which will deliver real benefits to both the local community and the UK steel industry.

The view from our clients:

Our relationship with Stephenson Halliday started well when our initial enquiry and request for support was quickly and confidently fielded by them. Since then we have gone on to build SH into our team such that they can respond and act on planning matters directly on WCM’s behalf.

In addition to their knowledge and experience in planning matters, Stephenson Halliday’s location in Kendal afforded us an insight into the workings of the County Council which helped guide the planning application through the process.

Given that this was the first application for a deep coal mine to come before a decision-making authority in 30 years it was no surprise that there were issues and hurdles no one expected along the way. By working closely as a team rather than as client & supplier we were able to address these issues head on and overcome them.

SH continue to work alongside us as we discharge the 99 planning conditions set out be Cumbria County Council.

‘Donegal Dazzler’ approved…not our choice of words, but great to see the important Meenbog wind farm approved in Ireland.

Really positive to see the appeal decision concur with our landscape assessment, particularly on the sensitive and protected view towards the Barnsemore Gap, and residential visual amenity. After careful consideration the Board concluded:

‘The proposed development would not adversely affect the visual amenities of the area or interfere with any protected views, prospects or scenic routes in the surrounding area, to any significant extent.’

It’s a great end to what has been a long road for this scheme. Started many years ago, it has been through many iterations of design before arriving at the final proposal. We’re proud to have dealt with the landscape issues which were critical to the approval, and supported developers Enerco and lead planners McCarthy Keville O’Sullivan.

Here it is in the press.

And for the appeal decision click here.

Barnesmore Gap

 Above: The Barnesmore Gap, which would be protected through the careful design of the scheme.

Building on the success of our Kendal and Glasgow offices, we are delighted to announce the opening of our third regional office in Newcastle.  The office officially opened its doors to business in November 2017 and is headed by Planning Director, Mary Campbell, who moves from our Kendal office.  With the appointment of Alastair Willis (Technical Director) and Marie-Louise Milliken (Principal Planner), the Newcastle office is both an extension of the existing business strengths, providing independent planning and landscape advice in the minerals, waste, infrastructure and renewables sectors, and an expansion into property related planning.

The Newcastle office is based in the iconic Old Post Office building on St Nicholas Street.  The Old Post Office building recently underwent a £5.8m redevelopment, which included new office premises in the upper floors.  Stephenson Halliday were one of the first businesses to move into the new office space in November 2017 and we see it as the perfect location to grow our business in the north east.

Alastair joins the business from the Newcastle office of a national planning consultancy where he worked for the past 11 years, and has a total of 13 years private practice experience.  He brings extensive town planning experience and knowledge in all areas of property planning; including residential, commercial, retail and tourism development.

Over that period he has worked to deliver successful planning outcomes for national, regional and local house builders, retail operators, land owners and investors, and has developed a strong reputation within the north east to build Stephenson Halliday’s Newcastle office.

Marie-Louise Milliken joins the team from north east based developer, The Banks Group.  Marie-Louise is a chartered planner with over 10 years’ experience working in the private sector, including time spent within a large multidisciplinary consultancy working on residential, minerals, regeneration, highways, energy and waste developments.  As lead planner for major planning applications, including EIA development, Marie-Louise has forged excellent working relationships with clients, Council officers and key stakeholders alike.

Building upon the strength of the sector, Stephenson Halliday believes there is a gap in the market in the north east to establish a niche planning and landscape consultancy.  The scale of the business allows our clients to benefit from our high quality and expert professional advice, whilst interacting with directors of the business as much as they will with more junior members of the team.  The Newcastle office is well placed to provide advice across all sectors of the town planning industry, and we look forward to extending the strong reputation of the Stephenson Halliday brand.

Mary Campbell, head of the Newcastle office, said:

This is a very exciting move for Stephenson Halliday and builds on the growing demand for our services.  We have recruited new staff to undertake work already secured in the North East region and the quality of the space at the Old Post Office has, I have no doubt, helped us to attract the very best.”

Newcastle Team 3

David Forsythe would be the most worthy winner of the Employee of the Year at the Cumbria Family Business Awards on 9th March 2018

David is an Associate Landscape Architect with Stephenson Halliday and is hugely respected by all of his colleagues.

He leads by example producing work of the highest quality and has always been the most reliable, helpful, conscientious and well liked member of our team.

CFBA2018 Employee Logo 2 David and Tally







Over the past 18 months David has faced extreme personal challenges.  In September 2016 David’s father Ken Forsythe a respected Lake District climber died after a short battle with cancer then only 18 days later his mother also passed away.

Just as David was starting to get back on his feet he received the news that his beautiful wife Tally had been involved in a horrendous crash where she was a passenger in a mini-bus resulting in multiple fractures.  Over the past 9 months David has helped nurse Tally back to full strength and she has now returned to her position at Impact International.

Throughout this time David had also been caring for their young daughter Evie May who will soon be 2 years old.

Despite these tragic personal circumstances David has been able to continue his critical role in the business.

We cannot think of a more deserving winner of this award than David.

David &Family David & Tally

David is keen charity fundraiser and coordinated a ride from Lands-End to John O’Groats raising £20k for the Manchester Neurological Research Fund and Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.

His colleagues and the clients he works for would all cheer with delight to see recognition of this inspirational employee.

GNZC7521 David Tally and Evie





If possible, we ask you to please ask other colleagues and friends to support David – We are really keen to see David win this award!

David Forsythe, Stephenson Halliday



Over 400 individuals raise an impressive £2.8m in just two weeks to refinance the Mean Moor community wind farm in Cumbria. It’s thought to be the first wind farm in the country to be transferred to community ownership from a commercial developer.  Stephenson Halliday provided landscape and visual advice in securing planning consent.

CFBA2018 Finalist Logo2                           CFBA2018 Employee Logo 2

We are delighted to announce we have reached the final of the Cumbria Family Business Awards for the second year running! We are one of three finalists in the Professional Business and People Services category up against two other excellent local businesses, The Financial Management Bureau and Elton Finance.

Ken Halliday commented that “Our family business values of trust, independence and integrity with a commitment to the success of our clients and staff is often what gives us the edge over our competitors including larger multi-disciplinary planning consultants.”

We have two reasons to celebrate as we were thrilled to receive the news that David Forsythe, Associate Landscape Architect has been shortlisted as a Finalist in the Employee of the Year 2018 category. David has faced extreme personal challenges over the past 18 months and his continued high level of commitment to the business has been inspirational. There would be no more deservDavidF_Staff_Photo-500cm-wideing winner of this award than David. Please support him in the public vote!


The awards ceremony will undoubtedly be an exciting evening and this year will be held at The Garden at Eden , Carlisle on Friday 9th March, hosted by Dave Myers, one of the Hairy Bikers and a great ambassador for Cumbria.



South Lakeland District Council Planning Committee has unanimously granted outline planning permission for 20 exclusive holiday retreats at the Lilymere Estate, located close to both the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District National Parks. The Committee agreed with Officers, who recommended the scheme for approval despite being contrary to policies of the adopted Local Plan.

Stephenson Halliday worked constructively with the Local Planning Authority to provide a robust case that explained the need for the Estate to diversify its activities. Officers’ detailed concerns regarding visual impact and tree protection were overcome through negotiation to achieve a deliverable scheme. The development will see 20 sensitively sited holiday retreats in a mixture of woodland and mere edge locations, taking advantage of unique recreational opportunities and extensive views into the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District.


Ahead of the formal launch planned for the New Year, we’re excited to announce our expansion to the North East.

Commenting on the move to the Old Post Office, Planning Director, Mary Campbell, said: “This is a very exciting move for Stephenson Halliday and builds on the growing demand for our services.  We have recruited new staff to undertake work already secured in the North East region and the quality of the space at the Old Post Office has, I have no doubt, helped us to attract the very best.”

The Old Post Office recently underwent a £5.8 million re-development which included the new office units.

We are one of the first tenants to move into NBS’s new, state of the art incubator space at the Old Post Office on St Nicholas Street, Newcastle

The space was developed as part of NBS’s commitment to supporting the local community and targeted at companies looking to grow.

Chief Executive at NBS, Richard Waterhouse said: “I am delighted to welcome our first tenants to The Old Post Office. Our colleagues at NBS love working here and we are very pleased that we have been able to help other businesses to start up and grow. We were a start-up business ourselves once and I know how important the right kind of accommodation is for new and expanding businesses “