CAMPAIGNERS who twice successfully campaigned to protect the countryside they live in from opencast coal mining have learned their fight is not over.

UK Coal, which wants to extract 500,000 tonnes of coal from the Bradley site, near Consett, County Durham, is to take its case to the High Court.

Durham County Council refused planning permission after a passionate campaign by Derwent Valley residents last year.

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In February, planning inspector Stuart Nixon dismissed an appeal by the energy company following a threeweek public inquiry at Leadgate Workingmen’s Club.

A bundle of legal documents has since been submitted to the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court of Justice, in Leeds, in which UK Coal’s barrister, Andrew Fraser- Urquhart, says: “The inspector misunderstood the appropriate approach and this misunderstanding fundamentally affected his consideration of the entirety of the evidence.

“The inspector made a series of findings, all of which were relevant to the weight to be attributed to matters which form part of his overall balancing exercise, which were not based upon any evidence which was before the inquiry.”

News of the legal challenge is a hammer blow for protestors, who described the development as “environmental vandalism”.

Their concerns included the impact opencasting would have on the landscape, ecology and wildlife of the area, as well disruption to their quality of life because of dirt, noise and the amount of heavy trucks on the roads.

Joanne Carr, chairwoman of Dipton Community Partnership, said: “Most members of the community were ecstatic when the inspector ruled the dismissal of the appeal by UK Coal to allow opencast coal extraction on the Bradley Site.

“Many are now feeling sickened that UK Coal is to mount a legal challenge on the grounds that the appeal was dismissed on erroneous interpretation of the law. As a community, we feel utterly disempowered.”