SEA coalers have been allowed back on to Hartlepool beaches.

Before Hartlepool Borough Council banned motorised vehicles from the town's beaches earlier this year about 19 people would collect washed up coal and sell it on.

But now Marjorie James, chairwoman of the council's neighbourhood services committee, has revealed the restriction has now been lifted.

The council, which leases the beaches from The Crown Estate, took the decision to block access pending the outcome of an application to vary its lease to allow sea coalers to take their vehicles on to the beaches.

Without such a variation, the council feared sea coalers would be trespassing on the beaches rendering their insurance invalid and making it illegal to allow them access.

But now agents for The Crown Estate have confirmed that they are minded to grant a lease variation and Cllr James has agreed to remove locks from barriers at several access points to allow sea coalers’ vehicles on to beaches, subject to the introduction of a local licensing scheme.

Gary Jackson, 26, a representative of the local sea coal trade said said he was "over the moon."

Mr Jackson, who runs his own health and safety training company, said generations of his own family had been involved in the sea coal and coal trade, said: "For many of the current sea coalers there is no other path for them to go down, sea coaling is their life. I’m glad that the issue has now been resolved and I’d like to thank the council for chasing up matters with the Crown Estates.”

Cllr James said: "The council’s decision to prevent sea coalers from gaining access to the beaches was taken earlier this year on legal advice and it was designed to protect the sea coalers themselves, members of the public and the council.

“It was only ever intended to be a temporary measure, but it has taken a lot longer than expected to get to the point where we have been able to allow the sea coalers to return to the beaches.

“I have tried to maintain contact with sea coalers and their representatives throughout this period and I am pleased that we have now been able to lift the access restrictions and it is good to see sea coalers out on the beaches earning a living once again.”

A sea coaler can harvest up to a tonne of coal every day for sale to power plants in the region. The coal is often in shards and is swept up. There is evidence of the trade going back to the seventh century.