CAMPAIGNERS fighting to stop a controversial open cast mine are braving the 'Beast from the East' to stage a tree-climbing protest this morning.

Residents who are urging the Government to revoke planning permission for the surface coal mine on the Bradley site, between Dipton and Leadgate are blocking access following the felling of trees and 200 year-old hedges at the site two days ago.

Protestors scaled what they say is the last remaining tree left standing in the path of the proposed access road adjoining the A692.

Resident Liam Carr: “The ripping up of trees and hedgerows was shocking. The sensitive ecology of the site has been disregarded by the developers.

“The way these habitats have been destroyed without consultation is at odds with Banks’ assurance that they would liaise with local people during the work.”

The protesters, which include local campaigners, cited dust and noise pollution, loss of biodiversity and climate change as reasons for attempting to stop the work.

The demonstration comes after a petition calling for intervention from Sajid Javid MP, Minister for Communities and Local Government, gained over 84,000 signatures in under two weeks.

Drummond Orr, who lives less than 300 metres from the site, said: “I fully support this protest. The people of High Stables have been protesting for over 30 years now and we’ve been through all the legal processes and we haven’t been listened to.

“We need to bring pressure on Sajid Javid to revoke the permit for this mine.

"He must not let half a million tonnes of coal be mined out of the ground despite the government’s commitment to climate change. This is about much more than just us residents.”

One of the protestors came come from the Hambacher Forest in Germany, where a long-running tree-climbing occupation of ancient woodland is severely delaying the expansion of an opencast coal mine.

She said: “We came all this way to support the people of Dipton and the surrounding area because it is one struggle against profit-driven companies who are accelerating climate change and destroying biodiversity.”

Banks Groups have until early June to begin groundwork on the site in order to work the permit to opencast which they acquired from UK Coal, who liquidated in 2015.

The protesters say they will stay for as long as it takes to prevent the mine from starting.

Banks Group says the operations are scheduled to run for up to three years with all activity on site complete in 2021.

Restoration will include the creation of a new nature reserve and parkland area, as well as the return of some of the land to agricultural use.

Lewis Stokes, community relations manager at The Banks Group, said: “We are aware that a small number of individuals, many of whom have travelled from outside the region, are holding a gathering in the vicinity of the proposed Bradley surface mine site, with a view to sharing often-illegal techniques for disrupting legitimate business operations.

“While preparatory activities have begun at the Bradley site, no work was scheduled for today and no delays are being incurred.

“We are continuing to talk to people living in the local community about the progress being made with the Bradley project, with many of the comments we’ve been getting on the doorstep recognising both the importance of bringing new jobs and supply chain opportunities to the area, and the positive, long-term impact that the project’s community benefits fund would have on the facilities available to local people.

“The Government’s own projections state that coal will continue to be an important part of the UK’s energy mix until at least 2025, and substantial amounts are also essential for a wide variety of important UK industrial processes, such as the manufacturing of cement and steel. 

“Taking on the existing planning approval for the Bradley surface mine has been identified as one of a number of different options for how we can meet our continuing high customer demand for coal, and we will ensure local people, businesses and community groups are kept fully informed of progress as it is made.”