PROTESTORS fighting plans for an opencast mine have called on a council to put a stop on a mining company’s permit to allow reported sightings of great crested newts on the site to be verified.

Members of the Campaign to Protect Pont Valley, between Dipton and Leadgate, say that if necessary The Banks Group should obtain a license to translocate the newts.

They claim to have found great crested newts, a protected species, on the contested site this April.

In a letter to Durham County Council they said; “Great crested newts are protected by law, it is crime to destroy their habitat without a license from Natural England. Banks Group do not have a license and are claiming there are no newts on the site.”

Natural England has said “If great crested newts are found on a site the developers must take action and ensure they are not in breach of any licensing terms.”

Anne Harris from the Coal Action Network, said: "We know that time is running out for coal in the UK, and clearly Banks Group know this too because they are disregarding licensing laws and threatening populations of protected species in a desperate bid to get their project started as quickly as they can."

Banks Group has said the operations planned at the Bradley site have thoroughly considered all environmental matters.