PROTESTORS fighting an open cast coalmine between two County Durham villages blockaded a road to prevent the delivery of tarmac to the site - but the firm has created a new entrance to get its lorries out.

Members of the of the Campaign to Protect Pont Valley fastened themselves to improvised lock-on devises and lay in the road in front of Tynedale Roadstone on the Newburn Haugh Industrial Estate, in Newburn, Newcastle, early this morning.

The Northern Echo:

Protestors fighting against an opencast coal mine between Leadgate and Dipton are blocking a road to prevent the delivery of tarmac to the site

The protestors said they intended to stay there all day to stop deliveries to the site at Bradley, between Leadgate and Dipton, near Consett, County Durham, where Banks Mining, has permission to extract about half a million tonnes of coal.

But after several hours company workers at the firm created an opening in their security fence at the back of its premises and created a way for lorries to reach a nearby road.

Three lorries were seen leaving the scene. 

A member of the Campaign to Protect Pont Valley said: "Because the road was blocked they have breached their own perimeter fence. They have taken three HGVs from their compound. They have flattened some rough ground to get to a roundabout."

Protestors negotiated with police and unlocked themselves after more than 10 hours. There were no arrests.

Group has said work at the site has started, meaning that planning permission has been triggered at the site. 

But protestors claim conditions of planning consent are being breached because an access road is not yet built.

The company said the construction of the road access road to the A692, between Leadgate and Dipton, was ‘ongoing’.

A spokesperson for the company said a programme of work to make highway improvements around the new Bradley surface mine is being extended to include the reconstruction of a few hundred yards of road.

The Northern Echo:

The scene at the Bradley site on Friday morning. Picture: Gavin Engelbrecht

An activist at the Bradley site said: "I haven't seen any tarmac deliveries this morning."

The company has a temporary traffic management system in place as part of the upgrading works required to provide access onto the Bradley site, which sits off the A692.

Raintons, who will be undertaking the road works on behalf of Banks Mining, have applied to Durham County Council for closure of the road at certain times.

A three-way traffic light system along the A692's junction with the A693 is in place to allow for a few hundred yards of tarmac work to be carried out today. The traffic lights will be manned during peak times to ensure that traffic is able to flow as smoothly as possible. Evening road closures between the Jolly Drovers Pub roundabout and the junction for the A693 will also be introduced between 7pm and 6am for four nights from Monday.

And as well creating a new right turn lane required for the mining project, the Banks team will be working on a few hundred yards’ section of the A692 which includes reconstructing the road and then resurfacing it.

Lewis Stokes, community relations manager at The Banks Group, said:  "We have planned the highways work required around the Bradley project carefully in adherence with Durham County Council, and have put all possible measures in place to undertake it as quickly and efficiently as we can, so as to minimise disruption to local traffic."

A Northumbria Police spokesperson said: “We are aware of a protest at a tarmac company in Lemington and our officers are currently at the scene.

"Officers are speaking with staff at the site, as well as the organisers of the protest, to keep any disruption to a minimum.”