AN ACTIVIST fighting against the operation of an opencast coal mine has appeared in court after she laid down in a road and refused to move.

Rebecca D’Andrea, 21, pleaded guilty to wilfully obstructing the A692 between Dipton and Leadgate, in County Durham, after police were called to the Banks opencast site on Sunday, June 3.

The Italian national put her arm into a “long, black plastic tube” on the road, blocking works access to the mine.

Joanne Hesse, prosecuting in Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court yesterday, said: “She was asked to release her arm, but ignored police requests. At 12.10am, she said she was going to release her arm and she was arrested.”

D’Andrea, of Kingsley Place, in Newcastle, was given a six-month conditional discharge and ordered her to pay costs of £85 and a £20 victim surcharge.

Indigo Rumbelow, 24, Marta Gumkowska, 31, and Timothy Cutler, 23, were also arrested on June 3 and charged with wilful obstruction, but each pleaded not guilty yesterday and were bailed until June 12.

Two others arrested at the weekend – Nathan White, 39, from Newcastle, and Thomas Bradley, 38, also from Newcastle – were earlier charged with obstructing the highway and have been bailed to appear before Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court on July 3.

Meanwhile the A692 road will be closed to all traffic from the Jolly Drovers to Pontop, starting at 7pm tonight and lasting until 7am tomorrow, to allow work on the access road to the site to go ahead in safety.

Durham County Council has confirmed that planning permission for the site has already been activated.

Stephen Reed, Durham County Council’s planning development manager, said: “The developer has met all of the conditions required by the planning permission and, therefore, permission is active and the extraction of coal at the site is entirely legal.

“The company is required to create a protected right hand turn onto the site but this is through a separate 106 agreement which does not directly affect planning permission.

“Although this work has not yet been completed, it is under way.

“Under the terms of the planning permission, the company cannot take coal off the site until the work has been carried out.

“However, as Banks is not exporting coal from the site and is also well on with completing the required roadworks, it would not be appropriate or an efficient use of resource for us to take enforcement action. However, we will continue to monitor the situation.”