PROTESTORS have been told their appeal to block a controversial opencast coalmine in the North-East has been rejected by the Government.

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, headed by James Brokenshire, has informed residents that permission to mine coal at the site, near Dipton, Consett, will not be revoked.

In March, Mr Brokenshire’s predecessor, Sajid Javid, revoked the permit for a similar plan by the Banks Group at Druridge Bay in Northumberland, and campaigners argue the decision is inconsistent with the Government’s coal phase-out.

Work started at the Bradley site in the Pont Valley after weeks of direct action to block the development by environmental activists.

June Davison, who lives within 300m of the site boundary, said: “I’m shocked at the inconsistency.

“We have fought against opencast mines on this site for over thirty years and the coal phase-out announcement gave me hope that our valley would be saved.”

The Campaign to Protect Pont Valley has collected and delivered a 88,831-name petition calling for the development to remove 50,000 tonnes of coal from the land to be stopped.

Residents claim it is adding to climate change, goes against the Government’s commitment to phasing out coal by 2025, that UK coal consumption has drastically dropped since the site’s approval in 2015, and that the process has been undemocratic.

When Sajid Javid refused Banks Mining Group’s application to mine at Druridge Bay he concluded “overall the scheme would have an adverse effect on Green House Gas emissions and climate change of very substantial significance, which he gives very considerable weight in the planning balance.”

Campaigners say the same emphasis should be applied in Pont Valley for consistency.

Anne Harris, from the Coal Action Network, said: “The UK want to be seen as a world leader in moving away from filthy coal power stations yet the Government is allowing a new opencast to be started based on a decision made prior to the coal phase-out process starting.

“Banks Group are expansionistic in its intentions to opencast not only in the Pont Valley but also at Highthorn at Druridge Bay and at Dewley Hill on the outskirts of Newcastle.

“The UK Government needs to ensure that Banks Group is stopped from destroying our countryside and adding to catastrophic climate change.”

Campaigners are working with other communities affected by opencast coalmining with a five day action camp and skill share in Dipton from September 5 to 9.

A Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson said: “Having carefully considered requests to revoke the planning permission granted for surface coal mining at the Bradley site, the Secretary of State has concluded it would not be appropriate to exercise this power.

“Such intervention can only be justified in exceptional circumstances and will generally only be used if the original decision is judged to be grossly wrong.”