PROTESTORS angry at the creation of an opencast coalmine are gathering at the site on Saturday to demonstrate their continued opposition.

Environmental activists have been holding skills sharing workshops with other eco-warriors near the controversial development at Dipton, near Consett, for the last three days.

The latest camp, at Pontop Hall Farm, is much larger than the makeshift commune, which sat by the side of A692 for six weeks earlier this year as part of the Campaign to Protect the Pont Valley.

People have travelled from all over the country to take part in the seminars with subjects such as direct action training, how to make a ‘lock-on’ device and encountering the police during protests.

Tony Simons, 26, from Newcastle, who has been taking part, said: “It is to share knowledge and skills and about campaigning about the environment. “We have more space and materials to work with than before and it is it totally legal as we have permission from the landowner.

“There will be a demonstration at the site and we are hoping people from the area and further afield will come and join us.”

The protest is taking place from 7am to 1pm on Saturday, and the protestors are expected to leave the new camp on Sunday.

During the protests, between March and June, a total 25 people were arrested by police.

Chief Inspector Richie Allen said: “We are aware of the presence of a number of activists in the vicinity of the Bradley opencast site and plans for renewed protest action this week.

“Police liaison officers are making daily efforts to engage with them to reiterate the message that, while we understand they are passionate about their protest, unlawful activity including disrupting the road has a significant and harmful impact on the local community and takes officers away from their vital daily duties.”

The Banks Group started work on the site in June, despite claims by protestors that a Great Crested Newt had been found on the site and the company was in breach of its planning permission because an access road had not been completed within the necessary timeframe.

Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at The Banks Group, said: “Banks Mining is a North-East, family-owned firm that has been investing in the region for more than four decades, with hundreds of local and regional jobs being directly and indirectly created and sustained as a result, and we are continuing to progress work at our Bradley site in the safest, most efficient and most environmentally responsible way possible.”

The planned removal of 500,000 tonnes of coal from the Bradley site is expected to go on for three years and was approved, following a protracted legal battle and two public inquiries, in the High Court.

Resident June Davison said: “It has been absolutely devastating.

“The landscape has all changed and is completely unrecognisable.

“It is even worse than I imagined it would be.”