CAMPAIGNERS are urging the Government to halt the development of an opencast mine after learning there were ‘flaws’ in the decision-making process, amid fears the coal company is about to start blasting.

Residents living near the Bradley site, at Dipton, near Consett, have learned Banks Mining will be using explosives to loosen the ground, with test blasts planned for early February.

Meanwhile, a judicial review, scheduled for Friday at the High Court in Leeds, has been adjourned until February 25.

The hearing, brought by local residents and campaigners, was granted to force Communities Secretary James Brokenshire to revisit his decision not prevent work starting in June.

But now the Coal Action Network has received a letter from the Government’s legal department admitting that there was ‘a flaw’ in the decision-making process.

It said Mr Brokenshire was not showed a letter in May from the protestors, which drew his attention to the fact his predecessor, Sajid Javid, had blocked a similar development from the company at Druridge Bay in Northumberland.

The letter said: “In light of this, we accept the matter needs to be reconsidered.”

June Davison, who lives near the Bradley site, said: “As a result of the Government’s flawed decision, we have watched from our homes as a much-loved habitat has been ripped apart, and we have suffered coal dust and noise 12 hours a day.

“Within weeks explosions will begin just 500 metres from our homes as they blast away the earth in preparation for destroying a whole new section of the valley for coal, unless the Government acts.

“The Secretary of State can’t repair the damage that has been done here but the least he can do is stop it getting worse.”

Last Friday, the decision on whether to approve the Druridge Bay scheme was handed back to Mr Brokenshire.

The Banks Group is also seeking an extension to another opencast mine, at Shotton in Northumberland, and is investigating a new site for coal extraction near of Newcastle.

Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at The Banks Group, said: “Work is continuing to progress well at Bradley in the safest, most efficient and most environmentally responsible way possible.

“With more than 40 people from in and around the local area now directly employed at the site, we do not believe there would be any justification for the revocation of the planning permission that was granted to the scheme through the appropriate processes.”