A LEGAL challenge following the creation of an opencast coalmine has been dismissed from court.

Protestors opposed the development, near Consett, were hoping to privately prosecution The Banks Group, which was accused of wildlife crimes by destroying the habitat of the great crested newt.

But, following a case management hearing at Teesside Magistrates’ Court in Middlesbrough, District Judge Helen Cousins has ruled the action will no longer go ahead.

Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at The Banks Group, said: “We always believed this private legal action was baseless and are pleased that it was dismissed by the court.”

A spokesman for the Coal Action Network, which is locked in a long-running legal battle with the County Durham firm, said the campaigners are now planning their next move.

A spokesman said: “We are taking advice on whether to appeal the judge’s decision.”

The protestors have launched a petition calling for Communities Secretary James Brokenshire to revoke the planning permission for the Bradley opencast site.

He has previously said that he would reconsider the matter after the Government admitted the decision-making process was ‘flawed’.

Meanwhile, five young men from the area are starting apprenticeships at the site off the A692 between Leadgate and Dipton.

Graeme Buckley, Liam Smith, Graeme Stott, Damon Henderson and Tommy Mayman have all started twelve-month training programmes.

They and will work across a number of different roles during their apprenticeships to develop a range of workplace skills and experience of operating earthmoving plant equipment.

Jamie Drysdale, manager at the Bradley surface mine, said: “We committed to creating job opportunities for local people as part of the development of the Bradley site, and our five new apprentices are the latest of many recruits that we’ve been able to add to our highly-skilled and growing workforce from the communities around the site.

“Providing opportunities for local people to develop practical workplace skills is an essential undertaking for both long-standing North-East businesses like ourselves and for the sustainable success of the wider regional economy.”