Campaigners against an opencast mine can now boast the Bishop of Durham as a member in their ranks.

Protestors won a battle in their long fight against an opencast mine at land near Leadgate, Consett, when Derwentside councillors voted unanimously to advise Durham County Council not to approve the scheme.

The councillors expressed their concern that the protected species of great crested newt recently discovered at the proposed development site, near the Jolly Drover pub, could be damaged by the mine.

And they listened to campaigner Carole Rocke, of nearby High Stables, who revealed that the Bishop of Durham supported their cause.

In a letter to the campaign group, the Right Reverend Michael Turnbull said he had written a letter to Durham County Council objecting to the scheme and asking to be kept informed on developments.

A petition containing 697 signatures was handed to the council at a planning meeting on Thursday.

North East Land Development said the newts would be protected and has promised to turn the area into an attractive public amenity after what would be 18 months of intensive mining.

Councillors voted to advise the county authority that they were against the scheme because the site is not derelict, it would be a visual blight, could affect long-term development opportunities and would damage the habitat of the newts