FOUR people have been arrested after activists fighting an opencast coal mine blockaded part of a road to prevent work to finish an access to the site.

Police were called to the Banks opencast site between Dipton and Leadgate, County Durham at around 8.20pm on Saturday night following reports that two people had caused an obstruction by lying down in the road outside the site where they ‘locked on’ to a device and refused to move.

Officers called in specialist officers from County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service who worked to help them for a number of hours to safely remove them.

A police spokesperson said tonight: "A 23-year-old man from Cambridgeshire and a woman whose details are yet to be released were arrested on suspicion of obstructing the highway.

"Two men aged 37 and 38 from Newcastle were also arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender. All remain in custody."

Two further people who arrived on Sunday evening and locked themsleves into a device, freed themselves shortly after midnight - the deadline which protestors claim the company had to complete the access road.

The A692 outside the site was reduced to one lane over the weekend as part of upgrading works.

The spokesperson added: "Unfortunately, due to the incidents which took place throughout the weekend, the work has been delayed. The road is currently open, however a traffic management system will remain in place to allow the work to be completed."

Chief Inspector Catherine Clarke said: “We would like to thank the local community for their patience during this weekend’s operation, and to apologise for the prolonged disruption it has caused as we dealt with the incidents.

“The behaviour we have seen this weekend, which we have previously raised concerns about, continues to affect the day-to-day policing of our communities and is having a financial impact on Durham Constabulary and its partners.”

A 21-year-old woman, described by police as a foreign national, was also arrested on Saturday "to prevent a breach of the peace".

She will appear at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court on Monday morning.