Controversial plans for a new £165 million coal mine in West Cumbria have been give a green light by the Government, says Copeland MP Trudy Harrison.

The mine was given the go-ahead locally in March but it faced a major potential setback after Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron formally asked for the scheme to be "called in" by the Government, potentially resulting in it being blocked.

Mrs Harrison has now issued a statement on her website confirming the plan - which could create up to 500 jobs - will not be called in.

"This is fantastic news," said Mrs Harrison.

"It is vital that this development goes ahead and I am pleased that common sense has prevailed. Woodhouse colliery has been recognised for its importance to the steel industry and to UK export. Coking coal is essential for the steel industry and this has been rightly recognised.”

But critics have said that with growing awareness of the current "climate emergency" it makes no sense to back a fossil fuel based energy business.

Scientists across the globe say carbon emissions will have to radically reduce in order to spare economies and communities the catastrophic potential effects of rising average temperatures and increasingly acidic seas.

Despite those fears, Cumbria County Council has been forced to reconsider its approval of the plans for the former Marchon site at Kells in Whitehaven after a legal challenge by campaigners.

West Cumbria Mining wants to extract coking coal off the coast of St Bees and permission for the processing plant in Whitehaven was already granted in March.

However, the county council’s planning panel was asked to look again at the controversial plans “as a matter of prudence”, after solicitors, acting on behalf of environmental campaigners ‘Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole (KCCH), sent a legal letter to the county council earlier this year.

Now the authority has upheld its approval, but any final decision on the mine can only be released when and if the Secretary of State withdraws the direction preventing the council from granting planning permission.

More than 30 people gathered outside the meeting to protest against the plans.

One of the protesters was dressed as a dead canary as a reminder of the role that the birds used to play in alerting miners of poisonous gasses.

Campaigner Fiona Prior, of Carlisle, was among the protesters.

She said: “It was absolutely unbelievable that it was a unanimous vote to ratify the planning application.

“A few of them stood up and said they were voting for the motion - they were very weak, not well-read arguments.”

She described the feeling among the protesters as one of “absolute sheer terror, dismay, and frustration.”

“We all said ‘shame on you’ and ‘think of your families.’”

Tim Farron said: “Cumbria has so many renewable resources to provide energy - water, wind and solar - and we should most definitely not be taking the backwards step of opening a new coal mine. “I am very clear that fossil fuels should stay in the ground and that we should invest fully in zero carbon energy instead and lower carbon methods of producing steel.

“We will keep up the pressure on the Secretary of State to throw out these environmentally backwards plans.”

Mike Starkie, Mayor of Copeland, is a fierce supporter of the mine plan.

“I’ve always been fully behind the mine, as are the overwhelming majority of local people who want jobs for their families and children, with security and opportunities," he said.

"This is something that we desperately need for the future of Copeland and West Cumbria.

“My personal support is echoed by Copeland Council, who have a range of experts who believe that the mine would not have negative impacts and fits within the development plans of the area.

“Copeland has a wide range of socio-economic issues, with some very poor districts next to the mine location and some very high levels of child poverty and deprivation.

“The area has been almost completely reliant on the nuclear industry for decades, but the need for diversification is apparent.”

“It is imperative for the survival and economic prosperity of the area that diversification is supported in terms of new projects, long-term job creation and wealth coming back into the local economy.

“The mine offers the opportunity for such diversification, including the ability to employ semi-skilled people who in the past have not been able to secure work in the nuclear industry, including the potential for apprenticeships and re-training. These will all have significant benefits to the local area, beyond just the financial aspects.

“I am now repeating my call to the Government to reject a call-in and let the decision that was made democratically – and unanimously – by Cumbria County Council stand.”

The Chairman of Cumbria County Council’s development, control and regulation committee, Geoff Cook, said: “After careful consideration of the matters raised by objectors we have decided to uphold our original decision in respect of this planning application. We recognise this is an issue about which people have strong opinions. However, we do not believe that there have been material changes to the situation which would warrant changing our position. We now await a decision by the Secretary of State regarding whether they will ‘call in’ the decision for a public inquiry or hand the matter back to Cumbria County Council to determine.”