SUPPORTERS of a new coal mine in west Cumbria say the scheme is a "generational opportunity" and one that will help the area "prosper both nationally and internationally".

West Cumbria Mining's (WCM) revised application for the plant at the former Marchon site and Pow Beck Valley in Whitehaven was approved yesterday.

Cumbria County Council's Development Control and Regulation Committee reached the decision - with 12 out of 18 members approving the scheme - following a lengthy debate.

Although members granted approval, they can't formally give the development permission yet. A holding direction has been issued, meaning the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is considering whether or not to call in the decision and make the final call.

Yesterday's meeting heard an in-depth report from council officers, representations from MPs, local councillors, members of the public and West Cumbria Mining CEO Mark Kirkbride.

The debate focussed on whether high grade coal, to be used for steel production, would substitute what is currently imported from the US to markets in the UK and Europe, and its environmental impact.

Councillor Tony Markley, a committee member, said the economical benefits outweighed any environmental issues. He said: "This is Britain's energy coast. I am content for this new West Cumbrian project to be a major contributor to the local, national and international economy. I look forward to West Cumbria prospering both nationally and internationally."

Emma Williamson, councillor for Kells and Sandwith in Whitehaven, said in her representation WCM was "offering a generational opportunity to reintroduce mining into West Cumbria" which should be "seized with both hands".

She said the creation of 500 skilled jobs with appropriate levels of pay was a major and "life-changing" boost for the local community.

While it was argued the development could benefit climate change – due to the reduction of "long and polluting journeys" of importing coking coal from the US – opposers stressed that a new coal mine would have a detrimental impact on climate change.

Cumbrian consultant ecologist Dr Henry Adams highlighted the temperature goals in Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which aim for nations keep the increase in average global temperatures below 2C and to pursue efforts to aim to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C.

He stated scientists predict the1.5C increase will be reached by 2030, if not before, and that 2049 - a new condition limiting the lifetime of the coal mine - would be too late to reduce emissions.

"If we continue on our present fossil-burning course to 2050 before we make a sudden major reduction, we will not just fail to meet Paris goals but will also risk crossing +2 degrees C between 2040 and 2050," he said.

"The coal mine would be in economic and political opposition to the decarbonisation of Europe's steelmaking industry, and would harm UK's credibility as host of COP26 next year."

West Cumbria Mining's original application was approved last March but following a legal challenge and judicial review, a revised application - eliminating the processing of the by-product of middlings coal - was submitted in May. The mine will now only produce metallurgical coal – coking coal used to make steel. The EU imports 62 per cent of its coking coal which is descried as a "critical raw material".