Cumbria’s youngsters made their voices heard as they led the debate on west Cumbria’s coal mine plans.

Advocates on both sides of the argument were quizzed in the Your Voice Thursday online debate organised by Cumbria Future Leaders. The online event was organised last Thursday by the Centre for Leadership Performance on behalf of Cumbria Future Leaders Your Future.

Carenza Curwen, a member of the 16-18 group within Cumbria Future Leaders, introduced the debate with an impassioned plea to listen to the voices of young people who, she said, were largely ignored by decision-makers.

“We are generally disregarded as the “social media generation” who get all their information from fake news,” said Carenza.

“In reality, our information and our passion for change comes from the lessons we sit in, the lectures we listen to, the conferences we hear about and attend, and the world that we see unfold in front of us every day.

“We campaigned to get this debate off the ground for that purpose: to educate, to listen and to voice our opinions on issues that matter to us.”

A poll of the audience at the end of the often fierce and passionate debate revealed 65% were against the mine plans to construct a new coking coal mine near Whitehaven, with almost a quarter of the audience in favour, and a further 13% still undecided.

The audience of more than 40 people was mainly made up of 16-25 year olds who led the debate with a series of searching questions to probe the detail of the statements by speakers.

That included asking speakers for further detail on the safety of the new mine, about how jobs would be guaranteed for people in Cumbria, reassurances about the continued demand for coking coal by the steel industry, and the opportunities for other employment in green energy industries.

Speaking in favour of the plan were Copeland MP Trudy Harrison, Copeland Elected Mayor Mike Starkie and TSP Engineering boss John Coughlan. An speaking against were Rebecca Willis, Professor in Practice at Lancaster Environment Centre, Maggie Mason, South Lakes Against Climate Change campaigner, and Lib-Dem councillor and environmentalist Giles Archibald.

Proposals for the mine will be decided by the planning inspectorate at a hearing in September.