Banks Group's Bradley West coal mine expansion plan rejected
Plans to extend an open cast mine by its owners have been rejected by councillors.
The Banks Group wanted to enlarge its Bradley West mine in County Durham to extract an extra 90,000 tonnes of coal.
More than 6,000 letters of objection were sent with opponents branding the plan "environmentally unacceptable".
Durham County Council's planning officers had recommended the plan be approved but councillors rejected it at a meeting, held via videolink.
Plans for the mine near Consett were first approved in 2015 and extraction of coal began in May 2018.
Councillor Mark Wilkes said: "When this first came up, it was argued it was in the national interest to dig this site up - I think it is now in the national interest not to.
"The proposed community and national benefits do not outweigh the unacceptable impact on the environment and amenities of local communities."
Banks, which had promised to restore the land by August 2021, said the extension would protect jobs on the site and support British industry by providing an alternative to imported coal from America, Russia or Australia.
They also argued the "small extension" would have "minimal effects on the surrounding area".
A separate application relating to future operating conditions at the mine was also rejected, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
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Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at the Banks Group, said: "We are extremely disappointed with those planning committee members who voted against the advice of their own expert planning officers' clear recommendation to approve our Bradley West mine.
"At a time when every second story on the news is about jobs losses caused by the [coronavirus] pandemic, this decision has effectively handed the much-needed jobs of our skilled local workforce to Russian miners, who will be delighted to meet British industry's continuing need for coal and who will significantly increase global greenhouse gas emissions by doing so."
He said Banks would "review" the council's decision before "agreeing on the most appropriate steps to take".