Campaigners against a planned £165 million undersea coal mine in West Cumbria employed a ‘polar bear’ to highlight the impact they feel the plans could have on the planet.

The ‘polar bear’ was actually Sam Morris who, along with Marianne Birkby of the Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole campaign, was protesting against West Cumbria Mining’s plans to extract coking coal off the coast of St Bees.

The pair tore up a copy of the Paris Agreement – a global agreement to tackle climate change – outside the developer’s Whitehaven office.

They believe the application goes against the agreement and Cumbria County Council’s Carbon Reduction Plan and Climate Local programme and that the mine’s proximity to Sellafield would increase the risk of earth tremors. They also claim mining under the Irish Sea could re-suspend radioactive particles from decades of Sellafield reprocessing and argue that there are other ways to produce steel.

Marianne said: “We spoke to lots of people in Whitehaven and everybody was against the mine.

“We just feel so strongly that this should not go ahead. It’s really unfair on the people of Whitehaven to dangle this rotten carrot in front of them.”

Work to create Woodhouse Colliery was due to kick off at the end of last year.

The planning application is due to go before the county council’s planning panel on March 19.

Sam added: “I’ve just spoken to a gentleman here and he asked me what polar bears have got to do with coal. If we can help a few people join the dots that would be good.

“It doesn’t just affect Whitehaven, it affects the planet.”

The polar bear became a symbol of climate change after photographs showed their living conditions due to melting ice caps.

A spokesman for West Cumbria Mining said: “WCM continues to progress the development of its Woodhouse Colliery project.

"The project team has always sought to do so in an open and collaborative manner having held numerous public engagement events since 2014.

"The scheme has seen consistently high levels of support, including the local public, stakeholders and council.

"This has been supplemented by support from local members of parliament, cabinet ministers and central government, together with hundreds of expressions of local support submitted to the county council in favour of the current planning application process.

"The WCM planning submission clearly sets out and responds to all of the questions raised by external parties over the last three years and provides clear scientific evidence based responses to all of these points, clearly demonstrating that there are no risks or significant impacts from the scheme."