THE elected Mayor of Copeland has insisted the council is “fully signed up to the climate change agenda” despite opposition to his pro-mine stance.

Mike Starkie made the comments after campaigners opposed to a £165m mine planned for West Cumbria descended on Whitehaven over the weekend.

The plans have been ‘called in’ by Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron amid environmental concerns, but Mr Starkie is among those calling for the challenge to be thrown out by the Government.

Protestors from Extinction Rebellion marched from Haig Pit museum to Copeland council’s Market Hall to express their concerns, though the plans were agreed at county level.

West Cumbria Mining wants to extract coking coal off the coast of St Bees, with a processing plant on the former Marchon site at Kells were given the go-ahead in March.

Speaking at a meeting of the executive, major Mike Starkie insisted that the council was working hard – alongside other local authorities in the county – to make Cumbria carbon neutral.

But he also took aim at some of the protestors who he said were “not local” and had “probably travelled here in their diesel cars, putting all the carbon emissions into the air en route.”

Mr Starkie said the only disturbance caused by the campaigners was to members of the Whitehaven public who were “absolutely disinterested” with anything they had to say.

The mayor reiterated his “100 per cent unequivocal support for the mine” in the face of opposition.

He also described the planning process as “rigorous” and stressed that “everything was considered” in the run-up the county council planning panel’s decision.

He added: “And I am going to once again call on the Government to throw out the call in as soon as possible.

“At the end of the day there is a climate change agenda that we’re 100 per cent bought into and we are absolutely understand, but there is an economic agenda as well – and we need a balance.

“We need renewable energy and the last time I checked you still need steel for the windmills and that’s what the coking coal is being mined to produce.”

Mr Farron and Workington MP Sue Hayman, who is the Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, are the only two of the county’s six MPS who have not written to the Government to get this ‘call in’ thrown out.

Copeland’s green credentials.

Copeland has hosted the first commercially operative nuclear power station (Sellafield) that powered the nation through low-carbon energy supply for almost 50 years;

In 2018/19, the council invested £1 million into our doorstop recycling service and collected 3,354 tonnes of recycling – doubling the previous years’ collection;

The council is signatories of the Cumbria Joint Public Health Strategy Commitment which commits local authorities in Cumbria to become a net-zero carbon county.

The authority has pledged to reduce its climate footprint by 1.6 per cent every year – in line with statutory commitments in the Climate Change Act of 2008.