THE UK Government has approved the first UK coalmine in 30 years for a site near Whitehaven.

The Woodhouse Colliery was given the green light by Levelling-Up Secretary Michael Gove on Wednesday. The announcement specified that the coal will not be used for power generation; rather it will be metallurgical coal for steel production.

It has been a highly-controversial decision which was pushed back several times, and leading figures in north Cumbria and further afield have been hugely divided in their reaction.

Some have welcomed the economic boost that the mine and its associated jobs will bring locally.

But some have called the decision 'appalling' in the context of the climate emergency, and the UK's claim to global climate leadership.

Elected mayor of Copeland Mike Starkie said: "I'm absolutely delighted, I've been confident all along that we would get to this day because it's exactly the right decision.

"It's fantastic news for the whole of the west Cumbrian community and Cumbria at large.

"It will bring a huge economic boost to our area. I'd like to pay particular tribute to Mark Kirkbride the chief executive of the company [West Cumbria Mining] for sticking with this and then the investors who are backing it."

READ MORE: LIVE: Reaction as coalmine near Whitehaven given approval

Workington MP Mark Jenkinson was also pleased with the decision. He said: "When the decision was called in I welcomed the planning inquiry, as it gave us the opportunity to have an adult conversation about our ongoing need for coking coal well into the future - and laid bare the reality that there is no way of making new steel without it.

"Steel underpins every single renewable technology that we need to employ to hit our Net Zero target. There is no sense in importing all of our coking coal, which would be an abdication of our climate commitments."

But there has been a furious response from environmental campaigners. Friends of the Earth campaigner Tony Bosworth added: "This is an appalling decision.

"Approving this mine is a misguided and deeply damaging mistake that flies in the face of all the evidence. The mine isn't needed, will add to global climate emissions, and won't replace Russian coal.

"Scientists are clear that new fossil fuel projects are not compatible with meeting global climate goals to limit warming to 1.5C.

"The market for this coal is rapidly disappearing as UK and European steelmakers recognise that green steel is the future, and this mine risks becoming an expensive stranded asset."

Cumbrian Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron added: “This decision cancels out all the progress Britain has made on renewable energy. The Government's environmental credentials are yet again left in tatters."