Senior figures are throwing their weight behind plans to build a new undersea coal mine off the coast of St Bees.

West Cumbria Mining wants to extract coking coal and would build a processing plant on the former Marchon site at Kells.

The developer claims the mine would create more than 500 jobs.

The plans have suffered delays since the application was first submitted in May 2017 but are now set to go before the county council's planning panel on March 19.

And supporters like Copeland mayor Mike Starkie, who plans to speak at the meeting in favour of the development, are hopeful they will be shown the green light and work can begin as soon as possible.

Mr Starkie said: "It would be a tremendous project which will bring prosperity to the area.

"It's returning West Cumbria to its cultural heritage and I'm very supportive of it.

"The team are absolutely fantastic in engaging with the public and set an example to other developers looking to come and work with our community.

"I hope it gets the go-ahead."

Cumbria-based climate change academic Mike Berners-Lee has called the plans "crazy" and the Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole campaign tore up a copy of the Paris Agreement last week in protest against the impact they believe the mine would have on the environment.

But Mr Starkie said he was "confident" the plans would not have an adverse effect.

"I think they've answered the environment questions pretty well," he said.

"I don't see any impacts other than positive ones."

Councillor Graham Roberts, who is the mayor of Whitehaven, has also lent his backing to the project.

He said: "It's adding to our infrastructure which is what we need.

"Jobs and services have got to be good for the area.

"I want to see it happen as soon as possible."

Coun Roberts also felt the development could encourage other businesses and services to come to the area.

Borough councillor Allan Holliday, who worked at Haig Pit for decades, added: "This has always been a mining town and even though it's years since mining ceased there is still an awful lot of support for the industry.

"When I talk to the people on the street I hardly meet anyone who would be opposed to it.

"I've spoken to the people in charge up there and they've spoken about the spin-offs for other industries.

"There's an enormous amount of benefit to come."

A spokesman for West Cumbria Mining said: "Woodhouse Colliery will bring significant local benefits to Whitehaven, Copeland and Cumbria in terms of jobs and investment as well as the long-term financial benefits the mine will bring to the UK.

"WCM has received overwhelming support from the local area and this has made the team more determined to deliver the project for the community.

"We have and will continue to work collaboratively and in an open and honest manner with all of the local councils and people involved."