SOUTH Lakes MP Tim Farron has hit back after Copeland’s elected mayor told him to “butt out” of West Cumbria.

The member for Westmorland and Lonsdale has raised political hackles in the region after wading into the debate on plans for a £165m undersea mine 50 miles from his constituency.

West Cumbria Mining has been permission to extract coking coal off the coast of St Bees, with a processing plant on the former Marchon site at Kells.

But Mr Farron has written to James Brokenshire, secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, asking him to ‘call in’ the county council planning decision to support the mine.

The former Lib Dem leader is backing climate change campaigners who want to see the mine ruling overturned.

He said: “It’s clear Mike Starkie is up for election in a few weeks.  I’m sure outside the heat of an election he understands that climate change doesn’t respect some invisible boundary at Scafell Pike.

“I understand the need for jobs and investment on the west coast and have always supported the aims of various organisations promoting ‘the Energy Coast’.

“But I draw the line at fossil fuels.  The climate catastrophe is the biggest issue that we face and for the sake of all our children and grandchildren we need to do everything we can to combat global warming.”

However, Mr Farron is in a minority, with four of Cumbria’s MPS urging the Government to press ahead with the mine.

Copeland MP Trudy Harrison, Carlisle MP John Stevenson, MP for Penrith and Border Rory Stewart and Barrow MP John Woodcock have reiterated their “strong support” for the scheme in a joint letter to James Brokenshire, secretary of state for housing, communities and local government.

The letter from the MPs said: “We strongly believe there are no grounds whatsoever for this decision to be ‘called in’.

“Cumbria County Council have said they cannot issue a formal decision notice until you have made your decision. This will obviously further delay this important and well-supported project.”

Meanwhile, mayor Starkie has this week set up a petition in support of the mine as environmental campaigners present a 1,500-signature Whitehall petition against the mine.