THE Labour politician battling to oust Trudy Harrison as Copeland’s MP has welcomed a Government’s decision to “green light” plans for a new west Cumbrian coal mine.

Tony Lywood says he enthusiastically supports green alternatives to fossil fuels.

But he insists the proposed Whitehaven mine - which could create up to 500 new jobs in the town - should be supported because it will supply the coking coal necessary for steel production.

“We want a green new deal, and green economy but you can’t have a green economy without steel - unless you find a way of making it without coking coal,” said Mr Lywood.

The politician - who is also a Keswick town councillor - said it makes more sense to produce coking coal in the UK rather than import it from Canada, Australia, or Russia.

The controversial mine plan was given the go-ahead locally in March.

But it faced a major potential setback after Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron formally asked the Government to call in the plans, potentially resulting in it being blocked.

At the weekend, Mrs Harrison issued a statement on her website welcoming the government’s decision.

Mr Lywood added: “The reality is that we must have coking coal and it’s better to take it out of the ground in the UK.

“You can’t make windfarm blades out of wood; and the structures of solar panels also have to be made out of steel. Sometimes, you have to be practical and realistic about the best way forward.”

Mrs Harrison welcomed the news that the Government would not call in the coal mine plan.

She said: “This is fantastic news.

“It is vital that this development goes ahead and I am pleased that common sense has prevailed.

“Woodhouse colliery has been recognised for its importance to the steel industry and to UK export. Coking coal is essential for the steel industry and this has been rightly recognised.”

Critics say that with growing awareness of the current “climate emergency” it makes no sense to back a fossil fuel based energy business.

Scientists across the globe say carbon emissions will have to radically reduce in order to spare economies and communities the catastrophic potential effects of rising average temperatures and increasingly acidic seas.

Cumbria County Council was forced to reconsider its approval of the plans for the former Marchon site at Kells in Whitehaven after a legal challenge by campaigners.

The mining firm involved - West Cumbria Mining - wants to extract coking coal off the coast of St Bees and permission for the processing plant in Whitehaven.

Local authority permission was granted in March.

The county council’s planning panel was asked to look again at the controversial plans “as a matter of prudence”, after solicitors for environmental campaigners ‘Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole (KCCH), lodged a formal legal objection.