The debate over a controversial new £165million coal mine has ramped up ahead of a key decision expected to be made next week.

West Cumbria Mining's application to extract coking coal off the coast of St Bees, with a processing plant on the former Marchon site at Kells, is due to be looked at by Cumbria County Council's development control and regulation committee next Thursday.

The council approved the plans last year but will look at them again after the developer amended the application following a legal challenge from campaigners which was withdrawn.

The company, which first submitted plans in May 2017, now says only premium metallurgical coal will be processed and the revisions are set to be considered by the council's planners.

A decision on the mine was initially supposed to be made last month but was delayed due to the number of people wishing to speak at the meeting.

The development has been welcomed by some for the jobs it would create in the area, while others have questioned the climate impact.

Campaigners against the project staged protests in Carlisle and Penrith this week ahead of next Thursday's decision, with another planned in Kendal today and a larger demonstration scheduled in the town before the meeting.

They said the developer's claim that 500 jobs would be created is inaccurate and argued the steel industry is switching to more environmentally-friendly methods of manufacturing which do not need the coking coal the mine would produce.

Opponents have also called for West Cumbria Mining to take into account the burning of coal from the deep-sea mine and the country's commitment to reducing carbon emissions.

Henry Goodwin, who was part of the Carlisle protest this week as chair of Sustainable Carlisle and a member of the city’s Extinction Rebellion group, said: “The county council has already received evidence from Professor Paul Ekins, an eminent economist that opening the mine would add significantly to global carbon emissions, contrary to what West Cumbria Mining has claimed."

The project has been supported by Cumbria’s five Conservative MPs, although Westmorland and Lonsdale Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron has previously asked the Government to call in the application and said the drive to create new jobs in the county should not come “at any cost.”

Copeland Council elected mayor Mike Starkie has been a vocal backer of the project and wrote to Boris Johnson this week to ask the Prime Minister to ensure it will go ahead.

Mr Starkie said: “The WCM project satisfies all of the criteria you have set out in your desire to support ‘shovel-ready’ projects and does not need any Government grant or subsidy.

“I do hope you can help to make sure it can now proceed without any further blockage or delay.”

He said opponents of the new mine had abused the planning system and claimed accusations of contributions to climate change were “alarmist and incorrect.”