A key decision on a proposed new £165million coal mine has been pushed back again.

West Cumbria Mining’s controversial plans to extract coking coal off the coast of St Bees, with a processing plant on the former Marchon site at Kells, was set to be considered by Cumbria County Council's development control and regulation committee next Thursday.

That meeting has now been cancelled, delaying a decision again after one was initially due to be made in July but was postponed due to the number of people wishing to speak at the meeting.

The next meeting of the committee is currently scheduled for October 2.

A county council spokesperson said the meeting had been postponed because the report on the plans was not yet ready.

They confirmed that the meeting would have been held virtually, not physically as had been suggested when the decision was last delayed, and that it was hoped the application could be considered at the next committee meeting, which will also likely be virtual.

Campaigner Maggie Mason, who was involved with a legal challenge against the project, said: “We are not reading too much into this development but are hoping that the delay is due to the highly credible evidence submitted by objectors being carefully considered by the county council."

Objectors held protests in Carlisle and Penrith this week ahead of the expected decision but a larger demonstration due to be staged in Kendal before the meeting next Thursday has now been cancelled.

The plans were first submitted in May 2017 and were approved by the council last year but must be looked at again after the developer decided to amend the application following a legal challenge from campaigners.

The company now says only premium metallurgical coal will be processed and the revisions are set to be considered by the council's planners.

West Cumbria Mining has claimed that the deep-sea mine would create 500 new jobs in West Cumbria and the development has the backing of Cumbria’s five Conservative MPs and Copeland Council elected mayor Mike Starkie, who recently joined the political party.

Mr Starkie wrote a letter to Boris Johnson this week urging the Prime Minister to make sure the project goes ahead and said he was "very disappointed" to hear about more delays.

He said: "We need these jobs and we need this to come to a conclusion as quickly as possible.

"I hope that when we do come to planning now these delays are about making sure that all of the i's are dotted and t's crossed and that we don't have any further attempts by outside forces to muddy the waters because we really need to get this moving."

However, Westmorland and Lonsdale Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron previously asked for the application to be called in and said new jobs should not be sought “at any cost.”

And protesters have questioned the climate impact of the project and whether the demand for coking coal for steel is declining.