THE long-awaited £165m undersea coal mine proposed for West Cumbria looks set to be approved next week.

The overdue project is expected to create more than 500 jobs and give a much-needed boost to the area following the collapse of the Moorside nuclear investment deal.

The mine had been due to go before the planning panel last month, but the top tier authority said “outstanding issues” needed to be resolved before it could be put to members.

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

Work to create Whitehaven Colliery off the west Cumbrian coast was due to kick-off at the end of last year, with the planning application lodged at the end of May 2017.

The plans - due to considered by the county council’s planning panel on Tuesday (March 19) - have been recommended for approval subject to conditions.

West Cumbria Mining would enter into a “106 agreement” with the county council which would see them investing in the area as a planning condition.

Under the deal, mine bosses would be asked to pay towards the road network, a cycle path as well and restoration work to former mineworks as part of a raft of improvements to the area.

Mayor of Copeland Mike Starkie, who has been vocal in his support for the project, is among those speaking at the meeting.

He said: “There is a consistently high level of support for the plans. People want jobs for their families and children, with security and opportunities – something that we desperately need for the future of Copeland and West Cumbria.

“Copeland has some very poor districts next to the proposed mine location and some very high levels of child poverty of deprivation.

“The area has been almost completely reliant on the nuclear industry for decades, but with the current changes which Sellafield is implementing in terms of a significant reduction in jobs and the loss of Nugen’s Moorside Project, the need for diversification to other industries is apparent.”

However, objectors have raised fears over the effect of the development on the landscape’s appearance and on the area’s ecology.

Other concerns include possible noise and dust created by the development, increased the traffic and highways safety issues.

The proposed development would rely on the rail network, with all coal products produced from the mine exported by rail.

Network Rail consider the scheme acceptable “in principle” but have stressed that upgrades on the section of line used would be needed.

A spokeswoman for West Cumbria Mining said Woodhouse Colliery will bring “significant local benefits” to Whitehaven, Copeland and Cumbria.

She added: “Since the planning application was submitted to Cumbria County Council in May 2017, the council have received 779 letters of which 621 are in support of the project, with the majority of these being from the local area.  The overwhelming and continued support from the local and wider community is very much appreciated by the West Cumbria Mining team.

“We will be attending and presenting our case at the planning committee meeting on Tuesday March 19 in Kendal. Cumbria County Council planning officers have made a recommendation for approval and this now remains with the committee to consider and vote on the day. WCM have and will continue to work collaboratively and in an open and honest manner with all of the local councils and people involved.”