A POLITICAL row has broken out in a between Copeland Mayor Mike Starkie and Workington MP Sue Hayman.

According to Copeland’s elected mayor, Mrs Hayman needs to “get off the fence” and back the £165m mine plans for Copeland.

He has hit out at Mrs Hayman amid claims she has failed to give her full support to the plans to extract coking coal off the coast of St Bees, with a processing plant on the former Marchon site at Kells.

The mine, given the go-ahead in March, is expected to create around 500 much-needed jobs in one of the most deprived wards in England.

However, it has also sparked concerns from environmental campaigners as well as from Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron who has “called in” the original county council planning panel decision amid calls to scrap the project.

But Mayor Starkie, a staunch supporter of the scheme, said: “I would have thought Sue, as a west Cumbrian MP, would back West Cumbria Mining, which now has the support of Labour’s own prospective parliamentary candidate for Copeland and four other MPs.

“The mine went through planning when all the evidence was presented, and it was unanimously backed by members of all political parties.

“I am disappointed that Sue is sitting on the fence. She needs to get off the fence and emphatically back the mine for West Cumbria – and support jobs and prosperity for the region.”

Responding to calls for views on the mine, Mrs Hayman’s office initially told the Local Democracy Reporting Service she was “tied up on parliamentary business”, adding that Copeland was “not Sue’s constituency”.

But pressed for a response due to her position as shadow environment secretary with a constituency next door to Copeland, Mrs Hayman said: “I’m aware that what is to be mined in Whitehaven will be used as coking coal for the steel industry.

“Labour has set out in our plans for a ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ the need to invest in green energy and green industry, such as investment in tidal energy and the recycling of steel.

“In my role as shadow environment secretary, I’m currently working on a comprehensive waste and recycling strategy that incorporates steel recycling, so that in future, fossil fuels can be left in the ground.”

All the other Cumbrian MPs apart from Tim Farron, who is opposed to the mine, and Mrs Hayman, who is yet to commit to a position, have formally expressed their support.

Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Copeland, Tony Lywood, has already expressed his support for the mine, while accepting the environmental concerns surrounding the plan.

Speaking earlier this week, Mr Lywood described the climate change crisis is one of the “biggest threats to our planet”, adding: “But the west Cumbria Mine is not going to burn coal for energy – it is a mine that will produce coking coal that must be used for steel production.

“We need steel to produce the infrastructure for the green energy revolution that we must pursue if we are to combat the climate change crisis.

“Modern windmills cannot be made of wood, solar panels must have steel frames and tidal and hydro power require a range of materials to be viable.

“Further, it is better to mine coking coal here locally than import it from Australia, Canada or Russia with an attendant huge increase in the carbon footprint.”