Campaigners have lost their battle to prevent an opencast mine from going ahead in north west Leicestershire.
UK Coal's planning application to extract 1.5 million tonnes of coal and fireclay from its Minorca site, in Measham, over three years, was approved at County Hall yesterday.
Dozens of residents from Measham and nearby Swepstone and Newton Burgoland – who had held a rally outside the council offices in Glenfield ahead of the meeting – were left dismayed.
It follows a three-year fight to stop the scheme, which was first revealed in September 2008.
Steve Leary, spokesman for the Minorca Opencast Protest Group (MOPG), said: "I feel very deflated. I feel very sorry for all the people who are going to experience such a massive intrusion into their daily lives by the operation of this mine."
Measham resident Phil Owen, 68, said: "It's been a long battle and I'm very disappointed we lost."
Members of the county council's development control and regulatory board voted by seven to four in favour of the scheme, following the recommendations by planning officers.
Opponents claimed the noise, dust and heavy traffic created by the mine would have a devastating impact on the lives of people living nearby, and the environment.
UK Coal has promised to return the site to agricultural land at the end of the mine's five year life.
The firm has also pledged more than £1 million towards the project to restore a section of Ashby Canal.
In all, 94 conditions will govern the operation of the mine and its restoration, including the provision of a £150,000 community fund.
During the meeting, Ibstock and Appleby county councillor Richard Blunt, who is also leader of North West Leicestershire District Council, had a motion to refuse the application defeated.
Afterwards he said: "I think this is a step back for north west Leicestershire. Twenty years ago this area was blighted by mining. Since then we have come a long way in regenerating the area – just look at the National Forest.
"This decision sends out the wrong message. I have grave concerns about this site being extended in the future."
North West Leicestershire MP Andrew Bridgen said: "I am disappointed it has been passed. I believe it will lead to further applications for opencast mining close to Measham."
Pete Oakden, of the Ashby Canal Association, said: "I am delighted with the decision. "UK Coal's offer will get the ball rolling and attract funding from other sources to further the restoration."
John Bricknell, who set up Measham and Ashby Canal Enthusiasts and raised a 1,400-name petition to support the application, also welcomed the decision.
Anton Fix, UK Coal's Minorca project manager, said: "We have always been aware of the view of local residents.
"We have worked hard to accommodate these wherever we could and are pleased that the committee recognised this and the positive benefits the proposals offer.
"We look forward to working closely with local communities and the council through the operational life of the site."